Sparked with an interest in faking her own death to avoid student loans, Elizabeth Greenwood begins investigating how realistic it is to fake your own death in the 21st century. Playing Dead follows Greenwood as she interviews people who help you disappear, people who hunt you down and the people who (briefly) lived after being declared dead. Because, you see, there is no way to know how many people have successfully faked their deaths because you only ever hear about the failures.
The man who gives her the most insight into disappearing is Frank Ahearn. Ahearn used to help track people down using a technique called “skip-tracing” but flipped his methods to help people begin disappearing. He constantly reiterates that “disappearing” and “faking your own death” are two different things, with disappearing being the easier (and more legal) option. Faking your death isn’t inherently illegal though, most people who go to jail are caught for insurance fraud when they or an accomplice file an insurance claim. Steve Rambam works for the insurance company; his price per day to find you is ultimately less expensive than paying out a phony insurance claim.Greenwood also interviews a few people who briefly managed to die on paper. Most notably is the English man who faked a kayaking accident, waited a few days, went back to his house and lived for about 6 years with his wife being the only person to know he was still alive.
Greenwood is young and charming; she mostly seems likes she started writing a book to justify her morbid curiosity (and perhaps open more interview doors). It’s an interesting read on a strange subject- of course having rented the book from the library and committing a review to the World Wide Web probably nixed my ability to put my new found education on the topic to future use.