Forensic Detective: How I Cracked the World's Toughest Cases Hardcover – Mar 28 2006
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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.
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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