THE WIZARD OF BERKELEY by Eugene B. Block

THE WIZARD OF BERKELEY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Based on notebooks and articles by the author, a newspaperman, this book combines true tales of crime detection with biography of the poor-boy-to-fame variety, its hero Edgar Oscar Heimrich, pioneer in scientific crime detection whose methods are now routine in all modern police laboratories, its scene to a large extent the West Coast and California. Endowed with an enquiring and accurate mind and a fine memory Heimrich, born in Wisconsin in 1881, grew up in Tacoma, Washington, becoming interested in pharmacy in his teens when he worked in a drugstore, later working his way through the college of chemistry of the University of California. Appointed chief chemist of Tacoma he studied everything pertaining to crime and its detection, becoming an authority in such differing subjects as inks, ballistics and geology. In 1916 he reorganized the police department of Alameda, California and in 1918 became city manager of Boulder, Colorado, leaving the position to take over the practice of a San Francisco hand- writing expert who had died. Here he spent the rest of his life, establishing his own laboratory, lecturing on crime detection at the University of California, acting as consultant to governments and as an expert witness in endless cases, always basing his testimony on the findings of science alone. The book describes many of Heimrich's cases in detail, one of the most characteristic being that of the three D'Autremont brothers, who in an attempted train robbery in 1923 murdered four men and vanished without trace. From a pair of discarded and worn overalls, almost his only clue, Heimrich built up a description of Roy D'Autremont -- age, height, coloring, occupation -- which led to the eventual capture of all three of the brothers. Written in vigorous journalistic style, sometimes repetitious but never dull, the book should delight addicts of both fictional and factual crime as well as those interested in crime detection per se; it should also serve as antidote to those tales of violence supposedly corrupting today's youth. A volume for public and lending libraries, its appeal may be to men rather than to women, but boys in their late teens should enjoy it, as should TV addicts in search of brief respite from their favorite amusement.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1958
Publisher: Coward-McCann