Archives for forensic science

Book review: Death of an Expert Witness

What a great title. Ask most people to name a PD James novel, and this is probably it. A gloriously convoluted plot surrounding a Fens village, a forensic science laboratory, and a tightly-knit community linked in ways the reader cannot forsee. The clues are there but each is so fleetingly mentioned, so parsimonious, and so intertwined, that you will forget each and discount its importance. When the senior biologist at Hoggatt’s Laboratory is found dead, New Scotland Yard is called in. Commander Adam Dalgliesh arrives with Detective Inspector John Massingham; it is not the easiest of working partnerships, another layer of grit added to the oyster. PD James’ observations are at times heart-rending. Of a victim’s elderly father: “The old man sat there, staring straight ahead. His hands, with the long fingers like those of his son, but with their skin dry and stained as withered leavers, hung heavily between his knees, grotesquely large for the brittle wrists.” The technical detail, at which James is always so reliable, is interleaved here with the writing style I associate with the later Dalgliesh books. On his way to interview a bereaved relative, Dalgliesh stands on high ground and looks towards Hoggatt’s Laboratory.
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