Fox&Songbird

Books that are truly worth reading

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

Val McDermid

The dead talk. To the right listener, they tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died - and who killed them. Forensic scientists can use a corpse, the scene of a crime or a single hair to unlock the secrets of the past and allow justice to be done.

Bestselling crime author Val McDermid will draw on interviews with top-level professionals to delve, in her own inimitable style, into the questions and mysteries that surround this fascinating science. How is evidence collected from a brutal crime scene? What happens at an autopsy? What techniques, from blood spatter and DNA analysis to entomology, do such experts use? How far can we trust forensic evidence?

Looking at famous murder cases, as well as investigations into the living - sexual assaults, missing persons, mistaken identity - she will lay bare the secrets of forensics from the courts of seventeenth-century Europe through Jack the Ripper to the cutting-edge science of the modern day

Recommended by Rachel

I wanted to end this selection with a non-fiction book and there were a hell of a lot I wanted to talk about but one in particular kept coming back to me. It’s not the kind of book everyone will enjoy but for anyone with an interest in human biology, history or crime, it is fascinating.

In Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime, Val McDermid outlines the history of forensic science and the different methods used to investigate a crime scene. She starts with the basics of crime scene investigation as it was in the 1800s and goes on to detail how each field has developed over the years, alongside scientific advances and changes to the law.

It’s by no means the most detailed or scientifically specific book out there but it gives a fantastic overview of a large number of fields including entomology, pathology, toxicology, fingerprinting, DNA analysis, blood splatter analysis and a number of others. Unlike similar books, what makes this stand out is that it also looks at things like Fire Scene Investigation and Digital Forensics (tracking people’s activity online) so it really does talk about investigating and collecting evidence from all crimes, not just murders or assaults.

Val McDermid is, ultimately, a storyteller, so while this book is super-informative, the highlight is probably the examples she gives and anecdotes she tells about how each technique has been used in real crime investigation throughout history. Despite such a dark subject matter it is a very enjoyable read and you come away having learnt a hell of a lot.