THE EVIDENCE NEVER LIES: The Casebook of a Modern Sherlock Holmes by Alfred Allan with Herbert Leon MacDonell Lewis

THE EVIDENCE NEVER LIES: The Casebook of a Modern Sherlock Holmes

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Forget the subtitle: most readers will find Conan Doyle's stories far more interesting than this pedestrian recreation of seven cases from the files of Herbert Leon MacDonell, a somewhat eccentric chemist turned nationally-recognized expert on fingerprints, bloodstains, and firearms evidence. MacDonell prides himself on being a completely impartial scientist (""what the evidence revealed must never be concealed no matter whom it vindicated""), a stance that has often pitted him against public opinion, as in the case of the 1969 Black Panther ""shootout"" with Chicago police. The Panthers' attorneys hired MacDonell to study the firearms evidence in the apartment in which Fred Hampton and several other Panthers were killed during a pre-dawn police search. Through a painstaking review of the scene (detailed here) MacDonell concluded that, of the 200-odd shots fired in the apartment, only one had been fired by its occupants, and that the cops had fired first. Though often retained by defense counsel, MacDonell sometimes assists prosecutors: in the 1975 Ziegler case in Florida, his expertise on bloodstain evidence led to the homicide conviction of a man who claimed his wife and in-laws had been killed by a local gang of bandits; in the Brown case in Oregon a year later, his testimony on bloodstains put away the killer of a young woman school bus driver in a prosecution case that was otherwise very thin (no corpse, and no record of the victim's blood type to match against stains on the defendant's clothes). No ""liar for hire,"" MacDonell once blew the whistle on the FBI's use of what he felt were doctored fingerprint photos. Aside from criminalistic buffs, however, the audience for this material will be small, and some of MacDonell's personal idiosyncrasies (upon arrival at a gory quadruple-murder scene: ""He looked around, rubbed his hands together, and turned to his audience with a smile: 'What a bloody mess!'"") are positively offputting.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1984
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston