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Traces: The Memoir of a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Investigator

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Professor Patricia Wiltshire will take you on a journey through the fascinating edgeland where nature and crime are intertwined. She'll take you searching for bodies of loved ones - through woodlands, along hedgerows, field-edges, and through plantations - solving time since death, and disposal of remains, from ditches to living rooms. She will give you glimpses of her own Professor Patricia Wiltshire will take you on a journey through the fascinating edgeland where nature and crime are intertwined. She'll take you searching for bodies of loved ones - through woodlands, along hedgerows, field-edges, and through plantations - solving time since death, and disposal of remains, from ditches to living rooms. She will give you glimpses of her own history: her loves, her losses, and the narrow little valley in Wales where she first woke up to the wonders of the natural world. Pat will show you how her work with a microscope reveals tell-tale traces of the world around us, and how these have taken suspects of the darkest criminal activities to court. From flowers, fungi, tree trunks to car pedals, walking boots, carpets, and corpses' hair, Traces is a unique book on life, death, and one's indelible link with nature.


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Professor Patricia Wiltshire will take you on a journey through the fascinating edgeland where nature and crime are intertwined. She'll take you searching for bodies of loved ones - through woodlands, along hedgerows, field-edges, and through plantations - solving time since death, and disposal of remains, from ditches to living rooms. She will give you glimpses of her own Professor Patricia Wiltshire will take you on a journey through the fascinating edgeland where nature and crime are intertwined. She'll take you searching for bodies of loved ones - through woodlands, along hedgerows, field-edges, and through plantations - solving time since death, and disposal of remains, from ditches to living rooms. She will give you glimpses of her own history: her loves, her losses, and the narrow little valley in Wales where she first woke up to the wonders of the natural world. Pat will show you how her work with a microscope reveals tell-tale traces of the world around us, and how these have taken suspects of the darkest criminal activities to court. From flowers, fungi, tree trunks to car pedals, walking boots, carpets, and corpses' hair, Traces is a unique book on life, death, and one's indelible link with nature.

30 review for Traces: The Memoir of a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Investigator

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    Update I got this book because I read a review which was going on about the insensitivity towards a deceased black woman as the author was unable to process the hair in a way she needed to. But the reviewer complained about how she should have consulted a black hairstylist and how the solution a pathologist suggested made them feel ill. I had a bad racial experience myself with hair so my ranty self was all primed to read it. What happened to me was that I had an operation in the local hospital a Update I got this book because I read a review which was going on about the insensitivity towards a deceased black woman as the author was unable to process the hair in a way she needed to. But the reviewer complained about how she should have consulted a black hairstylist and how the solution a pathologist suggested made them feel ill. I had a bad racial experience myself with hair so my ranty self was all primed to read it. What happened to me was that I had an operation in the local hospital and had to be showered and have my hair-washed by nurse, I was not allowed to do anything except stand there. The nurse they sent, a Filipino woman (view spoiler)[married to the brother of my long-term FWB (Welsh, but lives on the island just up the road from me, which was handy for an FWB). (hide spoiler)] She complained that she couldn't get a comb through my hair, she was quite awful about it and threw the comb down saying she would have to get another nurse. We can't all have sleek, black Asian hair dear, much as I might like to exchange it for my red curls. (The nurse who came, a Scottish lady with wavy hair, had no issues). But the incident in the book was nothing to do with race at all, it was the author's technique for releasing pollen and botanical particles from the corpse's hair didn't work and the pathologist's did (but it made me feel ill too. I'm never going to have a face lift). Anyway on with the book which is hovering between 5 star and 10 star at the moment. ________________ Can you imagine the sort of patience it requires to go through the weave of an article of clothing and pick out the minuscule pollen particles, sort them, then count them, sometimes into the thousands? But knowing what pollen there is might mean a story of a crime is credible because those plants are in that locality, or conversely that it isn't true, someone is lying. This might mean the difference between freedom and years in prison, so someone has to laboriously count those pollen particles, and it seems very few forensic scientists besides the author are doing so. I can quite understand why.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andi C Buchanan

