What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime

Book - 2014
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Val McDermid is one of the finest crime writers we have, whose novels have captivated millions of readers worldwide with their riveting narratives of characters who solve complex crimes and confront unimaginable evil. In the course of researching her bestselling novels McDermid has become familiar with every branch of forensics, and now she uncovers the history of this science, real-world murders and the people who must solve them.

The dead talk--to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid's own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.

Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one's time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer; and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide. It's a journey that will take McDermid to war zones, fire scenes, and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.
Publisher: New York :, Grove Press,, [2014]
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780802123916
Characteristics: ix, 310 pages : illustrations (some colour) ; 24 cm


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Jul 03, 2019

A really interesting in-depth look at how fields of forensic investigation have progressed. The author uses many examples of real life cases that were cracked because of information developed by crime scene techs. Although she does a good job of explaining the science in layman's terms, I'd recommend this only for those with a very keen interest as it can be quite dry at times.
My favourite sections were historical cases from the 19th century when the science was in its infancy & radical discoveries were just beginning to be accepted by cops & courts alike. Some really fascinating characters in those stories including some well known & infamous killers. It's a relatively short read & chapters are used to separate the different fields (DNA, fingerprints, blood spatter, fire investigation, etc.) so you can pick & choose those of particular interest.

Jan 08, 2019

Witty book on forensic tools with real life cases as examples & cautionary tales on using & abusing them. Author sighed on CSI effect & what budgetary limitations UK police had.

Nov 09, 2018

If you were ever wanting to know the history about forensics then this is the book for you. This book tell about all different types of forensics and the first time they were used. It also tells how they came about, and how the changed over the years. I would read this book again. If you are looking to learn more about the history of forensics then this is the book for you!

Aug 22, 2018

I love science! Though I found this book hard to read (because i'm basically reading a textbook voluntarily), I learned some pretty amazing stuff. I should definitely give it another try, because I feel as though I glossed over some parts, but it really was a great book if you are interested in learning about DNA. The author gives you real life scenarios to teach you about the techniques they use. Cool stuff! :-)

rb3221 Apr 02, 2017

"Murder is not a repeatable experiment. Every one is unique." McDermit provides a huge amount of information in an enjoyable and fascinating read with case histories and interviews from many experts. The budding or seasoned reader of crime novels will learn lots of insights into how crimes are solved on topics such as fire scene investigations, entomology, toxicology, blood splatter, fingerprinting and even forensic psychology.
The author clearly shows how each of these scientific techniques help detectives in the non-fiction world solve crimes which thus allows the reader to better understand the solving of crimes in the world of fiction. In other words 'the dead talk'.

Jan 18, 2017

This book is excellently written. A great balance between the history of each discipline, practical application, and how it continues to evolve. She addresses arson investigation to entomology, autopsies to DNA analysis, even the reliability of the sciences in the courtroom. Val McDermid both introduces forensics to the curious first-time reader and further intrigues someone with more than a passing interest. What's more, it's about the people who study each field and the people they honor in each investigation. This is most certainly not a dry, technical read. McDermid uses the human component she's developed as a crime writer to engage the reader and makes us care about the victims as well.

Oct 20, 2015

I'm impressed with how well this was written. Lots of information about the history of various forensic methods, how the information gleaned has been used in court cases, and where things stand today. This could have been dry, but the way McDermid has sprinkled it very liberally with details about true life cases makes it very compelling. You'll come away from reading this with a more knowledgeable background to enhance your enjoyment of crime novels.

thebeadedlady Aug 05, 2015

Interesting, but felt a little brief. McDermid examines major disciplines involved in solving crimes, such as pathology, toxicology and fingerprinting, but she really only touches the surface. She uses real-life examples to illustrate different methods, but some of her summaries are a too brief, and didn’t hang together very well. I often felt like there was information missing, and sometimes couldn’t see how the example given was relevant to the technique under discussion. Overall, the book needed more editing.

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