Forensics Book Summary By Val McDermid

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

Forensics (2014) is a captivating look into the world of forensic investigations.

It provides a comprehensive, gripping view of all that goes on when investigating a crime scene, from fascinating stories and facts about past criminal cases to an enlightening examination of the science and technology in forensics today.

This book is sure to be an interesting read for those interested in this field, as it covers topics such as DNA analysis, fingerprint identification, forensic toxicology, ballistics evidence analysis and more.

It is truly one of the most informative books available on the subject - providing all you need to know about forensics and leaving no stone unturned.

Forensics Book

Book Name: Forensics (What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime)

Author(s): Val McDermid

Rating: 4.6/5

Reading Time: 29 Minutes

Categories: Science

Author Bio

Val McDermid is a highly acclaimed author known for her gripping crime novels.

She began her career as a bureau chief at a national UK tabloid and has since gone on to write best-selling books such as the Tony Hill series, which were also adapted into a popular UK television series called Wire in the Blood.

Val McDermid's works offer exciting and complex stories centering on crime, psychology and suspense that captivate readers with every page turn.

Uncovering The Fascinating History Of Forensic Science: From Four Bones To Blowflies And Japanese Pottery

Forensic Science

Forensics plays a crucial role in solving crime and has evolved vastly since its first recorded use.

From Sherlock Holmes using forensic evidence to help catch his notorious adversaries, to uncovering the identity of the “sausage king” of Chicago with just four bones, forensics continues to be one of the most reliable means for police to apprehend criminals.

But what exactly has made forensics so powerful? Through Forensics, readers have an opportunity to explore this field and all its different specialists and experts who use methods like blowfly analysis or Japanese pottery’s innovation of its special pattern detection method that is still around today.

By delving into its history, an appreciation will grow for how efficiently it works in helping law enforcement agencies solve even some of the most complicated cases.

Edmond Locard And Frances Glessner Lee Lay The Groundwork For Modern Crime Scene Investigation

Forensic science has been around since the nineteenth century, where evidence-based legal proceedings became more established.

It was not until Edmond Locard, who founded the world’s first crime scene investigation laboratory in Lyon, France in 1910, that forensic techniques were truly refined and honed.

His most influential contribution to forensic science is the aptly-named Locard Principle: “Every contact leaves a trace.

For the past 100 years, Forensic Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) have been diligently working to secure evidence at crime scenes in order to help police with their investigations.

They begin with an initial inspection of the scene, collecting any clearly recognizable evidence such as weaponry or bloody fingerprints.

All potential evidence is carefully and precisely bagged, labeled and documented for courtroom use.

It’s imperative that CSIs work fast in order to avoid mistakes or contamination of evidence; this is why mobile investigation labs are being considered for speedy responses and processes.

Uncovering The Truth: An Insight Into The Wonders Of Fire Scene Investigation

As any experienced fire scene investigator can attest to, the job presents some unique challenges.

Unlike standard CSIs, fire scene investigators must work amidst intense heat and diminished visibility.

On top of that, they have to work in reverse; an effective investigation starts from the least damaged area and works its way back toward where the flames originated.

More importantly, they must take precautions to avoid cross-contamination of evidence as they go.

A proper fire scene investigation needs detailed photos of the structure exterior and witness testimonies before entering the building.

From there, it is all about finding traces of ignition like faulty wiring or matches left behind in fuel sources.

Though common sources of ignition often hold clues, the Stardust Disco fire serves as a reminder that identifying them isn’t always easy.

Over 25 years later, investigators still have no concrete proof of who was responsible for such a terrible tragedy—a testament to how difficult this business can be at times.

It takes patience, skill and determination to piece together evidence in a fire scene investigation: All qualities that make it clear why these specialist CSIs deserve great respect for their hard work and dedication.

From Ancient Chinese Classics To Forensic Investigations: How Insects Help Solve Crimes

Ancient Chinese

When trying to determine a person’s time of death, entomology can prove to be an incredibly useful tool.

