Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Body Trace by D.H. Dublin

Body Trace:

Nancy Drew plays forensic scientist is how I see this book. The book's hero is Madison Cross, recently graduated from medical school, who has just taken a job with the Philadelphia Crime Scene Unit, the forensic investigation team. We can understand - somewhat - how Ms. Cross might be a bit green and might make mistakes, but I don't think we can give the same break to the rest of the team. We watch Madison and her more experienced coworkers return to the scene of the crime again and again - three times at least - because they didn't bother to do a thorough job of collecting evidence the first time. Instead of following a routine, they wing it. What kind of scientist does this??

They analyse materials only when they have a theory for them. Madison follows along but nobody tells her what she should be doing.

Twenty years ago a writer might have gotten away with some of this because the reading public wasn't as knowledgable about forensic science and techniques. Now we are. We can pick up that the photographer doesn't know how to do a proper job, for example, when told that "she took photographs from every conceivable angle". Then she backed up and took more. No. Wrong. You start with the wider view and photograph in circles, gradually closing in on the body. There are specific methods for collecting evidence,as well, including the collection of trace evidence. We see none of that here. Instead, this crack team visits the scene many days later and finds a bit of hair here, a bit there.

Yet the writer, D. H. Dublin (a pseudonym for Jonathan McGoran) is writing a series on the C.S.U.! Who does he think he is??

What he does well in this book is describe Philadelphia, the city where he lives. I suspect Phillie readers might enjoy the book because they can recognize the landmarks, the restaurants, the bridges and highways. It's not enough for me.

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