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Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  7,396 ratings  ·  946 reviews
The dead talk. To the right listener, they tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died - and who killed them. Forensic scientists can use a corpse, the scene of a crime or a single hair to unlock the secrets of the past and allow justice to be done.

Bestselling crime author Val McDermid will draw on interviews with top-level profession
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 2nd 2014 by Profile Books (first published July 7th 2014)
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Nerdycellist D I think so! It's entertaining yet not sensationalistic. McDermid is a very clear writer, and she goes into various ways forensics are used in the real…moreI think so! It's entertaining yet not sensationalistic. McDermid is a very clear writer, and she goes into various ways forensics are used in the real world, from arson investigation to computer forensics. She is from the UK, so much of her insight on the legal process is UK specific.(less)
Emmie Definitely! McDermid's writing requires no previous knowledge to understand. She makes her book accessible to anyone with an interest in learning more…moreDefinitely! McDermid's writing requires no previous knowledge to understand. She makes her book accessible to anyone with an interest in learning more about Forensic Science.(less)

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Mariah Roze
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was fantastic! It really dove into my obsession with true crime and taught me all about the different types of forensics science, which is something I knew very little about. Also, it did it an enjoyable, not textbook, way. It was lead by constant examples and crimes that have happened to teach about each form of forensics science. It also talked about how it has developed and changed over the years.

I highly suggest this book to anyone that enjoys true crime!
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-challenge

Val McDermid

In "Forensics" popular mystery writer Val McDermid outlines the development of modern forensics (scientific analysis of evidence) - a discipline that has literally made it much harder to 'get away with murder.' Rudimentary forensic investigations began long ago: a Chinese coroner's handbook from the 1200s records the story of a murderer caught when flies were attracted to traces of blood on his scythe. Nevertheless, it's likely that many criminals went undiscovered before modern inve
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've never read a mystery by McDermid, but am quite impressed by this nonfiction book. She did a great job putting forth the basics of each branch of forensics, its history, examples of cases in which it was used, & - perhaps best of all - why & when it isn't used due to cost. She also pointed out a lot of problems with some of the tests. Most of her examples are based in the UK, but some lead to Europe & the US. She also mentions historical examples from around the world.

I don't recall her actu
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I greatly enjoyed this book much more than I expected! I learned so much about the clues that forensic scientists use to unravel crimes. It covers so many subjects; fingerprinting, blood traces, DNA sampling, poisons, face reconstruction, digital forensics, and insects. Insects?? Yes, this is a very useful area for investigating conditions and time of death, although it is very controversial.

The most interesting aspect of this book is that there are no black-and-white, hard-and-fast rules. Every
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My sincere appreciation to Grove Press and Edelweiss for providing the e-galley of Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime due to be published June 8, 2015.

Scottish author, Val McDermid, may be best known for her gritty crime fiction. Her latest work, Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime seems a perfect match. As a fan of fiction thrillers, crime fiction and true crime, I was hooked from the get-go. If you think there's too much info
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I confess to not being a huge fan of true crime accounts per se, but with the dual temptations of Val McDermid- one of the UK’s premier crime novelists- and a real behind the scenes look at the craft of forensic science, I couldn’t resist a look at this one. What unfolds is a fascinating and wonderfully readable look at a wide range of forensic practices and case histories that sheds light on the skill and intuition of crime scene investigators, underscored by the fluid and entertaining style of ...more
This was fantastic and informative and interesting, and I really enjoyed it. I've only read one of Val McDermid's books, The Mermaids Singing, which I thought was borderline incredible, and it's easy to see why she is as capable as she is of writing that kind of profiling police procedural story. She takes this subject very seriously.

