Forensics by Val McDermid

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About CrimeForensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a non-fiction look at the world of forensic science. The author is a writer, not a forensic scientist, and that shows in the clear, understandable prose. You get a solid understanding of the value and the limitations of forensic science in the real world. You soon learn that the magical tricks you see forensic experts and police pull on TV are pure fiction. It is easy to understand why prosecutors fear the “CSI effect.” The public, i.e., juries, now expects a totally unrealistic and totally conclusive volume (and certainty) of forensic evidence in every criminal case. It ain’t gonna happen.

The reader will learn a lot about the British legal system through this book, too, since the author is British and most of the examples she gives are from English cases. There are some significant differences from the American legal system, although the science itself is essentially identical. If you’re exceptionally squeamish, you might want to skip this one, since it does get into such things as blowflies, maggots, putrefaction, evisceration, and so forth in some depth. On the other hand, that might be its appeal. I found it well-written and informative.

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