Entomology, the study of insects, has been widely used since 1247 when Chinese official Song Ci produced a coroner’s handbook.

Then in 1893 Jean Pierre Mégnin published Fauna of Corpses which recorded different species of insects and their stages of decomposition which are attracted to corpses.

In 1986 Ken Smith wrote A Manual of Forensic Entomology, going further in depth on how to use these insects to determine a time of death.

For example, we know that the blowfly is the insect that colonizes corpses most quickly and lays its eggs approximately 15 days after it lands on a corpse.

By analyzing the development of the maggots, scientists can deduce when the original egg was laid and thus approximately when the deceased died.

Various environmental factors (i.e weather) and physical characteristics (i.e hair) aid in this determination as well.

The 1935 case against Dr Buck Ruxton is proof; experts analyzed maggots found in body pieces scattered across UK leading to his conviction for killing his wife and maid—the first case solved using such methods in that region.

Forensic Pathology: A Long History Of Pushing The Boundaries Of Mortality Investigations

Forensic pathologists’ examinations of corpses have a long legacy as a valuable forensic resource.

As far back as Julius Caesar in 44 BC, it has proved to be an indispensible tool in determining cause of death.

The process of autopsies starts outside and moves inward.

Samples are collected from the deceased’s biological materials such as hair and fingernail scrapings, with physical features then carefully documented.

A Y-shaped incision is made to examine the organs, before they’re sampled and stitched back up – ready for another autopsy if need be.

Once that’s done, specialists like neuro- and orthopedic pathologists produce their reports before the coroner completes a final one.

Though effective overall, history has taught us that forensic pathology isn’t perfect or always accurate – a fact seen in testimonies by early 20th century forensic pathologist Bernard Spilsbury.

His prejudices at times influenced his on-stand statements: he was almost responsible for an innocent man’s execution when details were left out that could have exonerated him.

To help make up for this, new techniques are being continually developed by researchers.

For instance, the University of Tennessee’s “Body Farm” explores through hundreds of bodies in many different settings to better understand factors influencing decomposition – and improve Death Scene Analysis methods like Decomposition Odor Analysis which can estimate time of death from 400+ distinct vapors emitted during the process.

Forensic Toxicologists Help Solve Crimes, Save Lives And Advance Social Welfare

It’s no secret that, throughout the centuries, poison has always been one of the most popular choices when it comes to murder weapons.

This is why forensic toxicologists must be always informed about the latest lethal substances and have all the necessary knowledge they need to identify them and search for antidotes.

In fact, since Mathieu Orfila published his 1,300-page-long book The General System of Toxicology; or, A Treatise on Poisons in 1813 – which was meant to provide an encyclopedic catalogue of all known mineral, vegetable and animal poisons – toxicology has become as much about saving people’s lives as convicting criminals.

Thanks to advances made in toxicology over the years, those working dangerous jobs can now hold their employers accountable if they become ill from their exposure to potentially harmful chemicals or materials.

Moreover, forensic toxicologists were able to reconstruct circumstances surrounding suspicious deaths such as Harold Shipman’s 210 victims and 98 criminal poisoning trials that occurred between 1840 and 1850 in England and Wales.

Clearly, gathering evidence for killing someone using poisons is not easy which makes it one of the oldest and sneakiest murder methods out there — a reason why forensic toxicologists need to sharpen even more their expertise when it comes to studying this extremely notorious method.

The Fascinating History Of Fingerprint Evidence: From Japanese Potters To The Madrid Train Bombings

Fingerprint Evidence

Fingerprinting is one of the most groundbreaking developments in forensic science.

Its story begins with Henry Faulds, a Scottish missionary who noticed that potters in Japan used their finger imprints as subtle markings on their pots.

When dusted with powder, he discovered, these prints became visible.

