Saturday, June 10, 2017

Irreview, Book Review: Silent Witnesses

I love forensic science.  It is another one of those sciences I'm obsessed with that I don't know shit about, but read about voraciously in the hopes that something sticks in my increasingly malleable brain.

Back up for a moment.

I'm on a script deadline for a film called The Hand That Feeds You.  Without giving anything away, its premise involves a rather grotesque crime scene.  My original deadline was May 14, 2017.  I missed it.  The extended deadline was May 21, 2017.  I missed that one, too.  Truth be told, I still haven't turned the damned thing in, and the only reason I haven't been removed as the writer is because the producer is busy on another film at the moment.

But... that situation ain't going to last forever, so I decided to try to inspire myself by reading a true crime book.  After sifting through some recommendations, I chose Nigel McCrery's Silent Witnesses: The Often Gruesome but Always Fascinating History of Forensic Science.

Now, I can't rightfully claim this book inspired me at all, but I can rightfully claim that I enjoyed reading it quite a bit.  It is a plainly written, easily digestible, and often entertaining journey through the history of forensics.  Rather than simply iterating methodology and who discovered what, McCrery takes you through the criminal cases and lets the narrative reveal the methods and the players.

As a former British cop and mystery novelist, McCrery's ability to educate while entertaining is very competent.

That stated, there's not as much detail as I would have liked regarding the actual "science" portion of these stories of forensic science.  The book is more of a philosophical outlook of the field, basically exploring more why the field is so important, how it's implemented in society, and what it can do.  Had there been more nitty-gritty (granted, the crimes themselves were very well explained), I'd have no hesitation in recommending this as a "go to" book for forensics aficionados.

Still, if you have any interest in forensics at all, give it a whirl.  It's a fun read, at the very least, and despite some typos (I can recall at least two, but it seems like there are more) is a professional presentation.  I may even wind up acquiring some of McCrery's fiction, as even this book made me laugh out loud a number of times.

Rating: 12 - (Style: 4 stars; Substance: 3 stars)

I'm also going to add a feature called "things I learned from" movies and books that I review.  These will be things I learned that aren't obvious in the subject matter of the book (for instance, I learned a lot about the history of forensics in this book, but... no shit, right?).

Things I Learned:
  1. New word: inveigle - to win over by wiles; to acquire by ingenuity or flattery
  2. Another term for "railroad tie" is "railway sleeper."
  3. A "curé" is a small rural town priest (one of my French tutors happily pointed this one out for me).


  1. Replies
    1. As do many people. That section is called "Things I (as in me) Learned."