For those drawn to the dark side of human experience (and equipped with strong stomachs), morbidly fascinating stuff and an...

AFTERMATH, INC.

CLEANING UP AFTER CSI GOES HOME

After a grisly crime scene has been investigated by a small army of detectives, coroners and CSIs, who cleans up the mess?

Journalist Reavill (Smut, 2005, etc.) answers that intriguing, if rather disturbing, question. He spent a number of months with the crew of Aftermath, a “bioremediation” service established in a moment of entrepreneurial inspiration by friends Tim Reifsteck and Chris Wilson, who happened upon a gruesome murder scene and asked themselves that very question. The answer, at that point, was: sometimes concerned church groups, but usually the bereaved family members of the deceased. Reifsteck and Wilson saw an opportunity to create a market while helping people, and Aftermath was born. Reavill actually worked alongside Aftermath teams cleaning up after murders, suicides and “unattended deaths”—isolated elderly people who often go days or weeks before their corpses are discovered. The technical aspects of Aftermath’s work—how do you get blood out of subflooring? What becomes of the “biomatter” (a hauntingly clinical term) that remains after the body has been removed? What are the hazards of working with human tissues and fluids that have been violently splattered over walls, rugs, furniture?—are simultaneously fascinating, disgusting and subtly disturbing, as living people with all of their eccentricities and passions and regrets are reduced to a thorny waste-removal problem. Reavill’s metaphysical musings on this last point seem rather pro forma, but he presents the hard-to-take information skillfully and with grace, and he offers a sober appraisal of the nature of violent crime. Tangents on Chicago’s unbelievably violent history, the legacy of serial killers in the popular imagination and the history of forensic science provide compelling and welcome digressions from the overwhelmingly grim business of Aftermath.

For those drawn to the dark side of human experience (and equipped with strong stomachs), morbidly fascinating stuff and an essential addition to any True Crime reader’s library.

Pub Date: May 17, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-592-40296-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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