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Putting a Name and Face on Death

by Elizabeth A. Murray

Age Range: 11 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7613-6696-6
Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

How does science work to identify corpses of the unknown?

Murray’s compact, textbook look at the basics of forensic anthropology provides comprehensible introductions to individually unique anatomical and physiological characteristics and to the timetable for the decay or decomposition of each. Eight “case files” are presented to provide a story to illustrate the techniques of post-mortem identification in practical contexts and to provide human interest to accompany the straightforward text. Unsurprisingly gruesome, each involves the discovery of a body (or in one, the separate limbs and severed head of a young woman) of an unknown person whose identification is challenged by decomposition. Three main chapters look at current forensic technology from the outside in—the first describes skin, hair, scars, tattoos, fingerprints and their reconstruction, while the second provides a look at how bones, teeth and implants provide structural identification. Murray describes the gold standard of identification—nuclear DNA profiling—in the last chapter with satisfyingly clear instruction in the essential features of forensic DNA. About 20 percent of the text is printed in white on a dark background, including all of the case-file narratives. File photos are used throughout to illustrate the points being made.

A serviceable introduction both to this CSI-related field and to the relevant human anatomy. (index, bibliography, sources for more information) (Nonfiction. 11-14)