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The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death Hardcover – September 28, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: The Monacelli Press; 1ST edition (September 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580931456
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580931458
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 8.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bizarre and utterly fascinating, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death is a dark and disturbing photographic journey through criminal cases and the mind of Frances Glessner Lee--grandmother, dollhouse-maker, and master criminal investigator. Photographer Corinne May Botz stumbled across the "Nutshell Studies" while making a video about women who collect dollhouses. On the suggestion of a collector, she visited the Baltmore Medical Examiner's Office, where Lee's miniature reconstructions of crime scenes were on display. The macabre dioramas fascinated and repulsed her: "I was entranced by the details: the porcelain doll with a broken arm in the attic, the grains of sugar on the kitchen floor...I was also riveted by the miniature corpses. Shot in bed, collapsed in the bathtub, hung in the attic and stabbed in the closet; all were eternally frozen in miniature rooms that had become their tombs."

A remarkable woman, Frances Glessner Lee established the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard in 1936. At the time, innumerable murders went undetected because evidence was mishandled, or ignored. To train investigators of sudden and violent deaths to better assess visual evidence, Lee created the Nutshell Studies--dollhouses that students could study from every angle, with minute crime scenes details taken from actual cases. Lee created 18 dioramas, using only the most mysterious cases (cases that could have been ruled as accidents, murders, or suicides) to train detectives and challenge their ability to read evidence.

Botz reveals as much about the nature of obsession as she does about Frances Glessener Lee--each model is painstakingly photographed from multiple vantage points, allowing the reader to witness the astounding level of realism and precision in each case, as well as giving the reader unobstructed access to each eerie setting. All 18 studies include a brief synopsis of each case, as well as a key to each grisly floor plan. Perfect for amateur sleuths, aspiring medical examiners, and fans of CSI, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death is grim and oh so bewitching. --Daphne Durham

Amazon.com Content
Inside The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death


Case: "Living Room"

Case: "Three-Room Dwelling"

Case: "Dark Bathroom"

Review

"The Nutshell dioramas are compelling, a bit disturbing, and engagingly weird—it never previously seemed possible to use the words 'forsenic' and 'cute' in the same sentence. Corinne May Botz has done a grand job both in exposing them to a nonspecialist public and in photographing them with such fanatical verisimilitude." —Luc Sante

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Customer Reviews

Thought of it more of as a coffee table book.
sdwest
I was very excited to receive this book in the mail.
Erika
It's a very interesting book, not at all creepy.
Rash Connell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of the Nutshell Studies is wonderful and intriguing. The Studies themselves are also intriguing... I think. The problem is that the photographs in this book are artsily blurry. I couldn't see the crime scenes clearly. An especial frustration is that there are line drawings of the crime scenes with clues marked -- but there's no corresponding photograph! It's very annoying to be told, for instance, that a doll's face is red from carbon monoxide when I can't see that face in any of the pictures.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Judith L. Edwards on December 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Had I seen this book in a store I wouldn't have gotten it primarily because I'm into dollhousing & am used to seeing excellent photography. The majority of the photographs in this book is very poor. There is a close up shot of a table with lots of clues on it but the photo is so blurry that you can't tell what most of the items are. Its a real shame too because they make cameras just for miniatures & those of you who are familiar with the quality photos in "Miniature Collector" & "Dollhouse Miniatures" magazines would recognize just how poor they are. Also because Mrs. Lee was very talented & it would have been a great pleasure to have seen her work photographed clearly.

For the mystery minded, the book offers clues along with the bad photos but does not solve the mysteries.
I would suggest that you go & look at it in a bookstore before you decide to buy it. You just might save yourself some money.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Ben Gaily on October 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I picked up a copy of this book last week at a Chelsea art opening of the author's work. I think that the book is fabulous, both on the level that its subject matter is fascinating and in the quality and artistry of the photographs. I like the ambiguity of the pictures. The dioramas and stories are both intriguing and mysterious--there are no easy answers, which makes the book an intellectually interesting and challenging read. I notice new things each time I pick it up. All of the friends that I have shown the book to have loved it. Can't recommend it highly enough!
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27 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Melanie Gilbert VINE VOICE on December 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The original Nutshell Studies were dioramas of evil and tragedy, created over 60 years ago by Chicago heiress Frances Glessner Lee, who used them to train investigators in the art of dissecting a crime. The presentation of these meticulously and faithfully reproduced scenes of mayhem - at a 1:12 scale - forced investigators to literally see "the little things," at a time when ignorant officers often ruined evidence critical to solving the case.

Author Corinne May Botz, who also shot the multiple-angle photographs of the 18 models, explores how conflicts and contrasts are at the heart of the dioramas as well as their creator, Lee. Botz suggests that Lee expressed her tension and ambivalence about her place in society through these equally conflicted and violent still lifes.

I gave this book 5 stars because I appreciated its fine quality - it is beautifully produced by Monacelli Press - but I also respected the way Botz's accompanying essays draw parallels rather than conclusions between Lee's life and her unconventional Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. Botz's essay's show that whether it is a crime scene or a personal journey, the search for truth is what good investigators seek. Lee would have been proud.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ellenida on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I deal with forensic science and have had this book since around April 2011 when I paid only $15 for the hardcover. A friend asked me to get the book for her, and couldn't believe the prices ppl are paying for this.

What many do not know was that Frances's father was the founder/presidenet of International Harvester and they had a home on thousands of acres. Her brother went on the Harvard University but her father didn't believe in higher education for females. She became fascinated with Forensic Science and the prperty she inherited was covered with walnut trees. She began to buld detaled miniature crime scenes in the walnut shells - comlete to the color/print of the clothing; hair color; eye color if their eyes were open postmortem. She married late in life; had children, then divorced.

I first read about her in a quarterly issue of my Forensic Examiner journal, since I am a member of the American College of Forensic Examiners Insitute.

Book Description
Publication Date: September 28, 2004

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death offers readers an extraordinary glimpse into the mind of a master criminal investigator. Frances Glessner Lee, a wealthy grandmother, founded the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard in 1936 and was later appointed captain in the New Hampshire police. In the 1940s and 1950s she built dollhouse crime scenes based on real cases in order to train detectives to assess visual evidence. Still used in forensic training today, the eighteen Nutshell dioramas, on a scale of 1:12, display an astounding level of detail: pencils write, window shades move, whistles blow, and clues to the crimes are revealed to those who study the scenes carefully.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Pants on September 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
When I learned about the Nutshell Studies I was excited. When I saw that there was an in depth treatment of them I was ecstatic. When it arrived, I met the driver at the door of the office. When I leafed through the book, my blood drained; like ice cream falling from a cone.
This book is sad. It's sad like watching that annoyingly attractive, pompous guy with the tight, wire rim frames and slick soled shoes plod off with the girl you've been thinking at for months. And she's giggling like a Bedouin sledding down whisper soft hills, in 30F weather, in an environment with a high dew point. That is a good time. A good time that you're not having while reading this book.

IMPORTANT THINGS
The only bird's eye views of the crime scenes are done in outline
The authors highlight all "relevant" evidence
"Relevant" evidence is explicated (and often)
Photographs, while plentiful, are myopic
The paper is that high gloss, 1980s cookbook paper that smells like money and amaretto
Really, all I'm annoyed by is the fact that the photographer didn't want me to see photos of the whole crime scene

THINGS ABOUT ME AND WHAT I WANTED
I am not a crime scene or dollhouse interested person
I was drawn to the Nutshell Studies because of the bizarre - nearly utilitarian - counterpoint between the macabre, the incidental, the unexplained and the comely
I do not own a fedora
I am not particularly interested in the works of H.P.
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