McCrery divides his book into seven sections: identity, ballistics, blood, trace evidence, body, poison, and DNA. As advertised in the subtitle, most of the chapters contain short histories of cases and scientific discovery. McCrery tracked down the first time fingerprinting solved a case or Alphonse Bertillon's system found a thief and murder, or when blood evidence exonerated a suspect or convicted another. McCrery covers crimes from the 1700s right up to the present. There are few pictures, and none of bloody crime scenes, so the book is fairly safe for any reader (though some of the crimes described are very grim).
Sir William Herschel instituted
widespread fingerprinting to
prevent payroll fraud.
If you're a fan of modern mysteries (or CSI) there's not much here, science-wise, that you won't know. The history is revelatory. I enjoyed reading about cases and experiments very much. McCrery does have a few writerly tics that the editor should have caught. He frequently writes, "as we have seen" or "as I have shown" and refers to many cases as famous or infamous. Still, this is a pretty good read, especially since a history of forensic science (and its attendant chemistry, geology, physics, etc.) could have been ('scuze the pun) deadly.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 1 September 2014.
* Mostly loops and arches.
** Not that I was looking for a manual. Honest.