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Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,158 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
From a skeleton, a skull, a mere fragment of burnt thighbone, Dr. William Maples can deduce the age, gender, and ethnicity of a murder victim, the manner in which the person was dispatched, and, ultimately, the identity of the killer.In Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Dr. Maples revisits his strangest, most interesting, and most horrific investigations, from the baffling cases of ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Broadway Books (first published 1994)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jim
Apr 21, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting account of Maples' career, thoughts, & more interesting cases. He's about the same age as William M. Bass, best known for Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales. I found Bass more enjoyable to read, although no more interesting. Neither can top Mary Roach in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, but they have their moments & get into areas she didn't touch on.

Maples tends to be (write?) a bit pompous, although
...more
Naleen
Well, I loved this book when it focused on actual cases and forensics. I HATED this book when Maples went off on tangents about how brilliant, smart and better than everyone else he was. His arrogance is grating, and I recognize his importance and contributions to the field of forensic anthropology, but you don't have to be so goddamn full of yourself. And if I hear another old-man-forensic-slash-biological-anthropologist brag about how much food he can eat while being surrounded by grisly putri ...more
Erin
Sep 26, 2012 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As much as I love a good forensic anthropology tale, I had trouble becoming interested in the stories while dancing around some of the most pompous, self-serving writing I've seen on the subject. Maples pats himself on the back and paints a picture of the victim's crusader for justice, when it's quite clear that ego, not empathy, is the driving force.
Becky B
Oct 01, 2012 Becky B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Forensic science fans, Those considering forensic anthropology
Imagine that your uncle or grandfather were a forensic anthropologist who worked on famous cases like identifying the remains of the Romanov family or figuring out if President Zachary Taylor had died of arsenic poisoning, and you asked him to tell you stories every time you got together. As he told you stories about cases he's worked on, he would mix in some history, science, and descriptions of things like the labs he's worked in. Inevitably, as these storytellers do, (especially if they are e ...more
Kim
Jan 28, 2013 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many other reviewers, I found this book to be somewhat verbose, occasionally redundant, somewhat sexist, and the author - while definitely accomplished and intelligent - arrogant (interestingly, a trait he doesn't hesitate to point to with disdain when observed in his colleagues!). In many places his narrative is histrionic and choice of words anachronistic - whether this is natural or a conscious choice is not apparent, but I found myself reaching for the dictionary on several occasions on ...more
Starfish
This book is written by a forensic anthropologist about his work identifying people's remains from their skeletons, first published 1994. It's an interesting book. I was surprised how morbid it was; I was expecting CSI rather than what is almost a memoir. Maples treats his subjects thematically, rather than on a case by case basis, and includes many instances of cases where identification was impossible, or murderers never found. He likes to talk about how gruesome his work is, and can be a bit ...more
Annie
Dec 29, 2012 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was much better than I thought it was going to be. Co-written with Michael Browning, this was a well-written and fascinating look into the world of forensic anthropology from the point of view of skeletal remains. There are many interesting cases William Maples covers in this book, and that alone should convince a person to read it. But, what I liked best about the book was the language: sometimes graphic, sometimes poetic, but always informative and interesting. This is an author who ...more
Pippa
Jul 06, 2013 Pippa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: forensic-science
This was a fascinating book. I don't agree with other comments about it being arrogant and sexist. I think Maples is justifiably proud of what he does, and he gives full credit to his wife for her part in supporting him and doing her own job as media specialist. I found the case histories fascinating, and was impressed by what forensic anthropology could contribute to criminal investigations. (In fact I'm reading this book nearly twenty years after it was first published, so I guess things may b ...more
Rosalie
Feb 14, 2012 Rosalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. William Maples tell you tales of his involvement in solving horrible crimes. If you are a fan of CSI don't bother me. If you are interested in how stuff really works in all the gory detail and what it's like to be an actual forensic anthropologist this is the place. More of a series of memoirs than a scientific study, but greatly explains the science stuff as well very neatly and humorously at time.

Not for the easily queasy, but great for those seriously interested in light reading in this a
...more
John
Nov 15, 2010 John rated it it was ok
Shelves: library_books, ebooks
I found the book overall rather disappointing. The first half consists of the author's background, followed by gory, explicit details of cremations, executions, etc. Second part was more interesting - and more what the average reader is likely expecting (looking for) - actual cases Maples has worked on from the evidence provided. Still, he came across to me as arrogant and whiny. Not particularly recommended.
Trena
Apr 13, 2010 Trena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the collected war stories of a forensic anthropologist, a specialist in identifying human remains based on their bones. The tales are deliciously gruesome and salaciously horrifying (though some are sad and disturbing and you feel like the bad kind of voyeur). It's not a book for the faint of heart or stomach, especially the photographs. But I found it interesting; I had no idea how much such a profession can do with so little.

