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. Dawson captures the life of the man who pioneered the science our legal system now relies upon.
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.
... capitalizes on our current CSI,My Favorite Murder and Forensic Files true-crime obsessions, and the book delivers on its promise of gruesome murders, huge manhunts and the pleasures of clue gathering ... Dawson’s writing can be repetitive, but she tells a good story, and when she details a crime, the book satisfies all of our morbid, rubbernecking tendencies. Bay Area readers will get a particular reward from the retelling of early 20th century crimes involving the Fairmont Hotel, Alameda and Bay Farm Island, and Salada Beach in Pacifica ... The book bogs down when it veers into a biography of Heinrich, a dour, anxious egoist who was not nearly as interesting as his profession. He was undoubtedly a genius, but he was also a bit of a drag, living proof that not all geniuses make interesting subjects ... well-written, certainly well-researched but ultimately too much of a mishmash — part biography, part history of forensics, part true crime — to be truly satisfying. I would have loved it at 5,000 words.
... the author tells vivid details of a wide variety of infamous crimes, not revealing all the secrets or indulging in conspiracy theories but still developing suspense and, most importantly, reporting the scene clearly with both the history accepted at the time and revisionist reflection. While many true-crime books suffer from stale prose, Dawson’s writing is remarkable in that it never uses the crutch of false suspense but also doesn’t skimp on valuable details. The author explains Heinrich’s deductive reasoning matter-of-factly, succinctly, and with the proper respectful attention to the victims while acknowledging the complex hubris of such an adept detective ... Readers see the development of each crime through victim and suspect profiles that read as objectively as Heinrich’s methods. We come to respect him, his scientific brain, and his integrity despite his mistakes ... An entertaining, absorbing combination of biography and true crime.