I don’t read much crime fiction so the work of Val McDermid was not known to me. I started reading, Forensics, The Anatomy of Crime, as an exercise in Criminology. From the outset I was stunned at how readable the work was. It was only then that I realised that Val McDermid is a practised and experienced genius in the field of writing entertainingly about crime.
So, here we o find her engaged in explaining the work of forensic scientists to lay people. Along the way she explains the history of each forensic field from the first recorded autopsy (that of the body of Julius Caesar) to the Great Fire of London and modern advances which allow crimes to be solved years after the case has officially been closed.
She works through twelve chapters, all equally interesting. Theintegrity of the crime scene, fire investigation, entomology (probably best not to read this while eating a sandwich if one is squeamish), .pathology, toxicology, finger printing, blood spatter and DNA, anthropology, facial reconstruction, digital forensics, forensic psychology, and the courtroom.
The book makes extensive use of case histories and interviews and it is a compelling read for anyone who has any interest in crime whatsoever. One of these case histories has a South African connection to the truths uncovered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I am definitely planning to read some of her fiction as a direct result of how fascinating I found this somewhat more scholarly work of non-fiction. I recommend it highly.
- Title: Forensics
- Subtitle: The Anatomy of Crime
- Author: Val McDermid
- Publisher: Profile Books. Wellcome (locally available from Penguin Random House)
- Year: 2014
- Recommended selling price: R220
- ISBN 978 178125 1690