This book covers a lot of the different types of science and technology and just pure experience that aids forensic investigators in their work, as well as the his
3.5 stars

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
I'm going to have to stop this Audible version as the narrator is driving me crazy: I love that they chose a speaker with a Scottish accent to connect with the author, but why does she have to do awful impressions of other accents when reading speech within the book. There are quite a few experts quoted from northern parts of England and she puts on these weird approximations of that person's accent and speaks in this funny stilted tone, always deep for a man and high for a woman. I can't take i ...more
Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
This is THE book on Forensics. Honestly - if this interests you for any reason whatsoever, grab this book! This book has been gold for me as an author and if you write crime or anything involving the need for forensic science this book will give you so many facts that are not only accurate but fascinating!

I never knew that reading about maggots and the life cycle of a fly, types of flies and how that can tell you how long a corpse has been dead for could be so bloody exciting! (Don't eat whilst
Nov 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caro the Helmet Lady
This was very interesting, like one of those series Discovery channel makes about criminology and forensics, which are always too short for my tastes. This one was not. Chapters on different subjects (like criminal psychology, toxicology, crime scene reconstruction, entomology, dactyloscopy, skull reconstruction etc etc) were based on real life cases, some of them quite famous (Yorkshire Ripper), some of them less, but still very interesting. How easy and effective it all looks on CSI episodes a ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
In 1910 Edmond Locard opened the world’s first crime investigation laboratory in France. Before the advent of forensics serial killers blithely practiced their trade as McDermid eerily recounts. I was reminded of Erik Larson’s account in The Devil in the White City of an 1890’s serial killer in Chicago. At that time not only were forensics lacking but typically any interest by the police in missing persons. Even if the police were interested, without cell phone towers, security cameras, database ...more
Modern criminal convictions are now reliant on the work of the forensic scientist. Carefully analysis of a scene can reveal secrets of what happened, sometimes from beyond the grave. A single hair, or a speck of blood on a coat can reveal so much information about the last moments of someone’s life and allow close and justice. McDermid is best know for her gritty crime fiction, but in this book she is talking with the experts and recalling the origins of all types of forensic science. There are ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week
The dead talk. To the right listener, they tell us all about themselves: where they came from, who they are, how they lived, how they died - and who killed them. Through forensic medicine, a corpse, the scene of a crime or a single hair can reveal the secrets that hold the truth and allow justice to be done. But how much do we really understand about forensics? What is it like to be a SCO (Scene of Crime Operative)? Attend an autopsy? Where did it come from? Ho
Dec 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When commenting in the past on the different types of true crime books, I neglected to mention the increasing number of books on the methodology of crime detection. Last year I read the excellent The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, a detailed exploration of the work of two NYC scientists who in the 1920's developed reliable techniques for the detection of a broad variety poisons.

In Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us Abou
Mystereity Reviews
Forensics Only got about halfway through this one.  I've read a lot of the information elsewhere, and this book was poorly organized and rushed through the information and cases. 
There are plenty of other books on forensics that are a lot better, many of which are named in the book as sources. I would recommend reading those instead of this book.
I cancelled my cable TV years ago because I was making myself paranoid, watching way too many true crime stories. Plus, I had an unhealthy addiction to the show “Criminal Minds.” I’m pleased to report that I’m a much calmer person now that I’m not being inundated with this sort of entertainment. However, that former obsession with crime shows means that most of what McDermid writes in this non-fiction volume was not new to me, hence only a three star rating. If you are new to the world of forens ...more
Dec 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
*3.5 stars*
This book was really interesting, but I wasn't blown away. The writing itself was very average and each chapter was really formulaic, but the information was intriguing enough to keep me reading regardless. I wish it could have went into a little more depth into the subject of each chapter itself, and had a little less case examples. I'm glad we got real world examples, but the general information to case ratio was a bit more skewed than I would have hoped.

Overall though an enjoyable
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an addict of true crime in books AND tv, this book was wonderful. A primer as well as a history of the different techniques and technology of forensics, it was very well done. I knew many of the techniques found in this book but the real-life examples were fascinating. I also enjoyed looking at the UK slant on forensics, policing, and courts.

