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Forensic Detective: How I Cracked the World's Toughest Cases Hardcover – Mar 28 2006

2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (March 28 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345479416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345479419
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,776,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Readers who manage to put the hyperbolic and misleading subtitle aside will find this an enjoyable if unremarkable addition to the ceaseless, CSI-inspired forensic subgenre of true crime. Mann, deputy director of the federal Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, studied with masters of the field, including the legendary Body Farm founder, Bill Bass. The 20 chapters do a nice job of presenting the essence of forensic anthropology, although there is little that will be new to anyone who has read a similarly themed book (and Bass recently penned his own memoir, a better place for a newcomer to start). Mann's skill and dedication are unquestioned—he pieced together the smashed bones of one of the victims of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer—and his role in helping to identify soldiers' remains is admirable, but many of his case studies are similar, and a number end inconclusively (belying the book's title). The author might have done better to present fewer war stories, but to look at each in greater depth. (Mar. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Mann, who got his Ph.D. in physical anthropology at age 51, came to forensics after a stint at a funeral home during college eventually led to study at the infamous Body Farm, "a school for the living taught by the dead," where he stands out among the crowd so much that the famed forensic anthropologist Bill Bass takes him on as an assistant. Mann's career has been filled with colorful and varied cases, ranging from figuring out whether a severed, mummified torso was that of a male or a female to identifying the remains of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's first victim, a young hitchhiker he picked up and beat to death. Not all cases get solved, at least not right away--a soldier's remains are discovered, analyzed, and identified 48 years after his disappearance, but a leg that is discovered in a natural pool in Oahu remains unidentified despite several clues. Armchair CSIs will enjoy this fascinating look at forensics in action. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have read many different books on the topic of forensic pathology, so I was looking forward to reading this one. I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up.

The book is written by Robert Mann ,a forensic anthropologist. Each chapter is dedicated to a different case that Mann worked on, and while some of the cases are interesting, many of them focus on the work Mann did to identify the remains of US soldiers. And this is why I did not like this book.

If I had wanted to read a book dedicated to the recovery of US soldier remains, I would have tracked down a book on that topic. What I wanted to read about was a variety of cases, covering a wide variety of topics. Topics dealing with everyday homicides, to freaky scary cases, to those one where you're left scratching your head in disbelief at how they determined who the killer was. This book definitely does not achieve that goal.

So. If you're looking for a book focusing on US military dead body recovery and identification, then this book's for you. If you're looking for a book focusing on a wide variety of forensic cases, then take a pass on this one.
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Format: Paperback
I borrowed this book from a fellow with great anticipation. I dove into this book eager to learn about all the interesting things that a "Bone Doctor" might be able to pass along. Sadly, I was slightly disappointed in that a lot of the methods used to identify people through their bones was omitted. Instead, this book details places that Robert Mann has be sent to around the world with each chapter describing a different location and job. Little was mentioned about how bones are identified and the information that was offered was repeated over and over again from chapter to chapter. The book started out strong as it takes you through the start of Mr. Mann's career. The "Body Farm" was interesting to read about and Mr. Mann's work at the mortuary seemed colorful. Even the first case that Robert talks about in detail (Jeffery Dahlmer) was a good introduction to the book. Beyond these chapters I started to find the book redundant and had to force myself to finish it. It's not a bad book, however, I was hoping for something that might offer a little more insight into the technical side of a forensic detective's work - without being a text book of course. All in all, I would recommend this book to others but only if they are more interested in reading a biography rather than an in depth look into forensic detectives.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars 15 reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much background details June 28 2010
By Michelle Ng Wei Li - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a huge fan on CSI and Bones, I expected a lot from this book. The book is rather interesting but I find it places too much emphasis on the background story of the victims/deceased. It says a lot more background details about soldiers who died in wars. I'd prefer if the author gives us more details of the forensic processes instead. Could it be the author thought it might be too boring for the readers? I wouldn't know. But I couldn't help feeling a bit of disappointment when I finished reading the book.

Nevertheless, I have absolute respect to the author, who only continued his study after several years of decadance and then went on to become one of the top forensic anthropologists in the country.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edge of Your Seat Reading Sept. 21 2007
By G. Brewer - Published on
Format: Paperback
For a person with a very limited knowledge of the world of forensic anthropology, Dr. Robert Mann's book cuts right to the chase and leaves you spellbound chapter after chapter. After finishing the book in just two nights, this carefully written roller coaster ride of a book gave me a greater insight and understanding of just how much is involved with this noble profession. I do take my hat off to all of the forensic anthropologists around the country who give of themselves daily to help solve some of the most difficult crime cases imaginable.
If it were not for the untiring work of forensic anthropologists one would have to think of just how big the list of unsolved cases would be from present levels. Thank you Dr. Mann for allowing people such as myself into your world and giving us individuals with a very limited knowledge of this noble profession of just how dedicated the men and women who choose this profession truly are.
I do highly recommend anyone considering a career in anthropology or anyone curious about this profession to invest the time and money into buying and reading this book. You will not be disappointed.
Dr. Mann and the men and women of the forensic anthropology profession your hard work and dedication is truly appreciated more than you could possibly know.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A prosaic speciman in its field. May 25 2009
By D. Bowen - Published on
Format: Paperback
There isn't anything really wrong with this book, but when it comes to books on forensics, this is a lesser work in the genre. Mann fails to include enough anthropological detail to make the book really interesting on that count, nor does he seem to have been INTERESTINGLY attached to many cases that are truly mysterious and dramatic, or independently famous (he worked on the 911 terrorism cases, but has nothing interesting to recount).

The book tries to make up for this by tying forensic work to its impact on people's lives, but this understanding can likely be taken for granted in a person who is interested in a book on forensics, or for that matter, true crime of other types. The space occupied by moralizing, justification, and attempts to spice up accounts of routine investigations with descriptions of the scenery would probably have been better put to use recounting more cases.

The strong point of this book would probably be in its coverage of war-dead recovery, which while not comprehensive, is not treated at all in many forensic accounts.

Generally, this book might be interesting to true-crime forensics completists, but other people with an interest in the subject can safely acquire other books on the topic without missing out on much.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Behind scenes Aug. 18 2007
By Dan Schobert - Published on
Format: Paperback
With the advent of CSI and similar TV programs, many of us have been drawn to the work of the 'crime labs..' even if Hollywoodized for common consumption. If nothing else, folks have come to see that there is much more to an investigation than what takes place in a sixty minute TV feature. Mann, in this work, takes us behind the scenes to more fully appreciate the work of 'bone doctors,' and other specialists as they seek to solve interesting cases.. some long after the fact of death. While other critics may not have appreciated Mann's early background, I found it fascinating to the extent which shows that persons, even later in life, can truly amount to something important.. even after they've tossed much of their life away on nonsense. This, hopefully, could encourage others to get back on track and do something important with their time on the planet. It is fair to say that this work won't go down as a long time classic but it should be read by anyone wishing to be more familiar with a work we so seldom appreciate.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quincy MD-Lite. Dec 1 2006
By James B. Johnson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This isnt your huckleberry if you want to learn anything-much about death investigations. The author is skimpy about what it is he actually does or how he identifies people from their remains. This is a common problem in many books; the authors cant or wont reveal what it is they do. I suspect a lawyer was looking over his shoulder and breathing down his neck as he wrote the book. It has lawyer fingerprints and drool all over it.

It gets two stars because it's an interesting yarn. Too interesting. I'd leave out all the personal stuff about his hobo days and wanton youth. But he needed to fill the pages with something, because he says so little about what he actually does. So there are plenty of interesting digressions.

It's not a keeper, and in a year no one will remember it.