Nature, Forensics, And The Struggle To Pinpoint Time Of Death
Basic Books, 9780738203362, 288pp.
Publication Date: January 1, 2001
When detectives come upon a murder victim, there's one thing they want to know above all else: When did the victim die? The answer can narrow a group of suspects, make or break an alibi-even assign a name to an unidentified body. But outside the fictional world of murder mysteries, time-of-death determinations have remained infamously elusive, bedeviling forensic pathologists throughout history. Scientists are doing their best to right this situation, using DNA testing and other high-tech investigative methods. But as Jessica Snyder Sachs argues in Corpse, this is one case in which nature might just trump technology: plants, chemicals, and insects found near the body are turning out to be the fiercest weapons in our crime-fighting arsenal. In this highly original book, Sachs accompanies an eccentric group of entomologists, anthropologists, and botanists-a new kind of biological "Mod Squad"-on some of their grisliest, most intractable cases. She also takes us into the courtroom, where "post-O.J." forensic science as a whole is coming under fire and the new multidisciplinary art of forensic ecology is struggling to establish its credibility. Corpse is the fascinating story of the 2000year-old search to pinpoint time of death. It is also the terrible and beautiful story of what happens to our bodies when we die.