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The Girl with the Crooked Nose: A Tale of Murder, Obsession, and Forensic Artistry Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 13, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
There is a bewildering, frustrating quality in Botha's crackling account of a quirky, maverick forensics artist, Frank Bender, and his largely successful efforts in facial reconstruction of murder victims. The steady, no-nonsense approach of the author (Mongo: Adventures in Trash) is marred by the herky-jerky sequences of the narrative as he switches from Bender's hit-and-miss past triumphs to a monumental murder case south of the border in the sordid Mexican area near Ciudad Juárez, where about 400 women have been raped, tortured and killed. National and international recognition of Bender's uncanny skill grows, but the psychological toll wears on his home life and his interaction with authorities. What is extraordinary is Botha's writing, with his unerring depiction of Bender's painstaking work and the eventual unraveling of the brutal crimes it solves. Although Bender is not successful with every case, including the epic Mexican serial killings, the tales in this book accurately capture the dark motives and complexities of senseless murder, and even the most savvy true-crime reader will not be able to resist the author's insightful storytelling. 16 pages of photos. (May 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Into the burgeoning true-crime subgenre of forensic procedurals leaps Botha’s account of artist Frank Bender, who uncannily reconstructs murder victims’ faces from their decomposed and skeletal remains. So doing, he frequently provides police with very reliable information for pursuing at-large murderers. Botha writes with a sort of calculated manliness, even though he is given to such dramatics as slinging the occasional highly atmospheric description before naming, or even indicating the species of, the characters in a scene. Stylistic concerns aside, this action-packed overview of Bender’s career centers on a spirited rendition of how Bender reconstructed the facial features of several victims of an ongoing murder spree in Juarez, Mexico, in the early 1990s. Replete with tales of corrupt local authorities and various bureaucracies, plus an adroit description of Bender’s mounting suspicion that something unidentified is keeping him from solving the Juarez case, Botha’s work relays Bender’s surprising conclusions about the case and imparts more information about reconstructing the faces of the dead than most readers will expect. --Mike Tribby
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After several visits, the police approached Frank about a murder victim who was unidentified. They explained that they had mimimal luck with sketch artists producing a likeness in such cases that helped with identification, and wondered if Frank could produce a bust that would be better. Frank didn't know anything about forensics but was persuaded to make an attempt. He created a bust that led to an identification, and found his life's work.
Over the years, Frank worked on multiple cases. He was successful in finding identities in many cases. The ones that he was proudest of were the children, often found in suitcases or boxes, thrown away after being murdered. Frank's work was able to give them back an identity, and to let them be buried under their own name instead of being sent to an anonymous grave.
Frank's biggest case was that of the scores of Mexican women who were murdered in the early 2000's. The Mexican government brought him in, along with an FBI consultant, but it was soon clear that there were politics at play and forces that did not want this case solved. While Frank went back to Mexico several times and created multiple busts, the cases still remain a mystery, although many believe either the Mexican police or the military had a hand in these deaths.
Another area Frank's expertise was used in was age regression and advancement. He was the sculptor that created the bust of John List that was used on America's Most Wanted to identify this man who a decade earlier had killed his entire family and disappeared. That case led to the government using Frank for several other busts to identify fugitives who had been missing for many years.
Ted Botha has outlined the life history of a fascinating man. Bender loved the work he did, but never made enough money at it to support his family. He had to take side jobs throughout his life to make ends meet. Frank lived life on his own terms, and his work was so valuable that he was able to live life as he wanted while still fitting in with the highly structured world of police work. This book is recommended for readers of true crime and those interested in forensic work.