Disclaimer, this book is not for the squeamish. If you can stomach CSI type shows then you can get through this book. However, knowing that the stories you are reading are about real people does make it a little tougher to take.
Now onto the review. This book is singularly fascinating, slightly outdated (published in 1994), and very educational. Maples breaks down the technical matters without being condescending and weaves them into the narration. The effect is a book that is not too dense but doesn’t dumb down to the lowest common denominator. In addition, by explaining the science/technical parts along with the cases you get a good grasp of why a technique or method is being used preventing the information from being dull or uninteresting.
The writing style is fairly clinical but still accessible to the average reader. Dr. Maples does not lean towards dramatic wording but rather lets the drama from the cases speak for itself. For the most part, emotion is not a major factor in the telling of the scenarios. There are times when the effects of the scenes on the people are mentioned but rarely does he mention his own visceral reactions to the cases. When emotion is brought up it is not mixed in with the facts but rather pooled into its own stand-a-lone sentence/paragraph structure.
I am being very careful hear not to say stories when referring to the many different cases that are mentioned in this book. While these events are told in a story-like manner with spoilers and information the people within them didn’t know at the time, one must keep in mind that the deaths are real, the corpses all leave people who will miss them, and the missing information isn’t to heighten the drama but was a real frustration to the scientists and police.
What I found most shocking about this book was not the ways people were killed, the crazy near miss tales of the mob, or even lengths people went to try and hide their crimes. What shocked me the most was the variety of remains Dr. Maples worked on. He not only worked all over the country but he also worked on identification of remains flown back to the states as part of military MIA identification. Added to that, he did not only work on old(er) remains. Unlike in shows like Bones, he describes working on remains with flesh attached and what he learned from that. Science 1, fiction 0.
Overall I give this book an A-. I think the book could have been more effective with more detail on fewer cases but overall the balance between education and relatability was very good.
Love and the funny bone is connected to the arm bone,