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Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries

by Elizabeth MacLeod

Science fans may well become history buffs after reading the latest non-fiction offering from Elizabeth MacLeod. The Toronto author takes readers back to the gory scenes of seven “mysterious” crimes and poses intriguing questions about strange circumstances surrounding the deaths of some well-known historical figures. She then breaks down how the mysteries were investigated, and eventually solved, using forensics and other scientific methods.

Through engaging storytelling, MacLeod paints fascinating portraits of long-dead victims such as Napoleon, King Tut, and Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, imbuing them with recognizable and relatable traits as they gossip, fight, and act like jealous lovers. This conversational approach should attract keen observers who can follow a detailed plot.

Readers may be tempted to skip over the explanatory “Forensics Time Line,” which lacks visual appeal, but it contains wonderfully geeky factoids about the science’s history. The book’s more interesting design elements are inspired by a crime-lab theme – sidebars look like digital devices, margins feature images of evidence bags, microscopes, X-rays, and “handwritten” notes.       

MacLeod covers a lot of forensics terrain as she details the work of a pathologist, defines deductive reasoning, and explains ballistics and odontology (forensic dentistry). There’s great science here, but CSI fans have to wait until the final chapter to get to the good stuff on DNA.

Bones Never Lie enhances traditional history and science lessons with murderous mysteries, treacherous plot lines, and a funhouse touch of terror.