Review of Mute Witness: Trace Evidence Analysis

Palenik, S. (2003) Review of Mute Witness: Trace Evidence Analysis. Journal of Forensic Science v48.

Published on: 11/1/2003

This carefully produced book has much to recommend it. The editor has brought together, in nine chapters, a selection of case histories told from the forensic scientist’s point of view; a rare feat in an age when forensic science is presented to the public from the peculiar viewpoint of the screenwriter. It presents a realistic, behindthe-scenes look at the science of trace evidence analysis and how it is used today in the solution and prosecution of crimes. It appears at a particularly important moment in the history of forensic science because for the lay public, and many young forensic scientists as well, DNA analysis is believed to be the forensic science. Real trace evidence analysis, to those unaccustomed to the rich history and successes of this particular branch of forensic practice, is often regarded by many as a poor stepchild whose time has come and gone. This volume, and another to follow with yet more cases, proves that this is not so. It does, however, illustrate that trace evidence examinations today are the province of the analyst. The mere comparator (to which some trace evidence examiners degenerated) is, fortunately, becoming a relic of the past. This is illustrated time and again here by means of very readable narratives, photographs, drawings, tables, photomicrographs and spectra. Practicing forensic scientists, both new to the field (by whom this book should especially be read) and older, experienced practitioners will both profit by reading the stories of these cases written by the forensic scientists who actually investigated them.

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