Crime scene: chemistry for the armchair sleuth

Crime scene: chemistry for the armchair sleuth 

Cathy Cobb, Monty Fetterhoff and Jack Goldsmith 

Amherst, NY, USA: Prometheus 2007 | 394pp | ?18.99 (HB) ISBN 9781591025054 

Reviewed by Helen Lunn

Probably best summarised as a quick guide to forensic science for the budding forensic scientist/TV detective, Crime scene  is aimed at true crime or mystery fans with a desire to understand the science behind the stories. The book attempts this by ’hands-on’ demonstrations using household products and fictional cases. 

The book would appeal to scientists and non-scientists alike but essentially to a young audience; the cases are a little trite and may prove annoying with names such as Justin Kase as a detective. That said, the enthusiasm of the authors for their subject does shine through and goes a long way to counteract this. Written in a simple and informative manner, avoiding the use of jargon, safety issues are clearly stressed throughout the book. Designed primarily as a practical book to dip into now and again, it is not something you would read in one go. However, it is very readable being interspersed with cartoons and crime literature quotations. 

The demonstrations are designed to cover a broad range of forensic science utilised in crime investigations covering drug testing, body fluid testing, DNA analysis, trace fibre and gun-shot residue analysis, fingerprinting and forensic soil analysis.