Coroner At Large by Thomas T. Noguchi

A good middle of the road, well written, easy read with some interesting topics and thoughts from Noguchi on cases other than ones he personally oversaw. Readers of the true crime genre will be familiar with most, if not all, the cases mentioned. They range from the historical to the contemporary.

Noguchi does not rehash each case from the beginning to end. His focus is solely on the forensic science and how it was applied or mis-applied in each case. At times, this involves sitting down with the medical examiners or other forensic experts who had a role in examination of the evidence. He then either ends each chapter concurring with the outcome or offering an alternative explanation of the evidence that could have resulted in a different outcome.

There are times when he lapses into the scientific but never so deeply that a reader becomes lost or can’t understand where he is headed or what he is trying to explain. I found it interesting that he traveled to many of the locations and looked at both the crime scenes and the forensic evidence. Most astonishing to me, was that a couple bought the Scarsdale home of Tarnower because of their belief in the innocence of Jean Smith, his killer. They kept the room intact and by all accounts of both Noguchi and another investigator, her story was very accurate and it was an accidental shooting just as she described. Proving the old adage that the truth is often stranger than fiction.

It also shows that despite their best efforts, and mostly getting it right, the police also get it wrong. Many times, there seems to be a rush to prove a first hunch because of community pressure to get it solved where a wait and see attitude would have better served the case. When looking at older crimes, it also shows how  far the police have come with forensic investigation in preserving the crime scene and of course the introduction of the use of DNA has further changed the landscape.

A great read for true crime buffs and those interested in science and forensic science. An easy, accessible read that won’t take long. At most one or two days.

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