The Worlds of R. A. Hortz
Crime Science - Methods of Forensic Detection
By Joe Nickell & John F. Fischer
The University Press of Kentucky, 1999
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - Posted January 23, 2012
Not so long ago, forensic science was a vital, yet relatively unknown scientific discipline. However, with the advent of such block buster TV shows as CSI, CSI: Miami, NCIS, Bones, and similar forensic investigation type shows, forensic science has taken on almost a cult status. Schools teaching forensic and criminal science are full, and other schools are rushing to add forensic science classes to their course schedule. What this all means for writers is that they have to be extra vigilant to make sure that when they use forensic science in a story that they get it right. Readers tend not to be very forgiving when a writer makes an obvious mistake when it comes to a scientific procedure. So, before you make an error that has the possibility of 'turning off' your readers, do your homework. One book currently on the shelves that can help you become a better informed crime or mystery writer is Crime Science: Methods of Forensic Detection, by Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer.
This concise and gripping book provides a general introduction to forensic science. The authors also take you on a behind the scene's tour several 'case study' criminal investigations, and introduce you to the various scientific disciplines that make up a criminal investigation team, such as crime scene, crime lab, and fingerprint technicians, firearms identification experts, document examiners, forensic anthropologist, medical examiners, pathologist, and chemists. Nickell and Fischer also explain how evidence is collected and analyzed, the equipment used, details on such 'hot topics' as how time of death is determined, how and why DNA testing is done, what trace evidence is and how it is identified, and how shoe and tire impressions are preserved and employed in the criminal investigation process.
Crime Science: Methods of Forensic Detection is written for a general audience and technical terms are kept at a minimum. In addition, each chapter includes an absorbing case study that provides practical examples of how forensic science was used in the investigation of real life cases, such as a case study of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing and the O.J. Simpson trial. Each chapter also includes informative endnotes and a recommended reading list that is invaluable to those wishing to delve deeper into this intriguing subject. While this book will not make you an expert in the field of crime science, it can help add a sense of realism and precision to your crime related writing. All in all, an excellent, nontechnical, introduction to the thrilling and important field of forensic science.
Other books by Joe Nickell include Detecting Forgery: Forensic Investigation of Documents and Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation.
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