    A disappointment. Wiltshire's actual scientific work is definitely interesting, and so is her career path, and I can forgive the paragraphs of extraneous detail as a sign of her enthusiasm for her work. But this book is marred by a patronising tone, some "kids these days" asides. Worse, her language and framing of sexual assault cases is at best problematic, and one brief scene - what she and a colleague did when she couldn't wash pollen out of a dead Black woman's hair because she was unused to A disappointment. Wiltshire's actual scientific work is definitely interesting, and so is her career path, and I can forgive the paragraphs of extraneous detail as a sign of her enthusiasm for her work. But this book is marred by a patronising tone, some "kids these days" asides. Worse, her language and framing of sexual assault cases is at best problematic, and one brief scene - what she and a colleague did when she couldn't wash pollen out of a dead Black woman's hair because she was unused to the hair texture - hardcore horrified me. I know that once you get to the autopsy table things aren't pretty, but the flippancy with which she told this anecdote (I am sparing you the details) and that it seemingly never occurred to her that obvious next step would be to consult a Black hairstylist for their expertise, actually made me feel a bit ill. I'm also reading "all that remains" by Sue Black, and the contrast here with Black's blunt, confident, but ultimately compassionate style is striking - and not at all in Wiltshire's favour.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alice (Married To Books)

    The joy of finishing an audiobook after three months yayyyyyy XD Traces was an interesting listen and with a good narrator. It doesn't hold back on details for real-life crime scenes or different aspects of forensic science. It was quite slow in pacing, however I'm glad that I did stick it out to the ending. The chapters about the author's life were OK but a little distracting from the main topics of criminal investigation. I listened to this on BookBeat UK. Book- 4 stars Narrator- 4 stars Final rat The joy of finishing an audiobook after three months yayyyyyy XD Traces was an interesting listen and with a good narrator. It doesn't hold back on details for real-life crime scenes or different aspects of forensic science. It was quite slow in pacing, however I'm glad that I did stick it out to the ending. The chapters about the author's life were OK but a little distracting from the main topics of criminal investigation. I listened to this on BookBeat UK. Book- 4 stars Narrator- 4 stars Final rating- 4 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Welton

    **May contain spoilers.** I wobbled between giving this a 3* or 2* rating because, to be fair, large chunks of the book are actually very interesting. The author obviously loves the natural world and writes rich, poetic, gloriously detailed descriptions of the places she's been. She also loves the challenge of puzzling out crime-scenes and solving the seemingly unsolvable. She had a fantastic depth of knowledge of botany and she knows how to put disparate facts together. If only she had stuck to t **May contain spoilers.** I wobbled between giving this a 3* or 2* rating because, to be fair, large chunks of the book are actually very interesting. The author obviously loves the natural world and writes rich, poetic, gloriously detailed descriptions of the places she's been. She also loves the challenge of puzzling out crime-scenes and solving the seemingly unsolvable. She had a fantastic depth of knowledge of botany and she knows how to put disparate facts together. If only she had stuck to that subject area in the book, I could have forgiven the repetition of endless lists of palynomorphs, and the frequency of being told the reason for looking at them. The repetition was exhausting and detracted from the flow. Sometimes entire paragraphs were repeated, sometimes full sentences, sometimes just phrases. The word 'exquisite', for example, is overused to the point of annoyance. Mostly, however, the same idea was expressed four or five times each chapter, with slight modification of the phrasing, as though there wasn't enough to write about and she was trying to pad it out. Parts of the book, however, are autobiographical, and these parts are painful. I got the strong feeling that not enough people paid the author attention when she was young, so she needs to remind everyone how clever, innovative and popular she is; and she does so frequently. She describes herself as the favourite of her grandmother/headmaster/father in law/ and so on. Who does that? She is also depressingly quick to point out how misguided/ ignorant/ uneducated/ lacking in intuition many of her co-workers and colleagues are, but luckily she was there to save the day! Again, this self-aggrandising just doesn't do it for me. Let the bulk of your work stand for itself. Do not beat me over the head with your magnificence.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liz Wilson

    There is no doubt that Patricia Wiltshire has lived a very interesting life and is a strong candidate for an autobiography of this type. As the first forensic botanist in the UK, she has much to share of interest and I was hoping for some gripping tales of her involvement in solving crimes. However, I am sad to report, that the writing, organisation and editing of this book is so poor that it was a real effort to stay with it to the end. Also, the mix of personal and professional was quite odd, There is no doubt that Patricia Wiltshire has lived a very interesting life and is a strong candidate for an autobiography of this type. As the first forensic botanist in the UK, she has much to share of interest and I was hoping for some gripping tales of her involvement in solving crimes. However, I am sad to report, that the writing, organisation and editing of this book is so poor that it was a real effort to stay with it to the end. Also, the mix of personal and professional was quite odd, with far too much personal opinion included on frankly irrelevant matters, where she came across as quite judgemental at times. The stories, when they were included, were narrated in such a dull way and, given the recent interest in junk science and wrongful convictions, did not persuade me of the veracity of her methods. To be clear, I am not doubting the integrity of her work but she failed to adequately explain it; indeed the tone throughout seemed to assume that the reader was stupid. I felt as if my elderly aunt, with little time for the younger generation, was trying to patronisingly explain her life to me. This is not necessarily a fault of Wiltshire, but the editors on this book should consider how they managed to allow any enjoyment to be sapped from a-no-doubt-interesting life story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Debumere

