Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dissecting Death, by Frederick Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D., and David L. Carroll

I admit to being a forensics buff. There are times I wish I had gone to medical school and become a pathologist.

Zugibe is a highly-respected pathologist who has worked in a county in New York State for many years. In those years he has not only seen it all but in some respects done it all. He has developed or refined techniques for forensic examination that are commonly used today.

In this book he examines ten cases, each illustrating a different forensic point. He then describes the examination process and what additional steps he took to learn what was there to learn. After educating us on these elements he uses the final chapter to take a quick look at some famous cases and to offer his evaluation of them. He's not shy in saying the Jon-Benet Ramsey case was botched from the beginning or that the prosecution took the wrong tack in the O.J. Simpson trial.

The writing is simple and direct. There is one aspect of the style that I found irritating: whenever he is about to examine a death scene he moves into the present tense. It feels awkward and unnecessary to me.

Overall, highly readable, informative description of forensic techniques. Those who are like me will already know most of them from television! But we don't necessarily know just how a forensic photographer approaches a scene or the order of an autopsy. Right after reading this book I watched a forensic fiction show on television and caught some major errors. That, of course, is the curse of knowing too much.

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