Beating the Devil’s Game: A History of Forensic Science and Criminal Investigation

Katherine M. Ramsland, Author . Berkley $24.95 (300p) ISBN 978-0-425-21711-5

Noted forensic expert Ramsland (The Forensic Science of C.S.I. ) disappoints with this plodding history of the evolution of forensic investigation. Tracing the earliest roots of what has become an invaluable component of criminal investigations and legal proceedings, Ramsland begins in ancient Greece, with Heraclitus’ and Paramenides’ philosophies of change and permanence as the governing forces of the world. Moving her way through the Industrial Revolution and Charles Dickens’s apparent coining of the word “detective,” Ramsland laboriously documents case after case as investigators refine methods of fingerprinting, poison detection, ballistics and identification of potential repeat offenders. Ramsland concludes with a brief exploration of the future of forensic investigation, from sophisticated DNA analysis to the global role of forensics in the age of terrorism. Too little time is spent on some of history’s most notorious cases (such as Lizzie Borden and Leopold and Loeb), with Ramsland instead offering numerous accounts of husbands poisoning their rich wives. Despite a subject so ripe for historical and sociological examination, Ramsland waters down her topic until the cases run together. Without any variation in her chronological narration, Ramsland will lose even the most dedicated of readers and C.S.I. fans. (Sept. 4)

Reviewed on: 07/09/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 527 pages - 978-1-4104-0518-0
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