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From TV’s CSI to bestsellers by Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs, interest in forensics is at an all-time high. Now one of our most respected forensic pathologists gives a behind-the-scenes look at eleven of his most notorious cases, cracked by scientific analysis and Sherlock Holmesian deduction.As chief medical examiner of Rockland County, New York, for almost thirty-five years, Dr. Frederick Zugibe literally wrote the book on the subject—his widely used textbook is considered the definitive text. Over the years he has pioneered countless innovations, including the invention of a formula to soften mummified fingers—enabling fingerprinting, and thus identification, of a long-deceased victim. He has appeared as an expert hundreds of times in the media and in the courtroom—and not once has a jury failed to accept his testimony over opposing expert witnesses. And now, in Dissecting Death, he has opened the door to the world of forensic pathology in all its gruesome and fascinating mystery. Dr. Zugibe takes us through the process all good pathologists follow, using eleven of his most challenging cases. With him, we visit the often grisly—though sometimes shockingly banal—crime scene. We inspect the body, palpate the wounds, search for clues in the hair and skin. We employ ultraviolet light, strange measuring devices, optical instruments. We see how a forensic pathologist determines the hour of death, the type of weapon used, the killer’s escape route. And then we enter the lab, the world of high-tech criminal detection: DNA testing, fingerprinting, gunshot patterns, dental patterns, X-rays.But not every case ends in a conviction, and in a closing chapter Dr. Zugibe examines some recent high-profile cases in which blunders led to killers going free, either because the wrong party was brought to trial or because the evidence presented didn’t do the trick—including Jon-Benet Ramsey’s murder and, of course, the O.J. Simpson trial.read more
Reviews forDissecting Death: Secrets of a Medical Examiner
I have a great weakness for books written by forensics professionals. And there are a lot of them. It's as though every medical examiner or forensic anthropologist reaches retirement age and thinks "hey, folks sure do like that CSI show. I bet they'd like to hear from me." And then they hire a ghost writer and get to work. Some aren't bad, although every good book of this genre that I've read came out before John Douglas's Mindhunter book. They were written by people with something to say, with little expectation of the big paycheck. I recommend "Dead Men Do Tell Tales" or "Bone Voyage" if you would like to learn about what forensic anthropologists do when they aren't flirting with their cute co-workers or being shot at.Dissecting Death, written by the medical examiner of a county in New York State, was really dreadful. Dr. Zugibe is brilliant, and humbly tells the reader so, several times in fact. He is respected and admired and often called a "real-life Quincy", he continues with his characteristic modesty. After all that, there's not much room for real information and after talking about the (pivotal) role he played in many high profile cases, none at all. I knew what had happened to the first body while he was still chatting about his own cleverness. Also, the writing. I have adopted a new rule of thumb; if the phrase "gruesome frolics" shows up on the first page, the book in question should be closed immediately.read more
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Very clear and engaging explanation of the job of a medical examiner. This book reinforced my faith in some of the crime fiction authors I have read (e.g., Patricia Cornwell and Jeffrey Deaver), because many of the things Dr. Zugibe explained were things I had already read about in the Kay Scarpetta or Lincoln Rhyme novels. Seems like the authors are doing a good job with their homework.
And it seems to be that truth is at least as strange as fiction, if not stranger. There were some fascinating stories in this collection. In general, the perpetrators didn't seem to be quite as hard to pin down in the real-life tales as they sometimes are in fiction.
I also enjoyed the last chapter, although it was a bit of a jolting change of pace. In this section, the Dr. Zugibe gives his strong opinions regarding the bumbling of the investigators and prosecutors in the JonBenet Ramsey and O.J. Simpson cases, and gives a brief, rather random disparagement of the use of psychics in criminal investigation.