Val McDermid covers exactly what’s in the subtitle for this book, and much more. The full title is Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime. Expect plenty about each sub-topic.

In Forensics, she explains many (if not all) of the common ways forensic investigators focus their work. Some examine bugs, while others look at the way fires burn. Still others rebuild faces onto skulls, examine DNA found at the crime scene, or analyze contents of organs and bodily fluids.

Sounds grisly or gruesome? Well, Forensics is exactly that. But it’s also fascinating. And, as I typically experience when reading true crime nonfiction, I questioned whether humans have any redeeming qualities. McDermid starts with the history of each method she discusses. Then she pulls in an expert. And the whole topic is tied together with real-life examples. She’s extremely thorough without ever being boring.

My conclusions

This book reminded me of the great crime novels I’ve read over the years. For example, like fictional Eve Duncan, McDermid introduced me to a facial reconstruction professional. Like Temperance Brennan, this book examines bones. Also like fictional Dexter, there’s a chapter on blood spatter. And as Gil Grissom did (okay, he’s from TV), I learned more about maggots and other bugs. Lately I’ve been wishing for more mystery and thriller action, and this gave me plenty on that score!

I’ll admit, the various chapters could easily have been dead boring. (Sure, I meant to use that pun.) Instead, they were well-crafted and pedal-to-the-metal paced.

What I didn’t know when I purchased this audiobook is that McDermid is a renowned mystery writer. She’s clearly done her research, and I’m now quite anxious to check out her books. I’ve already put one on hold at the library.

This is a top-notch nonfiction pick if you like forensic and crime procedurals. Be prepared for a lot of “ewwww” moments. It’s not for the weak-stomached or sensitive reader.