Criminal connections spice up chemistry for bored students

Investigating chemistry. A forensic science perspective 

Matthew Johll 

New York, US: W H Freeman | 2007 | 458 pp | ?29.99 (HB) | ISBN 9780716764335 

Reviewed by Tony Stubbings

This student textbook is not targeted at students specialising in chemistry itself, but is an attempt to make chemistry more interesting for those studying it as a subsidiary subject. Neither is it targeted at students studying forensic science, though they will probably find it useful. The book has been written to take advantage of the current interest in criminal investigation through such television programmes as CSISilent Witness and Forensic Detectives. It is surprising how much chemistry is involved in the world of forensics and so this is a well chosen subject area to relate chemistry to real life (or ’real death’) situations. 

Each chapter begins by introducing a real case study, which is followed by several sections of chemistry with frequent reference to forensic science, and at the end returning to show how chemistry helped in the resolution of the case. Each chapter contains a box on an analytical technique used in forensic analysis, and each ends with a ’Continuing the investigation’ section with websites and literature references from the world of forensics. 

I found the book very readable and would recommend it to those who want an alternative teaching approach to basic chemistry. I am not sure how this book will find a market within UK university chemistry syllabuses, but it does deserve to be widely read as a genuine effort to make chemistry more interesting.