The Casebook of Forensic Detection

February 9, 2009

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The Casebook of Forensic Detection and Murder Two: The Second Casebook of Forensic Detection by Colin Evans

I have an interest in true crime (murder in particular, especially serial killers) and my bookshelf has a very interesting assortment of crime books. These two books by Evans are among the best.

The casebook of forensic detection set breaks cases, types of evidence, techniques, and famous criminalists (only in Murder 2) into bite sized sections of just a handful of pages.

The two books have a slightly different layout. The first book is broken down into the various types of forensic evidence (or foresenic techniques), such as ballistics, toxicology, trade evidence, serology (blood), and time of death. Evans introduces each section with a short introduction to the topic. The book spends a few pages on the subject, including how it has evolved through history.

At this point, the book really gets into the meat of the subject and discusses several cases dealing with this type of evidence (or technique). Some cases are famous (Ted Bundy, the Nightstalker, John Wayne Gacy, the Lindbergh kidnapping) while some are relatively obscure (including one old case that occurred in a state park that I used to visit frequently). Some have even inspired scenes in movies (that wood chipper murder in the movie Fargo? Not an original idea). Evans only takes a few pages to tell each story, and packs quite a punch, hitting all the high points in each case. It’s basically written in Bathroom Reader style – you can the book, flip it open to a random spot, read for ten minutes, and feel fulfilled.

Although Murder Two is really a continuation of the original, Evans altered the structure of the book Instead of organizing the book by topic, as with the original, it alphabetizes everything – the type of evidence, name of defendant, and criminalist. As a result, the pages for arson are followed by a case for a defendant with the last name Atwood, because his name is next alphabetically. I guess this allows Evans some flexibility in choosing cases (able to choose cases involving two sorts of evidence without having to choose which section is the best fit), but I really like the layout of the first book better. This is by far the biggest flaw in the book – which means that these books are extremely good.

Murder Two includes brief bios of famous (or less famous, but well respected) criminalists throughout history. While specific criminalists were mentioned in the first book, it did not include the bios.

Evans has chosen good cases, and tells the stories well. The original casebook has long since been a favored choice for my bedtime reading. The second book seems to come up just a wee bit short of the standard set by the first, but that’s largely because Evans did a good job picking the cases for the first book – essentially cherry picking the best ones, with the result that the cases in the second book are of a slightly lesser quality.

Colin Evans
The Casebook of Forensic Detection

Colin Evans
The Second Casebook of Forensic Detection

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