    Cannot review as did not finish. Bored of the plant talk at the start but will try again another time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This was a really interesting memoir from Patricia Wiltshire, who is a forensic ecologist who looks at how the environment/nature may help the police solve crimes. I'm not sure why the publisher decided not to put that on the front cover, instead they put 'forensic scientist and criminal investigator' which is quite vague and doesn't tell you what the book is really about This was really interesting. I didn't know forensic ecologist was a job before reading this book, so I definitely learnt a lot This was a really interesting memoir from Patricia Wiltshire, who is a forensic ecologist who looks at how the environment/nature may help the police solve crimes. I'm not sure why the publisher decided not to put that on the front cover, instead they put 'forensic scientist and criminal investigator' which is quite vague and doesn't tell you what the book is really about This was really interesting. I didn't know forensic ecologist was a job before reading this book, so I definitely learnt a lot It was also nice to learn about Patricia's personal life and how she ended up being a forensic ecologist. It was fascinating. My biggest complaint with this book was that it was quite technical at times. There was a lot of scientific jargon. It was quite dry in places as well. I also found some bits repetitive too. Other than that, it was a great read. It was incredibly interesting and I enjoyed reading about all the cases she has worked on. If you liked unnatural causes by DR Richard shepherd, I think you'll really like this TW: Graphic descriptions of real life crimes

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    An interesting look at the work of forensics using the most minute specimens to determine the path of a killer - think dust spores, pollen and seeds. While that may sound a little bland, the author describes how her conclusions are made and the knowledge she uses to provide police with her opinion. I particularly enjoyed the authors stories of growing up in rural Wales, and how families supported each other to survive. It really echoed of a different time. The authors relationship with her mothe An interesting look at the work of forensics using the most minute specimens to determine the path of a killer - think dust spores, pollen and seeds. While that may sound a little bland, the author describes how her conclusions are made and the knowledge she uses to provide police with her opinion. I particularly enjoyed the authors stories of growing up in rural Wales, and how families supported each other to survive. It really echoed of a different time. The authors relationship with her mother also piqued my curiosity, and could probably become a story within itself. This book teeters on the verge of becoming a solid four star read, but for me it just missed the mark. It’s decisively old fashioned with several “kids these days” references and some not quite politically correct statements about a black murder victim and how evidence is collected by victims of sexual assault. In 2020, there just isn’t the place for this in a published works.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katia M. Davis

    I'm not surprised Richard Shepherd gave a quote for this as it carries a similar condescending tone as his book. I read this over two evenings and was hoping for something a little more interesting because I enjoy this field of work. I've some experience analysing starch residues in archaeology during the late '90s, and thought this would be right up my street but was put off by the dry, repetative narrative. It must be hard to write a work-based memoir without colouring the narrative with perso I'm not surprised Richard Shepherd gave a quote for this as it carries a similar condescending tone as his book. I read this over two evenings and was hoping for something a little more interesting because I enjoy this field of work. I've some experience analysing starch residues in archaeology during the late '90s, and thought this would be right up my street but was put off by the dry, repetative narrative. It must be hard to write a work-based memoir without colouring the narrative with personal emotional baggage. Parts of it felt forced, and said more about the author's attitude towards personal relationships and the youth of today than forensics. Maybe it's a generation thing, but it soured me to the rest of the book. The actual cases were interesting, if somewhat repetitive in discussion of protocol. If you can get through the attitude, you might find this interesting but it's not one of my favourites.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    Absolutely fascinating! I listened to this on audio and found myself stopping what I was doing several times so that I could just listen and concentrate on what the narrator was saying. As a mum with a daughter who has a Biology degree, we have always had an interest in the outside world,plants and trees. How fascinating to hear how pollen, lichen, or fungi can find a person innocent or guilty. Well worth a listen or a read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This was a really fascinating read about how plants, in particular pollen spores, can help to solve crimes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cristiana

