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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)
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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
Top customer reviews
Juggling photographic assignments with the cost-ineffective busts he creates for police departments, the FBI, US Marshals and America's Most Wanted, like any artist, especially one with a righteous cause, Frank's priorities are unbalanced by the amount of time he devotes to the higher cause. While this passion puts a strain on his home life and his financial security, there is a strong element of altruism in Bender's chosen field. When victims are recognized, criminals caught through Frank's unique application of art and forensics, families are given closure and murderers are brought to justice. Certainly, Bender is an exceptional individual, self-taught, confident and generous with his time, his mission a heady one when successful, painful when circumstances fail to support the evidence he offers to further such cases.
Botha does an excellent job introducing this character, reminding me of the addictive nature of such non-fiction. Throughout the book, Frank's reputation is built case by case, as identities are validated, cold cases solved and murderers reclaimed from the lives they have rebuilt after escaping the consequences of their violent crimes. Age progression is invaluable in Bender's work, perhaps as significant as giving human likeness to the skulls he carefully sculpts. But by far the most challenging and frustrating is Bender's time in Mexico, attempting to aid authorities in solving the murders of countless young women whose bodies have been found in Juarez and Chihuahua. In spite of his meticulous recreations, a majority of the busts remain unidentified (even the Girl with the Crooked Nose), due mainly to inefficient procedures and the bureaucratic warfare of the Mexican government. Over all, Botha paints a fascinating portrait of a dedicated man who literally changed the face of forensic investigation, a fine career in public service that is significant in its impact. Luan Gaines/ 2008.