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Murder and the Making of English CSI

by Ian Burney and Neil Pemberton Johns Hopkins University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 248 pages
AU$53.99 NZ$57.38
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Crime scene investigation - or CSI - has captured the modern imagination. On television screens and in newspapers, we follow the exploits of forensic officers wearing protective suits and working behind police tape to identify and secure physical evidence for laboratory analysis. But where did this ensemble of investigative specialists and scientific techniques come from?


In Murder and the Making of English CSI, Ian Burney and Neil Pemberton tell the engrossing history of how, in the first half of the twentieth century, novel routines, regulations, and techniques - from chain-of-custody procedures to the analysis of hair, blood, and fiber - fundamentally transformed the processing of murder scenes. Focusing on two iconic English investigations - the 1924 case of Emily Kaye, who was beaten and dismembered by her lover at a lonely beachfront holiday cottage, and the 1953 investigation into John Christie’s serial murders in his dingy terraced home in London’s West End - Burney and Pemberton chart the emergence of the crime scene as a new space of forensic activity.


Drawing on fascinating source material ranging from how-to investigator handbooks and detective novels to crime journalism, police case reports, and courtroom transcripts, the book shows readers how, over time, the focus of murder inquiries shifted from a primarily medical and autopsy-based interest in the victim’s body to one dominated by laboratory technicians laboring over minute trace evidence.  Murder and the Making of English CSI reveals the compelling and untold story of how one of the most iconic features of our present-day forensic landscape came into being. It is a must-read for forensic scientists, historians, and true crime devotees alike.


Introduction1. The Origins of Crime Scene Investigation2. Crime Scenes before CSI3. Murder at "the Crumbles"4. Celebrity Pathology and the Spectacle of Murder Investigation5. CSI in English Translation6. Forensic Pathology in the Landscape of CSI7. Interrogating "the House of Murder"EpilogueAcknowledgmentsNotesIndex

  "Out of some pretty gruesome parts, Burney and Pemberton have assembled a remarkably elegant account of the making of modern murder investigation. Their analysis combines scholarly sophistication with a clarity of prose that entertains, informs, and surprises. Murder and the Making of English CSI brims with insight about the historical path that led to our forensic present."  — Mario Biagioli, UC Davis School of Law, author of Galileo's Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy    


"Burney and Pemberton trace the transition of the forensic pathologist from the sole embodiment of truth to the team approach of modern crime scene investigation. Spellbinding cases illustrate the development of modern techniques of English forensic science and the waning authority of the English forensic pathologist. In a post-DNA world, the autopsy and crime scene are not forgotten and are neglected only at the risk of justice itself."  — Jeffrey Jentzen, Director of Autopsy and Forensic Pathology, University of Michigan, author of Death Investigation in America: Coroners, Medical Examiners, and the Pursuit of Medical Certainty    


"For all the talk about ‘CSI’ these days, there is very little history of it. This nuanced and fascinating history of English crime scene reconstruction has an uncanny prescience for today's debates about how to manage crime scene evidence."  — Simon A. Cole, University of California, Irvine, author of Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification    


"An accessible and thought-provoking history of English crime scene investigation. A must-read for anyone with a serious interest in the past, present, and future of reading a crime scene."  — Val McDermid, bestselling author of The Mermaids Singing and Splinter the Silence    


"This disturbing, powerful, and beautifully crafted book shows us how CSI has gained its iconic place in modern murders. Taking us deep into the grisly world of the crime scene, the mortuary, the laboratory, and the courtroom, the authors explain that forensic science, far from simply discovering truth, produces knowledge grounded in contingent and changing concepts, techniques, and institutions."  — James Vernon, University of California, Berkeley, author of Distant Strangers: How Britain Became Modern    


"In a world where the science of DNA appears to be squeezing out the other specialities, here is the unsqueezed history of extraordinary scientific discovery. A dazzling account of the evolution of crime scene and its management, Murder and the Making of English CSI is a full-on drama of scientific ingenuity and invention where CSI meets historical thriller."  — Barbara Machin, creator, writer, and showrunner of BBC One’s Emmy-winning crime series Waking the Dead
Ian Burney is the director of the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (CHSTM). He is the author of  Bodies of Evidence: Medicine and the Politics of the English Inquest, 1830–1926 and  Poison, Detection, and the Victorian Imagination.


Neil Pemberton is a senior Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at CHSTM. He is the coauthor of  Rabies in Britain: Dogs, Disease and Culture, 1830–2000 and  Leech.