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Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist 1st Edition

185 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0385474900
ISBN-10: 0385474903
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Noted forensic anthropologist Maples, whose specialty is the study of bones, and freelance journalist Browning here recount Maples's criminal and anthropological investigations over the past 20 years. The meandering text combines episodes from Maples's personal life and education with discourses on his philosophy, his teaching at the Univ. of Florida and his work. The book's strength is as a snapshot of the world of forensic scientists, vividly portraying the siege mentality of many of them when their objective data are used for purposes other than ascertaining the truth about how a victim died. Despite the two-dimensional depiction of the people who were the objects of Maples's investigations-including the "likely" remains of Romanov Tsar Nicholas II-his memoirs should hold readers' interest.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Maples' first exposure to his career came as a freshman in college when a class he wanted was full and his adviser then suggested he take the survey course on anthropology. Maples was fortunate, as will be any reader with a strong stomach who picks up his book. He tells how he learned to look at mangled bodies and continues to explain how he learned to both see and observe and how he discovered such fruitful techniques as tasting bone samples. Although it tends to be lifeless, forensic anthropology is not a cut-and-dried subject; nevertheless, Maples narrates his cases clearly and engagingly. He describes the remains (or, when burnt, cremains) presented to him, describes what he looks for, and guides us through his thinking and the search for additional clues and information. His most difficult, fascinating, and perplexing case dealt with a 1985 apparent double murder and burning, while among historic bodies, Maples dealt with those of Francisco Pizarro, Zachary Taylor, Czar Nicholas II, and Joseph Merrick, "the Elephant Man." William Beatty

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385474903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385474900
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,102,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David A. Wend on March 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I bought a copy of this book when it first came out and it remains one of my favorites. Dr. Maples presents the story of his life in this book: how he became a forensic anthropologist, clues on how people are identified and his most famous cases. The cases that come to mind are his identification of the Tsar's family, his investigation into the death of President Zachary Taylor and his thoughts on the Elephant Man. His dedication to solving impossible problems makes fascinating reading. Along with the riveting detective story quality of the book, you come to know Dr. Maples, and an interesting man he was. I count my interest in forensic science from the day I read this book; it is the kind of book that you stay up to 3 in the morning to finish.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Mark Hills on December 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
For nearly a century the science of forensics has grown from a barely understood art to a marvel of modern science. From development of finger printing in the early 1900's, to DNA gene matching of today, forensic pathology and anthropology have blossomed into the law's best weapons against criminals that stalk our world. In `Dead Men Do Tell Tales' we enter the world of Dr. William Maples, PhD of the C A Pound Human Identification Center in Gainesville, Florida-an often brutal and ghoulish realm of dismembered corpses, hastily torched cremains of hapless victims or those dumped in septic tanks to rot and putrify in the other detritus of man's remains. Dr. Maples' own study is the field of forensic anthropology-the study of the human skeleton, and this man's expertise in that field has cemented my interest in amateur study of forensics.
Told in the first person, Maples comes across as brilliant and personable, if a little supremely confident in his own abilities as an investigator. And like Stephen Hawking's `A Brief History of Time', isn't afraid to admit when he has erred. Where the book shines, aside from its plethora of information, is in the presentation of that information-Maples never uses terms that he doesn't explain, knowing full well that the book is going to be read more by laymen like me than a peer within the profession. So do not expect detailed treatises on anatomy, pathology or pages of chemical breakdowns. Instead, Maples presents an easy to understand work that is surprising in its level of detail, and a credit to himself and his co-author, Michael Browning, for making it understandable.
Though it is a book on anthropology, one cannot write about one subject without at least touch on the pathology end, since the two are intimately related.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a victim's sibling in one of Dr. Maples' cases, I know first-hand what excellent work he did to make sure the case was solved based on forensic evidence, not assumptions. The book also helps survivors understand the hard work it takes to learn the truth-- and ease one's mind.
Dr. Maples' legacy is that he helped families cope with tragedy, and his book is good medicine for the soul. It was an honor to know him.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K.A.Goldberg on August 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an outstanding book -IF- you can stomach reading about things like insect larvae implanted in human decay. Dr. William Maples (1937-97) was a forensic anthropologist who examined bone and tissue samples to determine a person's age, gender, if they'd given birth, cause of death, etc. Imagine testifying at a murder trial while the killer stares at you. Dr. Maples did, knowing that if the jury acquitted the killer might seek revenge. When historians questioned whether angry slaveholders had secretly poisoned President Zachary Taylor in 1850, they called in Dr. Maples for the answer. Maples also investigated the bones of Russia's murdered Czar Nicholas II and family, in part to determine if their Bolshevik executioners might have spared young Anastasia and Alexei. This book has many such authentic tales.
Maples and co-author Michael Browning wrote personable, easy prose that never loses the reader in jargon. DEAD MEN DO TELL TALES is an excellent read for the non-squeamish.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Bramley on June 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
I read other reviews and still bought this book anyway. I found that a lot of the book is more of a memoir or autobiography rather than a forensic book. The cases mentioned, while interesting, are skimmed over rather quickly with the only real 'in-depth' look being the Tsar case.

Mostly this book is just a light read, nothing substantial, nothing really memorable. While the author claims not to be bias towards the famous cases, these are the only ones he really goes into. Generally the cases are mentioned in one or two lines in between the author's life story.

If you are buying this book because you think it's a detailed forensic book, you will be disappointed and I suggest the Bill Bass books instead. However, if you're getting this as an interesting read, because you want to learn more about the author, or you're not really 'into' the scientific side of forensics, then you will probably enjoy it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joyce on September 25, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was required for our "De-Cal" student taught university class on Forensic Anthropology. I found most of the chapters quite fascinating. I picked up the book to read and finished it in one night (when we're only supposed to read one chapter), dispite the fact I had a math test looming over my head the next day. The first part of the book takes you through the life of the author; how he decided to go into the field when he was in college, some related part time jobs he had as a university student. Later, we follow the author as he goes on the case (including the Anastasia myth...). This is my favorite part of the book. Certain cases might be more interesting to some. Presidential buffs would enjoy the chapter when when an ex US president is exumed and examined. True crime enthusiasts would enjoy the gang related murder he had to dig up, literally dig up! Conspiracty theorists would have a "scratch your head" time with the murder/suicide mystery in the case about the woodin cabin.
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