A weekend nonfiction book review! ‘Cause Pastors need a mental break too.
Val McDermid. Forensics. New York, NY: Grove Press, July 7th 2015. 310 pp.
5 out of 5
This is a fascinating book on criminal investigations by a British author of crime novels and thriller. In this work of nonfiction she explores the various specialization and sciences behind criminal investigation. In the beginning of the book she notes that there is a lot of misconception that the public has for those involved with criminal investigations in light of TV shows like CSI. Intrigued with the topic she gives us a journalistic account of those involved with investigating crime and how the men and women go about with the art and science of finding and proving the suspects.
I suppose most people think of DNA and blood samples when they think of CSI. The book does have a chapter on blood and DNA but as the author pointed out there is more to forensic science than DNA. In fact the chapter on DNA is in the middle of the book rather than in the beginning. McDermid first chapter walks us through what a crime scene looks like and the importance of keeping the scene from being “contaminated.” After the first chapter the author goes on to describe different areas of forensic science such as toxicology, pathology, anthropology and forensic psychology. I enjoyed the chapter on fire scene investigation as it was very fascinating how much criminalists can study the scene of the crime and gather clues from something that seems so counterintuitive since we often associate fire with destroying everything include evidences. While the book’s primary examples of forensic science comes from the UK (given the author’s background) here in the chapter on fire investigation she talked about an infamous case in a city I use to live in, in Southern California. She mentioned the case of an arsonist who was himself a fire crime scene investigator. The chapter also pointed out how some arsonist have a sexually perverted association of sexual passion and fire. Weird but I suppose in a depraved world one shouldn’t be surprised (but it is still weird).
I also thought the chapter on fingerprinting was interesting. It might seem so cliché but it was fascinating to learn of the history of how fingerprinting began with the British imperial mission in India and how someone made the observation that no one person’s fingerprint is the same. The chapter also noted how the area of fingerprinting can err with the human factor of investigators which again go against the popular view accepted in society that fingerprint evidences is somehow foolproof.
Very fascinating book. Certainly made me appreciate forensic scientists, criminalists, detective and other investigators and experts. At the same time the author made sure the readers realize its not always as easy at how TV shows portray it. A fun read and I recommend it.