Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Aventis Prize again: Richard Platt, Forensics, Kingfisher Knowledge. London: Kingfisher Publications, 2005.

The book is beutifully set out, with glorious, glossy pictures from every White person's country they can think of. Sorry, I know it isn't strictly relevant, but if they could take the trouble to sample photographs from the USA, the UK, France, New Zealand, Australia etc then you do start to wonder why they didn't go further afield, particularly as forensic archeology in post-war scenarios is one of the fastest growing aspects of the profession.

However, that said, it's a very good book of the old fashioned career type, setting out what forensic science is for and taking children through from the crime scene to the different ways of assessing evidence in no particular order, but clearly and simply. The assumption here is that children are information hungry.

If I have an issue it's the simplicity. The explanation of DNA and blood groups never goes beyond a description. We are told that people are very difficult to identify via photograph but there is no explanation as to why. Computer crime can be tracked, but we aren't really told how or by whom. One effect of this is that the professions which make up forensic blur, not in the sense that they all seem the same, but there is no clear discussion of the routes into these jobs. You have to go to the very end of the book to find a quick list of some of the roles, and there is still no career advice (such as "study chemistry if you are interested in firearms").

Although the summaries at the end of each chapter are good, the glossary at the back is useless.
"ultraviolet radiation: an invisble form of energy similar to light"
"assassin: a murderer, especially one who attacks by surprise"
"pathologist: a medical doctor who studies diseases and injuries and their causes".

On the other hand the book does have an index, and the sooner children learn to recognise and use indexes, the happier this university teacher will be,


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