It is docked a full star for the excrutiating writing, made a
...more
Mike Shultz
Aug 15, 2011 Mike Shultz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating and brutal. This book focused more on stories and cases that the author was involved with, as opposed to trying to teach forensic science (although there was plenty of science.) Nothing dull herein. Particularly fascinating were the "Meek-Jennings" suicide case, the examination of the bones of the murdered Russian Csar and his family, and the description of the bones of Pizarro. A couple sections were brutal in their gruesome detail, although the author took pains to share his knowle ...more
Jamie
Jan 01, 2012 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
This was right up my nerdy geeky alley! Not only are pictures included (which, if you're queasy, ignore), but step-by-step conclusions to some of his real life cases are explained in detail. He throws in the murderers and some really good who-dunnits, but also throws in the cases of former President Taylor (was he poisoned or did he die of natural causes?), and of course, Anastasia and the last Romonovs. Ah, if only I would have been a forensic anthropologist instead of a medical anthropologist. ...more
James
This one is quite good, although I prefer Bill Bass's books on the same subject, Death's Acre and Beyond the Body Farm. Like those, this is the author's memoir of his career in forensic anthropology and his involvement in quite a few criminal investigations and trials.

The quality that, for me, detracted from this book - especially by comparison to Bass's - is the author's somewhat bombastic tone and style. He's his own biggest fan, and finds it necessary to tell the reader often what a genius he
...more
Fishface
Dr. Maples' memoir of working as a forensic anthropologist at the Identification Lab in Gainesville, Florida, right across the way from the memorial wall where he can see the names of Danny Rolling's victims daily. Here's a man after my own heart -- he even majored in English Lit, like I did -- and the writing gets more florid, purple and literary as the story moves on. His forecast of the future of forensic anthropology is daunting, to say the least, but this book should help make it clear to a ...more
Amanda
Dec 19, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-2014
If I ever won the lottery, I'd go back to school and become a forensic anthropologist. Since I've already spent enough money on school, I'll take armchair forensics for now. This book was overall, amazing. There were portions where Dr. Maples was rather self-serving. However, his descriptions of his cases and how they were solved was fascinating, and just on the right side of scientific to keep people who know terminology interested while also appealing to people with less skeletal familiarity. ...more
Roberta
The strange and fascinating cases of a forensic anthropologist is indeed strange a fascinating. I expected some first-hand tale from recent events, but the historical studies are extremely interesting too. Can I tempting you by saying that he finally solved Anastasia's mystery? Yes, the never-found daughter of the Russian Tzar.
Every chapter is devoted to a specific case. The writer decided to keep the more personal of these episodes for the last one, but I failed to epathized with it. I think I
...more
Victoria
May 20, 2013 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a reading assignment in my Forensic Anthropology class last semester. At first I thought the author's tone was narcissistic. Thankfully, towards the middle and end the author wrote about more about forensic science and less about his younger years, and he included more information on the field of forensic anthropology itself. The writing itself is excellent. Dr. Maples is clearly very well educated, and his hobby of reading literature shines through in some parts. He covers war crimes, ...more
Paige Erin
3.5-3.7
This is sort of a reread for me. I started a long time ago-several years ago but never finished. I decided to reread and finish And my opinion has changed a little over the years. One or two chapters were kind of boring and I definitely get a little arrogance from the writer but overall an interesting book. He strays and repeats sometimes but when speaking about his cases the read and wait is worth it. A little technical and confusing at times if not paying full attention. He has certainl
...more
Nicholas N
May 11, 2015 Nicholas N rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting stories from a rl anthropologist. Reminded me of my best professor back in uni.
Melissa Embry
Before there was "Bones," even before "CSI", in the days when DNA evidence was still on the far frontiers of science, forensic anthropologist William R. Maples was bringing criminals to justice, clearing the innocent, and give names to the nameless dead simply by examining the structure of human skeletons. In his 1994 memoir, "Dead Men Do Tell Tales," co-written with journalist Michael Browning, Dr. Maples describes his career arc from an English literature undergraduate in the 1950's, paying hi ...more
Katherine Addison
In some alternate universe, in which my eyesight is better and someone told me in high school that this career choice existed, I am a forensic paleoanthropologist. It would've been worth the science classes. So I was fascinated by the subject material of this book. Unfortunately, I was almost-but-not-quite-equally put off by the writing. Neither Maples nor Browning knows how to tell a story (I point you particularly to the chapter on Zachary Taylor, although there are many other examples), and, ...more
Kathryn
Jan 25, 2016 Kathryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This non-fiction book was published in 1994, and, for the most part, contains items about investigations that Dr. Maplesdid as a forensic anthropologist working at the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The good doctor died in 1997, and I would not be surprised if he has totally reorganized by now how the Undiscovered Country maintains its records of mortal remains. Despite his overwhelming status in this book, the book does give interesting info ...more
Hillary
Apr 30, 2016 Hillary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Another book read for my book group, and definitely one I wouldn't have picked up by myself. When I first started the book, I was struck by how dated it was: Not only has the science changed in the past 20 years, but he tells the story of his adventures in Africa, capturing baboons to ship back to the States for experimentation. In 2016, this open "hunting" of animals wouldn't happen, or if it did, it wouldn't be described in such a breezy way. We've come a long way in how we view animals as sci ...more
Fabian Vasquez
Feb 12, 2016 Fabian Vasquez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Apr 17, 2016 Cindy Dyson Eitelman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Deliciously lovely stories of bones and teeth and tiny shards of metal that remain in the ground when the flesh has long gone. Dr. Maples is a forensic anthropologist with a long and wild habit of turning tiny little things into evidence. Or into people, as we learn from the time he spent worrying through boxes of Vietnam war remains.

