Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Forensics by Val McDermid ****

What you see is what you get. Forensics by Val McDermid is an overview of forensics which is all the craze on television and fiction. If you have been watching CSI in all its variations and Bones and Numbe3rs and the rest, little of this will be a surprise.

The history of various techniques is a nice addition though. There seems to be a typical path that starts with disbelief by law enforcement, the public, and especially juries. Sometimes this first step is skipped. Profiling is an example of the latter.

The next step is over confidence. This happened immediately for profiling, but has also happened for many FBI lab operations (some mentioned in the book, but several skipped as the author is British). The book included some nice examples of over-exuberance for fingerprints.

On of these examples is the recent headline: "FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades."

Finally, there is a balanced approach.

One technique was new for me. It seems people can be identified by the pattern of veins on their hands and arms. This has been used to convict pedophiles.

For the forensic junkie, this is a nice maintenance dose between reruns.

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