Book Talk: American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawso
"From the acclaimed author of Death in the Air ("Not since Devil in the White City has a book told such a harrowing tale"--Douglas Preston) comes the riveting story of the birth of criminal investigation in the twentieth century.
About the Book
Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities--beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners, and hundreds upon hundreds of books--sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least two thousand cases in his forty-year career. Known as the "American Sherlock Holmes," Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of America's greatest--and first--forensic scientists, with an uncanny knack for finding clues, establishing evidence, and deducing answers with a skill that seemed almost supernatural.
Heinrich was one of the nation's first expert witnesses, working in a time when the turmoil of Prohibition led to sensationalized crime reporting and only a small, systematic study of evidence. However with his brilliance, and commanding presence in both the courtroom and at crime scenes, Heinrich spearheaded the invention of a myriad of new forensic tools that police still use today, including blood spatter analysis, ballistics, lie-detector tests, and the use of fingerprints as courtroom evidence. His work, though not without its serious--some would say fatal--flaws, changed the course of American criminal investigation.
Based on years of research and thousands of never-before-published primary source materials, American Sherlock captures the life of the man who pioneered the science our legal system now relies upon—as well as the limits of those techniques and the very human experts who wield them.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“ Heinrich changed criminal investigations forever, and anyone fascinated by the myriad detective series and television shows about forensics will want to read it. ” —The Washington Post
“A fascinating book worthy of being associated with the title's literary sleuth. Readers will want a follow-up so they can discover more of Heinrich's cases as told through Dawson's great storytelling. For fans of Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark and other true crime works."” —Library Journal
“ In American Sherlock, Kate Winkler Dawson brilliantly tracks the pioneering Edward Oscar Heinrich as he revolutionizes forensic science—the gritty work of studying bloodstains, identifying liars, and gathering faint traces of fingerprints—in the sometimes murky pursuit of justice. Equally entertaining and erudite, this is a work so cleverly conceived and structured, it reads like the best of Conan Doyle himself.” —Karen Abbott, author of The Ghosts of Eden Park
“A fascinating work of historical resurrection. By deftly recounting a series of murder cases from the 1920s and 1930s, Kate Dawson constructs a complex and engrossing portrait of a brilliant investigator and illuminates the origins of modern forensic science.” —Karen Olsson, author of The Weil Conjectures: On Math and the Pursuit of the Unknown
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Kate Winkler Dawson is a seasoned documentary producer, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, WCBS News and ABC News Radio, PBS NewsHour, and Nightline. She is the author of Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City and teaches journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.