American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI

Kate Winkler Dawson. Putnam, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-53955-1
Edward Oscar Heinrich (1881–1953) was one of America’s earliest criminologists. He was also a meticulous record keeper, allowing Dawson (Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog and the Strangling of a City) to recreate his fascinating life story. Heinrich worked as a pharmacist before opening America’s first private crime lab in 1910. In 1921, he was California’s lead criminologist in the manslaughter trial of silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. But his revolutionary use of fingerprint evidence wasn’t enough to win a conviction, as the result was two mistrials and a not-guilty verdict in a third trial. Heinrich’s expertise was redeemed in the public’s eye when he helped convict the men involved in a botched train robbery in 1923. In the early 1930s, he worked for the defense of accused wife-killer David Lamson. Heinrich insisted the woman slipped in the bath and hit her head. Though Lamson was never exonerated, the D.A. declined after four trials to prosecute Lamson again and he was freed. Well versed in deductive reasoning, the comparison microscope, blood splatter, and fingerprints, Heinrich was a brilliant pioneer in the field. Those interested in the development of modern forensics will be enthralled. Agent: Jessica Papin, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/02/2019
Release date: 02/11/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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