Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

Crime fiction is one of the most popular genres around and authors are always finding new ways to shock and thrill us in their criminal portrayals. Celebrated writer Val McDermid is one such author whose crime novels have captivated her readers for years. Now, in this non-fiction book she explores the real life science behind crime scene investigation. 

Each chapter consists of a short study of that field and true crime cases that are significant to the history of that science or best demonstrate how the forensic procedure is actually used in a criminal investigation. 

She cleverly combines scientific knowledge, casework, forensic experts and her own brilliant writing style to paint a picture of the use of forensic science both historically, in modern day crime and future possibilities. 

This book covers the crime scene, fire scene investigation, entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, blood spatter and DNA, anthropology facial reconstruction, digital forensics, forensic psychology and the court room. 

The science in this book is fascinating; in depth and yet still in plain English. The accounts of some fields from a historical viewpoint and its subsequent developments were also incredibly interesting. With continual advancements in science and technology, who knows what innovations the future holds for crime scene investigation!  

The case studies of some of the crimes within are sometimes grisly, but that is the nature of crime, and how science has developed to aid in the course of solving these terrible offences is something that will always hold a grim fascination for the public.  

One significant point that Val McDermid touches on often throughout the book is that the presence and/or collection of evidence of a crime is only half of the battle, as in many cases it is the forensic expert as well as the evidence that are put under scrutiny. 

When I studied Forensic Psychology at University, I remember some of my lecturers recall stories from their times giving evidence in court as an expert in their field. They would often have to argue their worth as an academic/expert as well as their findings regarding that particular court case. Although I’ve not gone down the forensic career route, I’ve often wondered if I would be comfortable to withstand that kind of personal interrogation and lean towards the negative. 

Now I do have a bit of a confession to make with this review: this was my first Val McDermid read (non-fiction or otherwise) which is shocking as I like crime fiction and also have many of her books in my house that I just haven’t got round to reading yet. With this book, I liked her writing style straight away and she is obviously talented and knowledgeable in this field, so I am actually really looking forward to trying one of her crime novels for the first time.

If you have any interest in crime and forensic procedure, then this is a great introduction to the different areas of forensics and a thoroughly interesting exploration of the use of science in crime and its development over recent years.  

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