Faulds took this discovery to Charles Darwin, who passed it along to his cousin Francis Galton; Galton would go on to publish the first book on fingerprints in 1892.

Juan Vucetich also began taking and cataloguing fingerprint evidence in criminal investigations in Buenos Aires, leading to the first-ever conviction based on fingerprints.

Edward Henry then developed a reference and filing system for thumbprints at the Bengal Police Station called the “Henry Classification System,” and when he was appointed head of Scotland Yard’s Criminal Investigation Department he was able to use his system to identify 632 criminals using false names.

However, it is important to remember that even fingerprint evidence can be flawed: latent prints may only be seen with technological aid or powders that make them visible, often leading to many possible matches (as seen with the Madrid bombings of 2004 where 20 possible matches were identified from an incomplete latent print).

This serves as an important reminder that any forensic evidence must always be taken into consideration within its context.

Bloodstain Analysis And Low Copy Number Dna Profiling Offer Crucial Clues In Solving Cold Cases

Forensic science has been revolutionized by the analysis of bloodstains and DNA.

Thanks to Edward Piotrowski’s innovative work in 1895, we now have a better understanding of how blood patterns behave at a crime scene.

In 1955 it was first put to the test in the famous trial of Samuel Sheppard, where testimony from a bloodstain analyst helped exonerate him.

In order to gain even deeper insight into what happened during the incident, stringing model is often used.

This process involves attaching a string to each stain and spooling them backward which will merge at the point where the blow was made – thus providing further evidence of how a struggle transpired.

Nowadays we also utilize DNA in forensic investigations which greatly enhances our ability to find out who did it.

Low copy number DNA profiling allows investigators to analyze extremely small sample sizes – as little as one millionth of a grain of salt – and has been successfully used in thousands of cases including cold cases that would otherwise have gone unsolved.

The analysis of bloodstains and DNA has changed the way forensic science works, making it possible for us to uncover even more information about any given investigation than ever before.

Modern Technology And Forensic Anthropologists Are Bringing Identities To The Unidentified

Forensic Anthropologists are invaluable as specialists in skeletal remains identification.

It was first demonstrated to the public in 1897, when they were able to successfully identify four remains found at the scene of a crime, leading to the conviction of a murderer.

Since then, Forensic Anthropologists have been using the latest technology to analyse and catalogue skeletal remains from wars and other disasters in order to accurately predict age, height and weight.

The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team have been particularly successful after their work during the 70s and 80s Dirty War trying to identify tens of thousands of victims that went missing before being found and identified.

Most recently, advances in technology have allowed unique vein patterns on arms and hands from just photographs or video footage to be used for successful convictions or linking a set of missing person reports with unidentified bodies in databases such as Louisiana State University’s FACES database.

It is clear that Forensic Anthropologists play an essential role when it comes to identifying individuals by skeletal remains, making their cases one worth studying further!

Bringing Together Art And Science: How Facial Reconstruction Identifies The Unidentifiable In Forensics

Art And Science

Forensic scientists are often able to use facial reconstruction methods to work on otherwise unsolvable mysteries.

This is especially impressive when you consider the fact that, after death, many of the identifying features of a person can be lost as their body decomposes.

Technicians have developed different ways to reconstruct faces based on their understanding of the 22 bones that make up the human skull.

One of the most successful was developed by Julius Kollmann in 1899 and involved sampling and measuring the soft tissue thickness of cadavers.

From there, Mikhail Gerasimov developed his own Russian Model in the 1950s, which took into account muscle structure because some parts such as cartilage can decompose fast after death.

Today’s facial reconstruction techniques are even more accurate due to x-rays, CT scans and computer programs that allow for faster models with different ages, hair patterns and more.

Facial reconstruction may not carry weight as evidence inside a courtroom but it is one of the best ways to identify a body or even solve a crime; when it comes to finding missing children (which generally have unformed and indistinguishable features), facial reconstruction has helped with 1 out of 6 cases!

