HARD EVIDENCE by David  Fisher


How Detectives Inside the FBI's Sci-Crime Lab Have Helped Solve America's Toughest Cases
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 A breezy, enjoyable, and informative collection of anecdotes by the FBI crime lab, by an enthusiastic if unskeptical fan. Fisher, coauthor of several celebrity autobiographies (George Burns's All My Best Friends, 1989, etc.), likes to introduce chapters with quotes from Sherlock Holmes, so it's clear this book is an entertainment, albeit an educational one. The opening chapter traces the history of the lab, established in 1933 to provide free and impartial investigative services for federal, state, and local agencies. Fisher then devotes each of the eight following chapters to one or a few related units of the lab, recounting the impressive march of scientific expertise and offering tidbits from interesting cases. Faced with extortion threats regarding cyanide-tainted Tylenol in 1982, members of the lab's chemistry/toxicology unit recognized that X-rays could detect the presence of the poison. Lab expertise, Fisher notes, sometimes proceeds curiously: One vital tool for developing invisible fingerprints is superglue, using a technique discovered by accident in 1979. And new technology can be a double-edged sword for criminals: Though illegal copying of documents has increased, every copy machine has ``fingerprints'' caused by its unique set of scratches and smudges. In addition to its technique, Fisher captures some of the lab's lingo lore: Criminals use so much duct tape that analysts call it ``crime tape''; Radio Shack is known as ``the Bomber's Store,'' because one can buy nearly all components there. However, though he shows that the lab does act impartially, he offers only sketchy treatment of some controversial issues, like the importance and reliability of DNA testing and the theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A good alternative to much true-crime ephemera. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-671-79369-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995


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