    Was hoping for an interesting and insightful read but couldn't get past the patronising tone. Sensationalises some incidents with little respect for victims. There are many great books out there giving life to different aspects of forensic sciences without trying to read like a red top, this isn't one of them. Was hoping for an interesting and insightful read but couldn't get past the patronising tone. Sensationalises some incidents with little respect for victims. There are many great books out there giving life to different aspects of forensic sciences without trying to read like a red top, this isn't one of them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Wiltshire helps the police with investigations by analysing soil and pollen and various other aspects of the natural world. In this memoir she talks about her work with the police, growing up in Wales and how her studies led her to be a forensic ecologist. This was fascinating and it was amazing to learn how a small piece of dirt can tell the professionals where a body is likely to be buried and if the suspect is truly the killer. Science is truly enlightening.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christine Blake

    Very interesting memoir giving an insight into the profession of the forensic ecologist, mixed in with personal history. The jump from one to the other seemed a little forced at times, but there is much to learn and enjoy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    The parts about her work were fascinating, the rest... not for me. The more seemed to be a lack of coherence through and I struggled to finish this.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sophy H

    A fantastic book that I loaned from the library yesterday and I've finished already having devoured the words like a kid in a sweetshop! This is not your normal forensic science memoir; Patricia Wiltshire doesn't deal with fingerprints and DNA, she deals in matter! Matter that we can't escape interacting with when we interact with nature. She deals in pollen, soil, microscopic spores and other magical substances. The success of this book lies in its variety. Patricia gives us a little of her his A fantastic book that I loaned from the library yesterday and I've finished already having devoured the words like a kid in a sweetshop! This is not your normal forensic science memoir; Patricia Wiltshire doesn't deal with fingerprints and DNA, she deals in matter! Matter that we can't escape interacting with when we interact with nature. She deals in pollen, soil, microscopic spores and other magical substances. The success of this book lies in its variety. Patricia gives us a little of her history growing up in Wales, her parent's relationship, her grandmother, her school days. Then she goes into a bit of science and a murder case, then its back to her early days in different jobs and the route she took to become a forensic investigator. Then back to the science and a rape case. The story is fascinating, intriguing, informative without being gruesome, matter of fact yet sensitive to victim and family. Patricia has a way of explaining that feels expert without being patronising. I was interested to read that she started life as an avid chapel goer and attended twice on Sundays! Now, after a career in science and witnessing death in its many facets, she is an ardent Atheist. Two phrases stuck with me from her writing. They are as follows:- "Your body is your own for only a short time; the elements from which it is made are only borrowed from the outside world, and you must give them back eventually......" ".......How wonderful to be reincarnated as a bluebell, an oak tree, and a lovely beetle all at the same time. It will certainly happen whether you like the idea or not. I find this concept very appealing and I know that my husband's molecules and mine will mingle. Our ashes will be spread in the same place so we might even both end up in the same tree or bluebell. How marvellous! When the tree or bluebell die and their corpses decompose, our molecules may be released again and taken up by yet other living things. The elements that make up our bodies will exist as long as the Earth revolves around the Sun". Patricia, you're on my wavelength girl.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ben Wheatcroft

    Traces is an in depth, detailed memoir of Professor Patricia Wiltshire’s experience and growth within the field of forensic ecology. It describes in sometimes eye opening detail her drive to not only grow the field of palynology within the forensic community but to establish it as a widely accepted discipline. As a student studying forensic pathology and biomedical science her memoir was both engaging and thought provoking. Whilst reading Traces I sometimes found myself doubting some of the proc Traces is an in depth, detailed memoir of Professor Patricia Wiltshire’s experience and growth within the field of forensic ecology. It describes in sometimes eye opening detail her drive to not only grow the field of palynology within the forensic community but to establish it as a widely accepted discipline. As a student studying forensic pathology and biomedical science her memoir was both engaging and thought provoking. Whilst reading Traces I sometimes found myself doubting some of the procedures I thought were fundamental and undoubtedly the best way to solve a problem. As someone who’s never really found true love for the natural world, I have grown to both have a vague understanding of the unlimited amount of trace evidence and false leads she has dealt with but a newfound respect for the world we as humans intermingle with on the daily. Without a doubt I recommend reading this book if you are a student of any sort of forensic field or well established within the field. It was page turning for me from front to back and with nuances of her past life really made me engage and understand what she was trying to convey and gain both a respect and appreciation for both her and her work.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    The in depth delve into how she was able to use pollen to convict murderers was so so interesting. The personal history was unfortunately less so. To make matters worse, the entirety of the personal anecdotes are for some reason found in the back half completely out of chronological order. The front half is a five star read and the back half just dallies around unfocused and frankly uninteresting, which is a shame. Also I am not sure if I can ever eat cauliflower cheese ever again.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christiana

