Crack the case with real-life experts
Edited & introduced by Cyril H. Wecht, MD, JD
A xmas gift from Olman (I don’t normally read Reader’s Digest publications), seeing how I watch those CSI shows somewhat slavishly. I admit it - I enjoy relaxing to the plethora of forensic procedurals available on the idiot box most week nights, such as CSI (I prefer NY over the original Las Vegas). Almost every single episode faithfully follows the same template:
* a grisly homicide is perp'd n’ portrayed
* elite and smartly-dressed forensic team arrives on the scene
* lead investigator makes pithy comment
* cut to opening credits
* back to crime scene where clues and DNA samples are discovered
* segue to sweet high-tech lab where forensic specialists individually process and examine the evidence and/or
* segue to over-edited autopsy montage timed to trendy electronic music where nerdy pathologist examines bloody stab wounds and/or damaged organs
* witnesses and suspects then brought in and interrogated by stern- looking yet hunky detective
* depict flashback of victim’s sordid past before he/she bit it
* depict chase scene and/or gun fight as police close in on suspect
* perp(s) gets caught and arrested
I find this very comforting.
After reading Wecht’s CSI book, which takes a step-by-step look at how a crime scene is undertaken by science and the law, I realize that the CSI and Law & Order type TV shows are merely emulating the sequential stages of an investigation: from the first responders to the crime scene to the inquiry and subsequent forensic analysis to the arrest and painstaking preparations for going to trial.
Wecht is a well-known and, at times, controversial forensic pathologist and coroner who consulted in some high profile cases, including the JFK assassination and the unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsay. He does a very nice job of gathering noted specialists from various fields across North America and the UK to make contributions, such as the “a day in the life” sections, where we get brief, first-person accounts from a detective inspector, a criminal intelligence analyst, a forensic photographer, a forensic odontologist, a toxicologist, a pathologist, a barefoot morphologist, a geographic profiler and a knot analyst, to name but a few!
Obviously the book is designed to appeal to the average reader who is into CSI, Law & Order, Criminal Minds and Bones. There are plenty of illustrations, as well as graphic photos of the requisite money shots, ie. crime scenes, dead bodies, bullet wounds. There are also fun little inserts featuring high-profile cases that bear some relation to the subject, ie how Ted Bundy’s dental cast proved that he inflicted the bite wound on one of his victim’s in the chapter called “The Autopsy”, or how profilers predicted that Paul Bernardo, then known as the “Scarborough Rapist”, would become progressively more violent in the chapter about the psychology of crime.
Though the final chapter about preparing for the trial was rather dry and ended rather abruptly, I found the book quite engaging and informative and as enjoyable as the best CSI shows out there!