Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

Val McDermid is one of the finest crime writers we have, whose novels have captivated millions of readers worldwide with their riveting narratives of characters who solve complex crimes and confront unimaginable evil. In the course of researching her bestselling novels McDermid has become familiar with every branch of forensics, and now she uncovers the history of this science, real-world murders and the people who must solve them.

The dead talk—to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and first-hand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.

Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one’s time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer; and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide. It’s a journey that will take McDermid to war zones, fire scenes, and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.


[The face of justice we know today has not always been judicious] 


(Profile Books, ebook, 2 October 2014, borrowed from my library)




I’m one of those people who are fascinated by forensics and how they can be used to solve crimes. I devour shows like CSI, Criminal Minds and NCIS and fiction that explores this.

I thought Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime was fantastic. I was fascinated from page one. This is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. I cannot recommend it enough.

I loved the structure of Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime.

McDermid traces the history of forensics used to solve crimes including looking at blood splatter analysis, fingerprinting, DNA, facial reconstruction and digital forensics. She uses examples from the 1800’s when methods were much more primitive and brings forensics right up to date.

Despite the subject matter, the book isn’t gory at all, but offers a scientific approach. I was utterly fascinated from start to finish.

I loved the fact McDermid illustrates her points with some real-life cases including Peter Kürten, the disappearance of Shannon Matthews and even Jack the Ripper as well as testimony from people involved in the field of forensics.

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