Val McDermid


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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 firsthand 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.
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439 printed pages
Original publication


Sergey Bondarev
Sergey Bondarevshared an impression4 years ago
🌴Beach Bag Book

Awesome, modern, informative

Мариshared an impression2 years ago
👍Worth reading
💡Learnt A Lot

Pretty good book on the topic

Полина Федорова
Полина Федороваshared an impression4 years ago
👍Worth reading
💡Learnt A Lot


Мариhas quoted2 years ago
If ricin is swallowed, its symptoms are nasty but not fatal. But if it is injected or inhaled or absorbed through the mucus membranes, a dose the size of a few grains of salt will kill an adult man. Ricin inhibits the protein synthesis of cells, causing cell death, and damage to the major organs. There is a delay of a few hours before the appearance of symptoms, which include high fever, seizures, severe diarrhoea, chest pains, breathing difficulties and oedema
Dmitry Pupkov
Dmitry Pupkovhas quoted4 years ago
At 11 p.m. on 3 May 1957, Kenneth Barlow, a nurse from Bradford, phoned 999 to say that he had found his wife unconscious in the bath. He explained that he had pulled her out and spent a long time trying to resuscitate her, and that she had been suffering from vomiting and fever that evening. Investigators were suspicious when they discovered two used syringes in the kitchen. Kenneth explained that he was using them to treat an abscess he had with penicillin. Tests confirmed the presence of penicillin.
But pathologist David Price remained suspicious. During the autopsy he searched every inch of Mrs Barlow’s skin with a magnifying glass. Eventually he found two tiny holes consistent with injection needles, one on each of Mrs Barlow’s buttocks. The symptoms that Kenneth had said his wife was suffering from were those of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), which made David Price suspect that he had injected his wife with a lethal dose of insulin. There were no tests for insulin at the time, so Price took tissue from around the injection points on Mrs Barlow’s buttocks and injected it into mice. They quickly died of hypoglycaemia. Barlow was found guilty of murder and given a life sentence.

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