I hope this will not be the last foray into non-fiction by McDermid.
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, death
For me and mine, this is the bible of forensics, but for some, it might not be as interesting or could seem dry. Val McDermid outlines the development of modern forensics, advancements of protocols, and how the court system has used and abused the idea of forensics.

Interesting reading and clearly explained, the book leaves little to the imagination.

5 stars

Happy Reading!
“Murder is not a replicable experiment. Every one is unique.” --Val Tomlinson
When I saw a book on forensics written by Val McDermid on Netgalley, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Given the talent for viscerally creepy psychological thrillers that McDermid has displayed in her Tony Hill novels, I was excited to see what she would make of nonfiction.

Forensics is as riveting as I had anticipated. McDermid isn’t just a talented writer; she also does her research. In this book, she proves it.
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

"The story of forensic science, of that road from crime scene to courtroom, is the stuff of thousands of crime novels."

Val McDermid is the bestselling crime fiction author of more than thirty novels, including her popular series featuring criminal profiler Tony Hill and Detective Inspector Carol Jordan. In Forensics, Val McDermid pays homage to the science that informs her work.

Drawing on interviews with leading forensic scientists about the history, practice and future of their varied discipli
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Val McDermid covers exactly what’s in the subtitle for this book, and much more. The full title is Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime. Expect plenty about each sub-topic.

In Forensics, she explains many (if not all) of the common ways forensic investigators focus their work. Some examine bugs, while others look at the way fires burn. Still others rebuild faces onto skulls, examine DNA found at the crime scene, or analyze contents of organs and bodily fluids.

Dana Stabenow
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Val McDermid is of course that well known crime fiction author of the same name, and this book is a brisk, crisp narrative interspersed with harrowing, you-are-there crime scenes, fascinating details, heartrending stories and a bunch of on-point commentary from present-day forensic scientists at the top of their game. "The story of forensic science," she writes in her preface

of that road from crime scene to courtroom, is the stuff of thousands of crime novels. The application of science to the s
Naim Frewat
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
What a fascinating read!
The book is divided according to the disciplines that make up Forensics: from entomology to forensic psychology passing by the sexy fingerprinting and DNA profiling. Each discipline is presented with a historic overview of its development including, whenever possible, a matching first case where it was utilized. Scientific explanation is also there for how exactly fingerprinting works, or how are poisons identified in the body.
What I liked most though are the landmark c
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually originally bought this for my sister, but then decided I was curious about it too and got myself a copy. I really haven’t enjoyed Val McDermid’s crime fiction; I found it just too violent and gritty. And I have to admit there were points reading this non-fiction book where I felt uncomfortable thinking about serial killers and arsonists and all the kinds of people McDermid discussed, and the crimes they committed. If you ever want to look at everyone around you with suspicion, a book ...more
This book was what is says and more. It delves into various forensic disciplines in depth and explores the history and development of each. It stresses what is true and not true about each area and relates historic and recent cases where it has been applied. Entomology, Blood Spatter analysis, DNA, Forensic psychology and Fingerprinting are just some of the categories. The research is excellent and her narrative is very engaging and easy to understand.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting true crime book with a forensic science focus

If you are interested in forensics, I think you'll really enjoy this book.

It sets out in each chapter, a different aspect of forensic science, from fingerprinting to DNA and blood splatter to forensic psychology.

Each chapter uses examples of real life crime cases, some very old and some much more recent to illustrate how that area has developed and bought prosecutors to life.

It doesn't go into too much detail about ea
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star
An absolutely engrossing read concerning the world of forensic science - in layman’s terms. I couldn’t put this one down; it was handily broken down into chapters such as DNA, psychology and fingerprinting and much of the book is dedicated to case studies of real crimes and the history of how forensics began and how it continues to develop.

I understand the author is largely known for her crime fiction work, although her knowledge of the science that underpins it is thorough and a great example
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Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies.

She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cart

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