The first case solved happened in 2001 in Holland where a five-year-old girl’s damaged skull was reconstructed leading to her parents’ arrest.

Digital Forensics: Revealing Hidden Clues To Solve Crimes

Digital forensics is a crucial tool for police in unpicking the timeline of criminal activities.

By examining devices and other digital evidence, such as photos and documents, criminal investigators can piece together details that are otherwise difficult or impossible to track down with traditional investigation techniques.

In the 1980s, digital forensics mainly revolved around fraudulent business activities.

But with the advent of Windows 95, criminals began taking advantage of computers to commit crimes, leading many police forces to set up high-tech crime units in the early 2000s.

Working on these cases requires new rules and CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) techniques when it comes to collecting and storing digital devices – gone are the days of magnetic brushes used to collect fingerprints as they have been replaced by anti-static bags which don’t damage electronic equipment.

Moreover, all digital evidence must be preserved correctly from the outset and meticulously documented in order to ensure it isn’t tampered with.

GPS tracking capabilities are especially useful for tracing back a device’s location history – for instance the iPhone 5S has a specialized chip allowing it to run for four days off reserve battery power – while detailed metadata stored in photos or documents can provide clues about time frames and more.

All these capabilities make digital forensics an invaluable asset when trying to piece together a suspected crime’s timeline.

How Forensic Psychology Can Help Solve Dead-End Cases

Forensic psychology is the science of making sense of crimes by getting inside the mind of the criminal.

It has been used to successfully help solve challenging cases that would have otherwise gone unsolved.

This relatively new field began with the first offender profile for Jack the Ripper in 1888, and gained more widespread recognition following George Metesky’s capture in 1957 after psychological profiling was employed to create a suspect profile for law enforcement.

The FBI introduced profiling courses at their academy in Virginia soon after, and police forces around the world began utilizing profilers, forensic psychologists and conducting interviews with serial killers and rapists to build relevant profiles.

In 1986, famous psychologist David Canter was able to use such techniques to help solve a case of a serial killer on the railways of London- drawing a circle connecting two farthest crimes together and then determining which spot in that circle was likely the killer’s home location.

His research has since led him to develop the computer program Dragnet that uses pertinent data to detect hotspots or areas most likely connected with a criminal’s residence.

All this goes to show just how effective forensic psychology can be when it comes to getting inside the mind of criminals and helping law enforcement bring them justice.

The Challenges Of Expert Testimony: How Evidence Is Presented In Court And Its Potential For Both Strengthening And Obscuring The Evidentiary Record

Expert Testimony

When it comes to presenting forensic evidence in court, the challenges can be many.

To begin with, it is essential that the chain of custody of said evidence is properly documented.

This means that from the moment it was collected from the crime scene until it is presented in a court of law all steps have been taken in an appropriate manner and there are no loopholes for it to be deemed inadmissible.

Cross-examination of the expert witness who presents this evidence also serves two main purposes; on one hand, attempting to disprove the opinion they present; while on the other hand attempting to discredit their reputation instead.

Furthermore, lawyers will only try to obtain testimony that suits their respective argument, something that has happened before although fortunately there were happy endings after proper forensic evidence was finally discovered.

Ultimately, through a process where every piece of evidence must go under a high degree of scrutiny – just like Sue Black did when she first tried to present vein pattern analysis only for judges dismiss it – then truly strong cases can be built and justice will prevail even if mistakes have been made before.

Wrap Up

The final takeaway from this book is that forensic science has come a long way in the past two centuries.

From being inspired by works of fiction such as Sherlock Holmes, to the development of DNA and genetic fingerprinting, this field of science has revolutionized jurisprudence and justice.

It is a team effort between an important, creative group of experts who strive to provide accurate evidence can be used in a court of law.

Forensic scientists play a critical role in helping bring about justice – something that should not be understated or forgotten.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.