Full title: Forensics, what bugs, burns, prints, DNA, and more tell us about crime.
This book by Val McDermid is from 2014 however, it is still relevant today. Old unsolved cases are discussed again in the news as we have the improvements in forensic sciences.
Of course, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and the mainstream media are paying more attention to these cases now. There are even crime conferences you can attend to learn more.
All this has caused an awakening of curiosity in many people: how do you solve a crime after so many years?
The book by McDermid gives an excellent overview and introduction to forensic sciences as applied to unsolved cases.
Topics discussed are:
- the crime scene itself
- fire scene investigations
- blood spatter & DNA
- facial reconstruction
- digital forensics
- and presenting the evidence in the courtroom
The book is well-known. I really feel that those new to forensic sciences should read and discover these disciplines for themselves so I will not summarize them here. Just some points of interest.
When you read this book, you will learn the proper order of procedures, why a fire in a room can become a room on fire, and how Michael Faraday demonstrated that oil vapours can be more flammable than the oil itself.
Many cases are discussed such as the Stardust Disco Fire, the Pillow Pyro, the Buck Ruxton case, and the case of Jane Longhurst.
The chapter of digital forensics is worth reading as all still applies today: protect yourself online!
The ultimate test of proving a case remains the presentation in the court room. We see how the chain of evidence and meticulous documentation can break open an impossible case. We learn what it takes to explain forensic sciences to the jury.
I hope that after you read this book you will have a better understanding of the work involved, the time that is needed to properly research, run tests, and investigate evidence pieces, and how what you see on TV or hear in podcasts, isn’t always how things are done in reality.
This book has a table of contents, a bibliography, a list with illustration credits per chapter, and a cross-referenced index. There is black-and-white photography throughout the book and eight pages with coloured pictures.
The book is very well written, suited for all new to forensic sciences, and a great way to learn the basics about various disciplines. Even for those more knowledgeable about forensic sciences, this book is still important because there’s always a new detail to find, a case that you didn’t know about, or another explanation or a photograph you had not seen before.
Highly recommended reading.
My other book reviews are here.