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Two moon gifFirefly Books (Trade Paperback), ISBN 1552094928
At $24.95 for an oversized paperback, I expected more than a rehash of old crimes and standard forensic evidence techniques. The sub-title of the book seems designed to mislead a potential reader: "Forty true crimes and how forensic science helped solve them." Well, OK, so 40 crimes did appear throughout the book, but each one rated no more than two pages, some as little as one, with more space taken up by photos than by explanatory text. The remainder of the book consists of many more pictures and brief descriptions of well-known forensic techniques. I couldn't decide if the book intended to showcase the history of forensic science or serve as a coffee table book for perusal by bored dinner guests.

Book: David Owen, Hidden EvidenceThe promotional material in the book states that the author, "takes the reader into intriguing high-profile cases..." and that "Some of the most famous cases are examined from the point of view of forensic science..." Perhaps -- if the examination consists of a few gory photos and three or four brief paragraphs describing crimes dissected in depth by the media over and over again. Crimes such as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the O. J. Simpson case and the Jack the Ripper murder reveal no unknown secrets, no information that the popular media missed. Granted, a few less sensationally known crimes do make an appearance, however, I still feel as if the author dropped the ball -- or else the publisher's promotional material grossly overstates the intent of the book.

I'll admit, I may be a little biased and perhaps a little better read on the subject of forensics than the average reader. But I believe that most mystery fans and readers of books involving forensic science can boast a high degree of layman's knowledge of the topic and already know about the 40 cases included in the book. These customers may not possess degrees in pathology and forensic science. But the type of reader that might wish to purchase a book like Hidden Evidence probably knows quite a bit about blood typing, DNA testing and crime-scene procedures.

If you want to buy a gift for a new mystery fan, or perhaps for someone whose knowledge of forensic science leans more towards vague awareness of fingerprinting, then buy a copy of Hidden Evidence. But, mystery buffs beware. Don't waste your money on what is no more than a big kid's picture book -- the forensic equivalent of "See Spot Run."

Maria Y. Lima

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