    Half of this book was 4/5, the other half was 2/5 so have averaged out to 3/5. The good - a fascinating insight into forensic ecology. She does a really good job of explaining how plants, pollen, fungi etc can be used in both police work and archeology through musings, facts, and examples of cases. Some bits could be a bit jargony and heavy on the Latin names of plants, but as I have an ecology background this didn't bother me. The bad - the other half of the book was her talking about her childho Half of this book was 4/5, the other half was 2/5 so have averaged out to 3/5. The good - a fascinating insight into forensic ecology. She does a really good job of explaining how plants, pollen, fungi etc can be used in both police work and archeology through musings, facts, and examples of cases. Some bits could be a bit jargony and heavy on the Latin names of plants, but as I have an ecology background this didn't bother me. The bad - the other half of the book was her talking about her childhood, in seemingly no logical order. This was boring, rambling and in many cases just annoying. It definitely read like it was written by a 70+ yo white British woman, complete with numerous "kids these days" (e.g. she was so much happier growing up in innocence compared to kids these days with their awareness of race and privilege). Also a heads up - this book talks a lot about murder (as you'd expect from a forensics book) but also quite a few sexual assaults. And not always in the best language ("he was overcome by testosterone").

  20. 5 out of 5

    Millie

    honestly; was really disappointed. the language used in this book was so cold, and lacked empathy - also a complete lack of acknowledgement of others beliefs.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Flapper72

    Fantastic. Another book that I stumbled across via recommendations - it seems amazon knows me well (or I always read the same type of books!). This is a book about forensic science that I'd never ever thought about before - small, microscopic plant and life forms - pollen, fungus, plant seeds - the history of the earth and the soil around us, on us, on our clothes and in our bodies and airways. Really an amazing story of a career that Patricia Wiltshire carved out for her due to her very varied Fantastic. Another book that I stumbled across via recommendations - it seems amazon knows me well (or I always read the same type of books!). This is a book about forensic science that I'd never ever thought about before - small, microscopic plant and life forms - pollen, fungus, plant seeds - the history of the earth and the soil around us, on us, on our clothes and in our bodies and airways. Really an amazing story of a career that Patricia Wiltshire carved out for her due to her very varied training in science. She wrote about some of the cases and techniques in great deal which I appreciated - I hate it when authors don't give enough detail as it's almost assumed that the reader doesn't have enough intellect to understand the details. Things were explained clearly and just made the whole of the author's achievements clearer to understand and more amazing. You also heard something about Patricia Wiltshire as a person - how she coped with the smells of decaying bodies and material, how she coped with her own child dying and also how she was perceived as a petite female in her career. The thing I found sad is the lack of formal training to gain this amount of experience. Obviously that is an impossibility as, really, it's such a variety of areas of expertise and practise that it will take many years and careers to achieve. The world today doesn't allow that time and development of our careers, the mentorship and support from our senior colleagues. I think that the world of science is a lesser place due to cost cutting and everything needing to be done 'now' and not allowing and nurturing development of knowledge base in order to achieve the careers this lady carved out for herself. It is an amazing book - highly recommended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    The red fungus with the white spots (Amanita muscaria) produces ibotenic acid and muscimol, compounds with similar effects to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)(...). Even Santa Claus, flying with his reindeers in his red and white suit, might be related to stories originally told by followers of the cult of this fungus. Many mushroom cults have existed, and still exist today, some simply associated with pleasurable experiences and others with religious ones. The basis of some religions, and even The red fungus with the white spots (Amanita muscaria) produces ibotenic acid and muscimol, compounds with similar effects to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)(...). Even Santa Claus, flying with his reindeers in his red and white suit, might be related to stories originally told by followers of the cult of this fungus. Many mushroom cults have existed, and still exist today, some simply associated with pleasurable experiences and others with religious ones. The basis of some religions, and even cultural behaviour, seem to have stemmed from hallucinogenic experiences after consumption of some mushroom or other; and fungal emblems and depictions are common in ancient pictographs (Wiltshire, P.) An expert in palyneology, botany and mycology, Patricia Wiltshire is an utterly amazing woman. A life of passion spent in scrupulous and minute studies of plants and fungi for archaeological reconstructions, lead a preeminent UCL professor to the crime scene of victims whose bodies are covered in pollen residue, plant spores and fungi. From here she determines the date of death and can visualise through the multiple plant/spore/pollen residue on the cadavers where the individuals were killed or where they were stored, and even where they breathed their last breaths. This is how she helps the police convict murderers. There's a section on body decomposition that is truly scary, one towards the end of the book on toxicology that is utterly fascinating, and the passionate details she utilises to describe her forensic work make for a truly interesting scientific read. It is also autobiographical, and in this mix lies the attraction for the amateur reader. This is how brilliant human beings can be when they follow their real calling.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    I really enjoyed listening to Traces, it was a recommendation on audible after a previous listen. Interesting and enjoyable, giving a fascinating insight into another arm of forensic science. I was listening will running, stepping in pollen wondering what the footprint would offer.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bella

