Crime scene to court

Crime scene to court

Peter White (ed)

Cambridge, UK: RSC Publishing 2010 | 600pp | ?29.95 (SB)

ISBN 9781847558824

Reviewed by Matthew Almond


This is the third edition of what has now become a standard, relatively non-technical, reference source on forensic science. 

The book was originally aimed towards undergraduate and postgraduate students. Its usage, however, has clearly widened over the years, not only to forensic practitioners such as scene of crimes officers but also to interested lay persons. This has been one of the factors prompting a third edition, the others being the retirement (or death) of contributors to earlier editions and, perhaps most importantly, the rapid developments of techniques in forensic science.

The book begins by setting the scene with a completely new chapter (from earlier editions) by Brian Rankin. He starts by stating quite correctly that ’if one were to ask one hundred forensic scientists to define forensic science it is possible that one would receive one hundred different definitions’. 

Peter White, the editor, has done an excellent job once again in bringing together a collection of chapters which explore and explain this great diversity. The new chapters addressing techniques are those by Patricia Wiltshire on forensic ecology, by Dorothy Gennard on forensic entomology and by Tal Simmons and John Hunter on forensic archaeology and forensic anthropology. 

To me one of the key points about this book is that it demonstrates that forensic analysis is much more than just DNA analysis. Of course, DNA analysis is of great importance, but cases are highlighted here in which DNA evidence has not been able to assist an investigation. Rather, other types of evidence have been crucial. 

It is clear from this book that forensic science is at its best when groups of specialists collaborate. This book helps in this respect by informing readers in an accessible style of studies right across the field. I am certain that this new edition will increase upon the already outstanding popularity of the book. I commend this book to students and practitioners of forensic science and indeed to all with an interest in the subject.