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Old 10-25-2014, 05:42 AM   #1
crich70
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Suggestions for good Forensic history books??

I just read the following book via library loan:The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

Amazon US
Does anyone here at MR have some suggestions for other good books of 'forensic' history?
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Old 10-25-2014, 06:04 AM   #2
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I purchased this one at Kobo during a recent Open Road Media promotion on true crime titles for $1.99 each (now back to full price, but sometimes they repeat their sale titles and of course it's couponable if you manage to score a really good code in one of the contests):

The Blooding, the story of the discovery of DNA identification in England and its use in solving the Narborough village murders, by Joseph Wambaugh (Wikipedia), who writes it in the style of one of his police procedural novels.

Disclaimer: I have not gotten around to reading it yet, but it's said to be very good and garnered a lot of review praise (blurbed on the ORM product page) when it first came out in 1989.

(ETA: still lingering at $1.76 for Canadians in the Amazon store, may have comparable pricing for US persons)

Last edited by ATDrake; 10-25-2014 at 06:13 AM. Reason: Actually still available cheap. Not as cheaply as if it were still couponable, but still fairly low.
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Old 10-25-2014, 07:39 AM   #3
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Thanks. I'll check it out.
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Old 10-25-2014, 11:47 AM   #4
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Not sure if this is the kind of thing you're looking for, but several years ago I read probably 10 books about Jack the Ripper. The best was Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell. The author spent a lot of time and effort applying 20th Century forensic science to the case. It was quite fascinating.
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Old 10-25-2014, 12:06 PM   #5
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Not sure if this is the kind of thing you're looking for, but several years ago I read probably 10 books about Jack the Ripper. The best was Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell. The author spent a lot of time and effort applying 20th Century forensic science to the case. It was quite fascinating.
The book has, however, been widely criticised for being inaccurate and unscientific. I'd treat it with caution.
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Old 10-25-2014, 01:09 PM   #6
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I purchased this one at Kobo during a recent Open Road Media promotion on true crime titles for $1.99 each (now back to full price, but sometimes they repeat their sale titles and of course it's couponable if you manage to score a really good code in one of the contests):

The Blooding, the story of the discovery of DNA identification in England and its use in solving the Narborough village murders, by Joseph Wambaugh (Wikipedia), who writes it in the style of one of his police procedural novels.
I read that back in the day when it was first released in paperback in 1989. It's a really excellent book about the use of DNA and widespread blood sampling to catch a serial killer. DNA use in forensics was still experimental at the time. Thanks for the reminder; I should put it on my reread list.

I'm a big Wambaugh fan. Wambaugh was an ex-cop (LAPD detective in the 60's and early 70's) who has written some excellent books about policing in primarily southern California. He also wrote several other non-fiction books about well-known crimes, "The Onion Field" about the execution-style killing of two LAPD patrolmen in 1963, and "Echoes in the Darkness", about an unsolved murder and kidnapping in mainline Philadelphia in 1979.
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Old 10-25-2014, 01:50 PM   #7
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The book has, however, been widely criticised for being inaccurate and unscientific. I'd treat it with caution.
And if the latest reports are true, she was totally wrong on her id of Jack the Ripper.

Still, it was a pretty interesting book to read.
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Old 10-25-2014, 03:01 PM   #8
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And if the latest reports are true, she was totally wrong on her id of Jack the Ripper.

Still, it was a pretty interesting book to read.
Old Jackie will never go out of style as an interesting person to read about. Probably because more than 100 yrs after his crimes we still don't know who he was.
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Old 10-25-2014, 04:33 PM   #9
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It's perhaps worth noting, crich, that the adjective "forensic" simply means "relating to the court". When you say "forensic history", are you after anything relating to the history of the judicial process, or is it the history of forensic science that you're specifically interested in?
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Old 10-25-2014, 04:42 PM   #10
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More the forensic science. Though I have seen some true crime videos that did have some detail on how laws have changed over the yrs.
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Old 10-26-2014, 09:13 AM   #11
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Old Jackie will never go out of style as an interesting person to read about. Probably because more than 100 yrs after his crimes we still don't know who he was.
True enough. I believe that "Naming Jack the Ripper" is the book that claims to have id'ed Jack the Ripper as Kosminski and that book goes into the detail of how they used the DNA to id Kosminski. I haven't read the book, so I can't really say if it's any good or not. On the other hand, I also saw an article that says that the DNA expert used by the author made a mistake.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sc...r-9804325.html
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Old 10-27-2014, 12:16 PM   #12
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True enough. I believe that "Naming Jack the Ripper" is the book that claims to have id'ed Jack the Ripper as Kosminski and that book goes into the detail of how they used the DNA to id Kosminski. I haven't read the book, so I can't really say if it's any good or not. On the other hand, I also saw an article that says that the DNA expert used by the author made a mistake.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sc...r-9804325.html
I've heard that they got the DNA from an article of clothing that belonged to one of his victims. Of course after 100 yrs with perhaps thousands of people having handled the item who can say for sure how sample x got on item y? That's assuming of course that there is enough actual DNA still present and able to be linked to an individual. And how do we know that Mr. Kosminski's DNA didn't get there by innocent means. Perhaps the police had him handle the item of clothing for some reason or maybe he'd been a customer of the victim. The women were prostitutes after all so it's not outside the realm of possibility that he'd partaken of the the services of one of them at some point.
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Old 10-27-2014, 04:03 PM   #13
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I've heard that they got the DNA from an article of clothing that belonged to one of his victims. Of course after 100 yrs with perhaps thousands of people having handled the item who can say for sure how sample x got on item y?
This is what has me skeptical about the whole thing. I distinctly remember watching a special on Jack the Ripper a few years ago (2006ish - somewhere thereabouts) and they attempted to test the shawl for DNA and of course the end of the hour long program ended in it being inconclusive because there was just too much variables with people handling it over the years.
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Old 10-27-2014, 04:07 PM   #14
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Thanks for the memory jog peachiekene. I couldn't remember what item of clothing it was but I think I probably saw the same special either on tv or youtube. I can't remember whose shawl it was though. Eddows? Stride's? I think it was the property of one or the other.
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Old 10-28-2014, 11:21 AM   #15
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Although it's not "history", crich, I'd recommend reading R. Austin Freeman's "Doctor Thorndyke" books, all of which are available (uploaded by me) in the MR Library. Thorndyke is a lawyer and medical doctor, and an early practitioner of what today would be called "forensic science". The novels, although fiction, give an excellent picture of how scientific investigations were conducted in the late 19th / early 20th centuries.
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