Courtesy Thames and Hudson

Dr. Drew Gray has compiled the some of the most intriguing documents and images from the history of forensic investigation. There are examples of mug shots, interrogation documents, crime scene photos, and contemporary newspaper pages.

Alphonse Bertillon, Album of Paris Crime Scenes (1901–08). A footprint found close to the scene of the murder.

He illustrates the use of the Bertillon method to catalog criminals and of fingerprint recording techniques. The book also explores how crimes were covered in press and how the accused were presented at trial. Sorted by the location of commission, each story highlights another advance in detective work.

As always, what Thames and Hudson does best, is beautiful presentation. Each spread is expertly designed to have visual interest and convey the historical information. It gives a fresh perspective on classic mysteries.

True crime aficionados will recognize famous names from the annals of crime — Crippen, Holmes, Borden, and Gunness — but there are also lesser known victims and sprees. By laying out the elements in an orderly fashion, one can begin to see connections and patterns.

The trial involved the famous criminal anthropologist, Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), who was a professor at the University of Turin, and had developed the idea that criminals were identifiable by their physical characteristics. Before her trial. Linda had her cranium examined by Lombroso, and his theories were also used in Tullio Murri’s defence case, as his lawyers drew on the idea that criminals do not willfully choose to commit crimes but instead are driven by innate tendencies. ~ Pg 126

Library of Congress. Handprints of Mary Livingston Fleming and her daughter from a contemporary newspaper article in which an expert in palmistry declared that there was no clear predisposition to crime in the family.

Whether the methodology has long since been disproved, like phrenology, or tracing of criminal presence has become more accurate, like fingerprinting, seeing these practices in context is fascinating. And when one of the featured cases remains unsolved, one had to wonder what light modern forensic technology could shed on it.

In addition to being an excellent reference, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of criminal investigation. It is beautifully designed and a joy to thumb through. Chock-full of tidbits and ephemera, it offers a new way to view old cases.

My thanks to Harry at Thames and Hudson for the review copy.

My rating: 

Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0500252451
Item Weight: 1.81 pounds
Product dimensions: 7.3 x 1 x 10.5 inches
Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 1st edition (October 27, 2020)
Language: English

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