Val McDermid is one of the finest crime writers we have, whose novels have captivated millions of readers worldwide with their riveting narratives of characters who solve complex crimes and confront unimaginable evil. In the course of researching her bestselling novels McDermid has become familiar with every branch of forensics, and now she uncovers the history of this science, real-world murders and the people who must solve them.
The dead talk—to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.
Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one’s time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer; and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide. It’s a journey that will take McDermid to war zones, fire scenes, and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.
Forensics is a detailed, fascinating look into the world of forensic science. Val McDermid covers various different elements and skills which are utilised by forensic scientists and investigators, covering topics from fingerprinting to facial reconstruction and toxicology. Each section is explained and explored in just the right level of detail, ensuring the reader gets the whole picture without becoming too scientific for the average person.
McDermid brilliantly weaves information about forensics techniques and procedures with real life cases and their outcomes. She shows the reader how the case was dealt with and manages to be fairly unbiased in her writing. Some past ideas and preconceptions are now known to be invalid but she shows why investigators and/or scientists at the time would have believed them to be true, so you get a real feel for the context.
I was surprised at how much I loved reading this book. Perhaps I had preconceptions that it might be hard to read or quite dry but I got as addicted to reading it as I have done in various other novels, perhaps even more so because all the cases are real. Some of them I could remember from my childhood or teenage years, and this was to a certain extent even more interesting, as I often hadn’t understood them properly back then. This all adds to the mystery and intrigue.
For those who are queasy or easily upset, be warned- Val McDermid doesn’t pull any punches here. Some really brutal crimes are laid out for the readers to learn about and there were a few times when I felt quite horrified reading about them, which I was surprised about as I read a LOT of crime (though real life is always more shocking). However, I’d obviously prefer this to a diluted or sugar-coated version of events.
Overall this is just a fascinating book- I can’t imagine anyone would find it boring unless you really aren’t interested in the subject matter at all. I felt like I learnt a lot from it and will no doubt bore other people with my new found wisdom about the world of forensics! Highly recommended.
** Many thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC in return for an honest review **