DEAD MEN DO TELL TALES

THE STRANGE AND FASCINATING CASES OF A FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST

A lively narrative that illuminates the science of forensic anthropology. Ever wondered what happens to the human body while it's decomposing or to a silicone breast implant during cremation? Maples, bone expert for the Florida Museum of Natural History (affiliated with the Univ. of Florida) and crime solver extraordinaire, with Miami Herald reporter Browning, answers these questions and many more in an exceedingly well-written and accessible volume. He provides insight into his unusual profession, revealing how an experienced forensic anthropologist can glean from a few bone fragments the age, sex, race, and lifestyle of the deceased. Each chapter covers a different episode in Maple's career, from his days as a budding young scientist studying baboons in Kenya to his identification of the type of murder weapon used in the 1990 Gainesville, Fla., serial murders. Maples has trained his expertise on an assortment of murders and suicides. The most interesting chapters discuss some of his more celebrated cases, such as his analyses of the skeletons of the Elephant Man, servicemen who fought in Vietnam, and Francisco Pizarro (conqueror of the Incas); his inquiry to determine whether the 12th president of the US, Zachary Taylor, died of arsenic poisoning or natural causes; and his trip to Ekaterinaburg in 1989 to examine nine skeletons, all that remained of the last Russian czar and his entourage after the Bolsheviks executed them in 1918. Maples avoids euphemisms, describing much of his gruesome work in vivid language that may repulse some squeamish readers, but he tempers the mood with occasional doses of tasteful humor. He expresses profound respect and sympathy for the dead but stresses that he puts his emotions to the side while conducting his investigations. His occasional forays into the merits of capital punishment and the criminal justice system are less interesting, but these are minor flaws in an otherwise superb book. Not just for the morbidly curious.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-47490-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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