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Teasing Secrets from the Dead: My Investigations at America's Most Infamous Crime Scenes Hardcover – August 31, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a second CSI spinoff hitting the airwaves this fall, the timing couldn't be better for this intriguing memoir by a leading forensic anthropologist. The only full-time state employee in her field, Craig utilizes her expertise to identify victims from the tiniest remnant of tissue or bone. The author's reputation as an international expert on human anatomy led her to reconstructing faces of the dead from skull fragments to aid the police. Her credentials involved her in many notorious cases, most notably Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing and the destruction of the World Trade Center. In each instance, her dedication, professionalism and knowledge played key roles; Craig's scientific analysis established that more than one-third of the dead at Waco had died before the fire as a result of a mass murder-suicide by the Branch Davidians. She also rebutted claims that the real bomber of the Murrah Federal Building had died in the explosion by proving that a mysterious severed limb actually belonged to a victim. Despite occasional gratuitous gross-out details concerning maggots, Craig does a good job of explaining her science to the layperson and portraying the nitty-gritty everyday realities of her job.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Forensic anthropology is a blazingly popular cultural subject as reflected on television (e.g., the program CSI) and in books (Kathy Reichs' mystery series featuring a forensic anthropologist, whose seventh installment, Monday Mourning, was reviewed in BKL Je 1 & 15 04). Analogous in spirit to Clea Koff's account of exhuming mass graves in Rwanda and Croatia (The Bone Woman [BKL My 15 04]), Craig's memoir presents her experiences drawn from the past decade as an expert on human bones. Like Koff, she stresses the strain that arises from maintaining a businesslike application of her expertise to the macabre facts of decomposed human remains. Nevertheless, readers discover how burnt, shattered, shot, or sawed-off bones harbor vital clues, and, interestingly, how Craig reconciles such forensic information with occasionally erroneous missing-persons information. Wrapping this factual core with her interactions with sheriffs and scientists at crime scenes, which in this work include the World Trade Center, Craig will especially intrigue readers drawn to fictional portrayals of her profession. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (August 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400049229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400049226
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #933,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Barbara L. Pinzka on October 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Emily Craig started her career as a medical illustrator, working at a top orthopedic clinic. Significant success led to her assisting on a forensic problem and, wholly intrigued, she went back to school in her early 40s and became one of the nation's leading forensic investigators.

She has worked on "small" crimes (she is chief forensic anthropologist for Kentucky) and big - establishing, for example, the truth about what happened at Waco.

The book can be very clinical and isn't for the faint of heart. But Craig tells her tales with a blend of scientific integrity and enormous compassion, proving and entertaining and enlightening read.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin J. Sloan on January 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Emily Craig's book is about Emily Craig mostly, with some interesting tidbits about famous cases she's work on thrown in to sell it. She spends most of the pages talking about herself, what a great artist and scientist she is, how amazed everyone is at her genius, etc. Very tiresome. I guess she works mostly in a man's world (Kentucky crime scenes) and has developed some twisted ways of thinking of herself to deal with it. I'd hate to be her therapist.

Biggest problem with this book is that there is *very little* about crime or criminals. She describes only her own role, working on bones and their treatment at crime scenes, but the reader never finds out anything about the crimes!! If you like CSI or New Detectives, you will HATE this book.

The final indignation is the last chapter where she describes her weeks in the morgue at ground zero in NYC. The whole chapter is about Doctor Craig (have you ever met someone who was not a medical doctor and who insisted on being called Doctor who was other than an insecure blowhard?) and how important she is, supervising the night shift and cleverly identifying a pork chop in a body bag. Spare me.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Hewson on September 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Emily Craig's story is both very personal and very universal. She began to study forensic anthropology late in life and has since gone on to become one of the field's most respected scientists. Her stories from crime scenes like Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center are compusively readable, not only because of the science and detective work involved, but also because they are a personal story and Dr. Craig is honest about her emotional involvement in the work. There are also some other great stories from her case files--as the state forensic anthropologist for Kentucky, she often runs across many southern gothic-seeming murder cases. Just those alone are enough for a couple good episodes of Law and Order or CSI. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good true crime read or a compelling read about the science of forensics. It's well-written and just as entertaining as a TV show.
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27 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Tina R. Deboeser on February 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Emily Craig's egotism was a mild distraction during the first few chapters, but I kept reading hoping for improvement. Midway through the book it was just plain irritating. By the end of the book it was infuriating! Chapter after chapter I was reminded (by DOCTOR Craig herself) how talented, dedicated, and extraordinary DOCTOR Craig is.... uhg! Enough. These adjectives are nice compliments from someone other than YOURSELF.

The most insulting part of this book was the final chapter dealing with DOCTOR Craig's participation in the post-September 11th recovery/identification. Talk about delusions of grandeur. Someone should impress upon DOCTOR Craig the fact that she was a small (replacable) part of the monumental efforts put forth therein New York. Her self-serving discription of her post 9/11 role was an insult to the others who worked along side her. Even when she is praising fellow professionals, it is nauseatingly phoney.

I usually enjoy crime/forensic non-fiction works. "Teasing" had some interesting anthropology/autopssy moments. But they were overshadowed by DOCTOR CRAIG'S ego.

I appreciate a strong, educated professional woman. But not DOCTOR Craig, I think DOCTOR Craig appreciates herself enough for the rest of us!

Two last points: Does DOCTOR Criag really believe that her dying father held on to precious life until she had completed her post 9/11 work? Aand what kind of woman leaves her dog in a kennel for more than a month?

Please do not buy this book, it will only further inflate DOCTOR Craig's already ENORMOUS EGO!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Hall on October 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There's really a short list of books I can name that have touched my life in a significant and interesting way over the course of twenty some years. This is one of them.

Ms. Craig's enormous capacity for empathy and meticulous attention to details along with her down-to-earth persona, make this book more than simply a "good read."

She's portrayed the many experiences in her life in such a way that as the reader, I'm right there with her. I cried when she cried and laughed out loud about the pork chop bone, for example.

I felt her struggles, desires, epiphanies, frustrations and fears. Not only did I feel them, but she has a way that makes me really care about the outcomes to the many cases and experiences she's encountered.

It's interesting, educational, touching, and fascinating. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in forensic science, especially anthropology. As well as anyone interested in behind the scenes glimpses of 9/11, Waco, Oklahoma City and the less sensationalized instances of every day crime.

A remarkable life that's lead to remarkable results and an outstanding accounting in this book. Keep up the great work Ms. Craig!
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