Philip LI CHING HUM

After the success of his first book Forensics in Paradise (A Mauritian Odyssey) published in November 2016, Dr Satish Boolell authors The Scalpel & The Pen with the same rigour. He unveils the morbid world of the mortuary of the Candos Hospital against the backdrop of the cold slab and the enigmatic lychee tree, the dumb witness. He surveys his 30-year career as a medical officer of the Forensic Medical Department of the Mauritius Police Force with a wide spectrum of cases on his hands ranging from camouflaged suicides to heinous crimes. He still recalls the illuminating advice of his guru during his early years of his career at the Sheffield five-star medico legal centre, the basic elements of practical forensic practice : never to believe blindly the words of the witnesses and above all never to be compliant to police whims and caprices. Nothing escapes his eyes and he was coerced to step into the shoes of Sherlock Holmes to interpret clues left behind by criminals crossing the line of demarcation drawn between forensic autopsy and police investigation. He cannot digest amateurism.
Dr Satish Boolell sprinkles his book with good humour and caustic sarcasm. He dissects the seed of evil found in human nature. He cannot understand why in our paradise heinous crimes are on the rise with such a god-fearing population like ours. The author shoots a satirical arrow at various institutions like the judicial system, medical profession and police. He blasts at these sectors with biting irony and ridicule.
The book spans over an array of cases on back-street abortion, camouflaged suicides, domestic violence and family feuds. Deep inside there is human greed, vengeance and jilted love. 30 years of his life have been dedicated in search of truth. If only these dead could reveal their secrets many hidden truths would have been unveiled. He probes into the frailties of human nature. The life of a forensic doctor is hectic but exciting. Many a time in the silence of the night or at early day break he can be called for duty to autopsy a cadaver. But all the stress and anxieties soon vanish when he gets self-satisfaction and above all job satisfaction for having accomplished his duty as a professional and he can be at peace with his conscience. The rest he does least care nor is it not his concern, he bluntly writes. All the high-profile cases, from Gorah Issac to L’Amicale case, have marked him in his career, one more stunning than the other in propensity and horror. Of all the L’Amicale case has stupefied him most. He speaks out his heart to his readers: “there are a few times in my professional career when I have regretted choosing forensics …Dealing with death has never frustrated me in much as when I was exposed to the victims of a criminal arson”. He compares the flames to the fires of hell. He even becomes philosophical and cannot conceive how a pregnant woman of eight months together with an innocent child have perished, charred, in this tragedy. He even verges on cynicism and questions the supposedly piety of some people on this island of paradise. He notes with deep regret the decadence of moral values and the destruction of our social fabric.
The Scalpel & The Pen is a must-read. It explores the varied facets of Mauritian society with all its vagaries, superstitions and prejudices. Dr Satish Bolell delineates the horrors of crimes.