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Silent Witnesses Audio Download – Unabridged

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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By C. Bannister TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nigel McCrery created Silent Witness, which aired on the BBC featuring a team of forensic pathologists, as well as the more light-hearted New Tricks, this time about retired policemen solving cold crimes. The author started his working life as a police officer in Nottinghamshire and towards the end of this book he uses one of the cases he worked on to show how DNA profiling can be successful many years after a murder.

In his introduction the author launches straight in with details of a murder of a young girl with illustrations of how forensics can rule someone out as a suspect as well as pointing justice in the direction of a perpetrator.
This book goes right back to the early forensics. It must be remembered that identifying someone from their corpse is probably not the easiest task! `Always remember you are absolutely unique, just like everyone else.' Margaret Mead US anthropologist (1901-1978) Although arranged in order of chronological developments in real life some of the techniques overlap before the scientists come to an agreement of the best method.

Each chapter of the book not only details the advances in forensic science but also gives examples of how these discoveries were used in evidence in court. There is much to digest in this book but it is all presented in such a way that you don't need any specialist knowledge to understand. I even kept track during the chapter on ballistics and for the first time understood how bullets can be tracked back to a particular gun.

I have to admit my favourite chapter was on poisons `after all, they were an extremely convenient way of ridding yourself of an enemy whilst avoiding detection.' Often used by women it took scientists much trial and error before they came up with conclusive proof that could be laid before a jury.

A must read for anyone who would like an accessible insight into the work of forensic scientists through the ages.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Nigel McCrery has had an interesting career - an ex-policeman turned screenwriter, he's the man behind such successful TV dramas as Silent Witness and New Tricks, and has also written several crime novels. All of which makes him perhaps the ideal person to write a book on the history of the contribution of forensic science to crime detection.

Each chapter looks at a different aspect of forensics - ballistics, blood, fingerprinting, the human body, DNA etc. McCrery introduces us to the scientists and detectives who developed the techniques and tests that gradually led to the current state of play where forensics is one of the major planks of detection. In less skilled hands, this could be a very dry subject indeed, but McCrery writes flowingly and interestingly, making the people come to life and explaining the science in a way that is easy to understand.

What makes the book most interesting is that McCrery tells the stories of the true crimes that were the earliest to be solved by each individual technique, and he ranges widely across the world to do so. He takes us back in time to the earliest days of detection to give a picture of the primitive, sometimes barbaric, methods that were used prior to the development of scientific methods - so we learn, for instance, of the suspect forced to share a bed with the bodies of his supposed victims to see if guilt would produce a confession. Or how about the early method of identifying an unknown victim by sticking the head on a pole and displaying it in public?

McCrery uses a chronological approach to telling his story, so in the chapter on the gun, for instance, we learn about its history from its earliest appearance as a Chinese 'fire-lance', through the invention of flintlocks and on to revolvers.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an intriguing account of the history of forensic science’s role in assisting the solution of crimes. The book covers the key developments in forensic science and their subsequent application to cases, mostly murders, which might well have otherwise have remained unsolved, or with the wrong person found guilty. The more recent use of DNA evidence is covered and its application to affirming the identity of the Romanov remains in Russia, as well as the identity of the body of Richard III in a Leicester car-park. The science is generally easy to understand, though the discussion of the analysis of blood groups is a little complicated. Generally, though, the prose verges on being perhaps just a little too simplistic. There are illustrations, but they do not really help to elucidate the content of the text. Overall, an informative and interesting read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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