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Gratitude mixed with doubt as to the credibility of the facts
on 3 October 2013
I am grateful to the author for providing me with a book that I had been waiting for; a book that sets out the history of forensic science. Grateful because I have undertaken extensive research of a murder that took place nearly a century ago and I wanted to be able to place it within its forensic science context. This book enables me to do this.
It catalogues the development of forensic science by a detailing of the development of seven different methods of forensics: identification, ballistics, blood, trace evidence, the body, poisons and DNA. The sometimes complex scientific details are enlivened by accounts of murders in which the forensic method in discussion resulted in a conviction, or in the case of the final chapter on DNA in release and full pardon. The latter chapter is particularly fascinating because of its account of how DNA fingerprinting identified the buried remains of a family in Yekaterinburg, Russia as those of the Romanov family and the remains of a skeleton found in a Leicester car park as being those of Richard III.
The writing hits the right balance between giving sufficient detail without swamping the reader in science and, in addition, giving the human side of each murder case used to illustrate the forensic method in question.
Where I have criticism of McCrery is in the accuracy of the facts. I can only comment in relation to the particular murder which I have researched for now in excess of a year. Some of the facts are incorrect and for me this undermines the credibility of the facts contained within this book. Elsewhere there are contradictory facts. Some may think me picky, but I think not, particularly in a book about forensic science whose credibility necessarily relies upon accuracy.