    This was very interested. The author was knowledgeable and passionate about her subject.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Patricia Wiltshire is one of the worlds leading practitioners of forensic ecology, particularly focusing of aspects of palynology (the study of pollen) and mycology (the study of fungi and fungal spores). Traces, funnily enough, has traces of personal memoir sprinkled throughout but is mainly a detailed catalogue of the cases that Wiltshire has been involved in over the years, explaining why her particular skillset was desirable, how the evidence was collected, processed and evaluated and most i Patricia Wiltshire is one of the worlds leading practitioners of forensic ecology, particularly focusing of aspects of palynology (the study of pollen) and mycology (the study of fungi and fungal spores). Traces, funnily enough, has traces of personal memoir sprinkled throughout but is mainly a detailed catalogue of the cases that Wiltshire has been involved in over the years, explaining why her particular skillset was desirable, how the evidence was collected, processed and evaluated and most importantly, how it could be used to support a criminal conviction or conversely a defendant’s claims of innocence. This was a terrific book and one that I couldn’t help but be fascinated by. I suppose the aspects that I found particularly interesting were the details of how Wiltshire pioneered many of her own methods of collecting the evidence and processing it for analysis in such a way as to not compromise its usefulness as evidence in criminal proceedings. Many of the techniques were invented ‘on the fly’ and out of necessity based on the circumstances presented by the particular case in hand. I really appreciated the logical way in which the cases were presented. Each one started with a ‘problem’ that needed solving and then the author would systematically lay out how the problem was overcome, which was particularly satisfying. I must admit that I was less interested in Patricia Wiltshire’s personal history and the events in her personal life that led her down the path towards her current career, although admittedly it does makes for a nice case study on the serendipity of life and the unusual and unexpected paths our lives often take us down. If I could offer one point for constructive criticism, Wiltshire occasionally mentioned that the odd enterprising barrister had challenged the veracity of her work in court and I’d have personally liked further detail on this to be presented. Given the novelty of her methods and the lack of external validation (particularly in the early years of her work) this would have made for a fascinating discussion. Overall however, this is a fantastic book and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Zahida Zahoor

    A fascinating read on how much information can be collected from palynomorphs (pollen grain and fungal spores) and how Pat was able to piece together to create a picture of the crime scene and where the victim/suspect has been. I couldn't help feel that she often overstated her role and the evidence she collected in the murder cases; especially when the author gave little or no acknowledgement to the police officers or investigators involved. Pat talks about the limitation of more modern technol A fascinating read on how much information can be collected from palynomorphs (pollen grain and fungal spores) and how Pat was able to piece together to create a picture of the crime scene and where the victim/suspect has been. I couldn't help feel that she often overstated her role and the evidence she collected in the murder cases; especially when the author gave little or no acknowledgement to the police officers or investigators involved. Pat talks about the limitation of more modern technologies such as DNA analysis and discusses cognitive bias but she doesn't delve too much into the limitation of her own field- the high risk of cross contamination, the sheer number of slides that need to be processed and manually examined. Phnologist (study of microscopic particles) is a dying discipline as it: manually labour intensive, a huge about of information is required that cross a number of academic fields including botony, forensic science and conservation. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading about Pats personal life that was interwoven in between the the murder cases. Pat come across as a complicated character who is kind and caring but someone who is arrogant and difficult, her life history explains why she is like that. The ending of the book highlights that she wrote the book as a way of leaving something behind for the world.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Helene Harrison

