A blend of science writing and true-crime narrative that explores the valuable, but often shocking, interface between crime and nature—and the secrets each can reveal about the other. From mud tracks on a quiet country road to dirt specks on the soles of walking boots, forensic ecologist Patricia Wiltshire uses her decades of scientific expertise to find often-overlooked clues left behind by criminal activity.
... one of those extraordinary books that will appeal to almost everyone. If you’re a Mary Roach fan, fascinated by the macabre and grotesque, you’ll get to follow Wiltshire into mortuaries and watch her pick apart cadavers. If you’re a Lab Girl fan, inspired by stories of women blazing new trails in science, that’s Wiltshire’s entire career. If you’re a gardener, you will love knowing how often botany has saved the day. And if you’re a crime fiction fan — well, you’ve found your new favorite sleuth.
In today’s world of scientific specialization, Wiltshire laments the movement away from the traditional fields of science, biology, chemistry, physics, and math. Experiences as a generalist in biology served her well as she developed her expertise in the complex field of forensic ecology. But it is ultimately her scientific mind and inquisitiveness that have been most beneficial to her forensic career. Enjoy this book. It will leave its trace on you.
... fascinating ... Painting a picture based on myriad details is what Ms. Wiltshire does, and she does it again in this lively profile of her work and personality ... In most chapters a bit of well-described Biology 101 leads to a thrilling true-crime story and how Ms. Wiltshire helped solve it in her own exacting way ... there is some redundancy here. Ms. Wiltshire is prone to describe how she solved a case from Fact A to Conclusion Z, and then tells the story over again from Z to A. Likewise, she tends to repeat phrases from one chapter to the next; I found myself wondering if I had lost my place or she just thought I needed reminding ... Crabby, brilliant and brittle, but also quite tender when it comes to the loss and pain of grieving families, Ms. Wiltshire seems to come straight out of a British detective series ... With a lead character like this, the science and crimes, while highly readable, are mainly stages and props for this engaging and enlightening one-woman show.