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Beating the Devil's Game

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Beating the Devil's Game
A History of Forensic Science and Criminal Investigation. By Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.
(Berkley Hardcover: 2007, Pg. 320.) ISBN: 0425217116

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - December 29, 2008

C.S.I. type books are all the rage. You have books that detail forensic science and others that tackle the gritty world of criminal investigation of crime scenes. Beating the Devil's Game: A History of Forensic Science and Criminal Investigation takes a different tack on this fascinating subject. Rather than focusing on modern crimes and current forensic technologies, this book looks at the history and evolution of forensic science and the development of crime scene and criminal investigation techniques.

This book was written by Katherine Ramsland, the author of the best-selling book, The Forensic Science of C.S.I.. Ramsland writes in an engaging narrative style, combined with her subject matter, makes this a difficult book to put down. Within the scope of this book, Ramsland explores the various inventions and innovations that have led to the modern field of forensic science. In addition, interspersed with this historical data, Ramsland has included case study vignettes that show these processes in action.

Beating the Devil's Game is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how modern criminal investigation techniques were developed, and how they might mature in future years. It is also an intriguing book that will delight anyone with an interest in historical crimes and how they were solved.

Some of the topics covered in this treatise, which takes the reader from Ancient Greece and China on through to the modern era, includes the development of fingerprinting techniques and how they gained acceptance in the courts of law, the science of poison detection, the development of ballistics, identification of repeat offenders, DNA analysis, and more. Ramsland also details how these new techniques came to be added to the tool bag of every crime scene investigator and their connection to the law and criminal prosecutions.

From beginning to end, I found Beating the Devil's Game to be throughly engaging, and it is sure to delight anyone with an interest in C.S.I. type shows as well as those involved in the field, on a professional level.

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The Demon in the Freezer, by Richard Preston.
A chilling look at the threat posed by bioweapons, viewed through the specter of the anthrax letter attacks in 2001. This book also looks at the history and eradication of smallpox, in nature, the threats posed by stockpiles of smallpox that are maintained, both officially and unofficially, throughout the world.

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