Cremains is the term he uses for cremated remains, and he got an exceptional challenge in the Page-Jennings case, where a fire and explosion mixed four sets of hum
...more
Yaaresse
Apr 02, 2016 Yaaresse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Candid and graphic without ever being callous or gory, this memoir of forensic anthropologist William Maples is fascinating. It's not just the scientific details or the way Maples breaks down his processes to show that even the tiniest fragments of information can be crucial to a case, but it's the way Maples spins the story behind the cases and processes, pulling the reader into the lab (or crime scene) with him. The man was a storyteller who never seemed to lose his respect for the victim or h ...more
Hannah
Mar 12, 2015 Hannah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Totally disappointed with this book! I have a rule never to stop reading a book I've started, but the overwhelming arrogance of this guy had me put it down to reconsider many times. He is, of course, more intelligent than all the lazy, incompetent colleagues, police, and technicians he encounters. He takes credit for every aspect of well organized programs, while shamelessly calling out and criticizing his colleagues before finding humor in their career downfalls. He actually calls family member ...more
V. L. Craven
Jan 19, 2015 V. L. Craven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently, an online acquaintance suggested we begin exchanging books through the post. The first book she wanted to send was Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist by William R. Maples, PhD and William Browning. ‘And it has pictures too!’ she said. I promptly gave her my address (I’m typing this post two months later, so she wasn’t a homicidal maniac) and shortly thereafter the book arrived on my doorstep. (For those of you playing along at home, I ...more
Susan
Oct 18, 2014 Susan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was expecting a book similar in format to MORTAL EVIDENCE, i.e. a book written by a professional detailing case studies. The actual book IS written by a professional but it is also a LOT more autobiographical than what I expected or wanted. Although there are points of interest, my attempt to skim through the books only for those points of interest (after utterly failing to engage via normal reading) ended about 60 pages in because, even skimming, the book was not to my taste enough that I was ...more
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“Interstate highways are the veins and arteries by which crime circulates in America. Serial killers seem to float through them like blood cells, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Crimes committed along interstate highways ought to be considered extraterritorially, apart from the normal rules of geography, and separate from a state's good name. These huge highways form a kind of fifty-first state of their own, a state whose flower is the deadly nightshade and whose state bird is the vulture.” 5 likes
“The instruments of murder are as manifold as the unlimited human imagination. Apart from the obvious—shotguns, rifles, pistols, knives, hatchets and axes—I have seen meat cleavers, machetes, ice picks, bayonets, hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, crowbars, pry bars, two-by-fours, tree limbs, jack handles (which are not “tire irons;” nobody carries tire irons anymore), building blocks, crutches, artificial legs, brass bedposts, pipes, bricks, belts, neckties, pantyhose, ropes, bootlaces, towels and chains—all these things and more, used by human beings to dispatch their fellow human beings into eternity. I have never seen a butler use a candelabrum. I have never seen anyone use a candelabrum! Such recherché elegance is apparently confined to England. I did see a pair of sneakers used to kill a woman, and they left distinctive tread marks where the murderer stepped on her throat and crushed the life from her. I have not seen an icicle used to stab someone, though it is said to be the perfect weapon, because it melts afterward. But I do know of a case in which a man was bludgeoned to death with a frozen ham. Murderers generally do not enjoy heavy lifting—though of course they end up doing quite a bit of it after the fact, when it is necessary to dispose of the body—so the weapons they use tend to be light and maneuverable. You would be surprised how frequently glass bottles are used to beat people to death. Unlike the “candy-glass” props used in the movies, real glass bottles stand up very well to blows. Long-necked beer bottles, along with the heavy old Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottles, make formidable weapons, powerful enough to leave a dent in a wooden two-by-four without breaking. I recall one case in which a woman was beaten to death with a Pepsi bottle, and the distinctive spiral fluting of the bottle was still visible on the broken margins of her skull. The proverbial “lead pipe” is a thing of the past, as a murder weapon. Lead is no longer used to make pipes.” 1 likes
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