    I did quite enjoy this book - I listened to it on audiobook while I was working from home, and it provided a great distraction from a boring job. I've always been quite interested in forensics and how murders and other crimes are solved, so this was really interesting to me. Some of the science stuff went over my head a bit, but I still understood most of it, and I learned some new things. I knew that plant evidence has helped to solve some cases in the past, and it was intriguing to understand a I did quite enjoy this book - I listened to it on audiobook while I was working from home, and it provided a great distraction from a boring job. I've always been quite interested in forensics and how murders and other crimes are solved, so this was really interesting to me. Some of the science stuff went over my head a bit, but I still understood most of it, and I learned some new things. I knew that plant evidence has helped to solve some cases in the past, and it was intriguing to understand a bit more exactly how that works and what developments might happen in the future. It was clearly written, with the forensic cases interspersed with details of Wiltshire's childhood and how she first became interested in forensics. It was well-balanced and incredibly engaging to read / listen to. When my work phone rang I didn't want to answer it because I was so engaged in the narrative and Wiltshire's story. What I didn't really like was the amount of science, perhaps because I couldn't really understand it. Science was always my worst subject apart from P.E.!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I’ve not reviewed a book before but felt compelled to do so after reading this book! Thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Found that I could relate to a lot due to being a Forensic Scientist myself (who is also Welsh!). I appreciated her brutal honesty throughout, especially regarding universities and the word “Forensic”. Where I was one of the lucky ones out of my university bunch who actually got a job within the forensic world before I had graduated. Whilst my friends are still s I’ve not reviewed a book before but felt compelled to do so after reading this book! Thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Found that I could relate to a lot due to being a Forensic Scientist myself (who is also Welsh!). I appreciated her brutal honesty throughout, especially regarding universities and the word “Forensic”. Where I was one of the lucky ones out of my university bunch who actually got a job within the forensic world before I had graduated. Whilst my friends are still searching more than a year later. This book has certainly taught me an awful lot about botany and ecology and how they can be used in a forensic setting. I found myself constantly reciting certain paragraphs to my partner which led to us both being amazed at what you can determine! There is definitely a gap on the market for aspiring students to become forensic botanists etc. These people are invaluable to forensic investigations!! This book is a must read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Fryer

    As an ecologist with an interest but little knowledge in forensics, I found this a fascinating read. But I think anyone, from any background could understand and enjoy the book. It's a mixture of science and memoir, which I like. Written in an accessible way with personal insight, its a good introduction to the potential of forensic ecology, and the level of skills and understanding required to be competent. Though you don't need to have aspirations in that line of work to enjoy this book. My co As an ecologist with an interest but little knowledge in forensics, I found this a fascinating read. But I think anyone, from any background could understand and enjoy the book. It's a mixture of science and memoir, which I like. Written in an accessible way with personal insight, its a good introduction to the potential of forensic ecology, and the level of skills and understanding required to be competent. Though you don't need to have aspirations in that line of work to enjoy this book. My copy is full of sticky-notes as I learned so much about sampling methodologies and lots of other interesting things, but I also found the author's enthusiasm for her field and nature in general, really inspiring. On a personal level, I found the author very likeable and I would recommend listening to her interview on BBC Life Scientific.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I was torn over my rating of this book, as I really enjoyed some parts of it. It just felt a little disjointed to me. It jumped between detailed, scientific commentary about the author's work to recounts of her childhood in a slightly scattered fashion. It feels like there were two separate pieces of work here whose pages were blown together in a gust of wind and published as they fell! I found the forensic science parts so interesting and concepts from the book have stayed with me as I've walked I was torn over my rating of this book, as I really enjoyed some parts of it. It just felt a little disjointed to me. It jumped between detailed, scientific commentary about the author's work to recounts of her childhood in a slightly scattered fashion. It feels like there were two separate pieces of work here whose pages were blown together in a gust of wind and published as they fell! I found the forensic science parts so interesting and concepts from the book have stayed with me as I've walked through different landscapes then got in and out of my car. I also liked reading about the author's childhood, although, as she is not someone I had heard of before it did seem slightly odd to me to be reading about her life in such detail. Maybe it was my misconception about the purpose of this book. It just wasn't quite what I was expecting. But I liked it.

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