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Urge to Kill: How Police Take Homicide from Case to Court Paperback – July, 2002
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The books is probably one of the most fascinating books dealing with crime that I've come across in over a year of researching homicide as a budding writer. There are colorful, four-color photographs (most full page) on almost every page.
The Title of the book "How police take homicide from case to court" seems a little misleading for the content of the book. I believe there is a companion book to this one, but I'll be willing to bet that book is almost duplicative to the information in this book.
This book does give some fascinating evidence information, and general tips on what police do in general to determine certain factors before, during and after a crime. But this information is spread throughout the book so you have to read every page to get a complete picture. Another thing that bothered me is sometimes the (editor) has interposed a 'set aside' of one to two pages, interupting a subject that was half-way through discussion on one page, but isn't picked up until three pages later, and confusing the reader making them think the printer bungled the order of pages.
The positive note of this book is the highlight (1-2 pages) of major homicides, the murderer's in concise, to the point, summary descriptions. Each chapter in the book focuses on various types and aspects of murders: 1) Murder Basics, 2) Means to Murder, 3) Motive, 4) Solving Murders, 5) Murder Inspired by Fiction (author was really 'reaching' in this chapter, but came up with some fascinating points/cases), Glossary: The Languange of Murder.
All-in-All, I would advise buying this book because of the fascinating content. The author did a suppurb (sp?) job of finding photos for almost every single case that he notedin this book, and the effort for that alone was worth the compilation of the book.
What was really interesting to me was that he even touched base on the Southside Strangler case in Richmond, Virginia, which was covered nationally, but died down in the media quickly once Timothy Spencer was caught. I was living in the city at the time, and like every other female in the city, absolutely terrified to walk around alone. Then later I found out that I had been in the house next door to one of his victims--talk about getting the creeps reading about that evil man again--even 16 years later. But, the author had all the facts correct as I remember them, so I believe that the facts he compiled on the other homocides were as correct as one could get in his research.
Definitely a great book to put on your bookshelf if you are a crime 'novice' studying homicide or a writer preparing to learn a little about the industry itself. I definitely learned a lot without having to struggle through all the mudane facts at once--the profiles spread throughout the book illustrating the points he was teaching were definitely an ingenious way of putting a learning tool together.
The photos help to give a good feel for various aspects of a criminal investigation. Obviously they're going to be a little graphic since this is a book on murder, but they're never too graphic. (In other words there's some blood, but no close-ups of guts hanging out. There's a corpse's breast, but no genitalia. It's enough to be helpful without being sensationalistic.)
The case studies are enlightening. Because the main text rarely goes into much depth and detail, the case studies provide necessary examples that help to bring home the reality of the concepts being discussed. Thanks to the 2002 publication, there are recent cases included.
Once in a while the author includes information specifically addressing police and forensic issues in the context of mystery-writing, which is particularly helpful. I just wish there was more of this in the book.
I do feel that some complex issues were made to seem much simpler than they are. The difficulty, of course, when writing a broad overview book such as this, is in deciding when it's time to go into more detail and when it isn't. I feel that there were definitely times when Edwards erred on the side of too little detail. Edwards also left out little bits of explanation here and there, leaving me confused or lacking the details that would be truly useful when writing. There are a couple of stories or summaries where I can tell that the story probably made perfect sense before a crucial sentence or phrase got cut. There are some unclear and confusing wordings, and sometimes Edwards uses examples instead of explaining a general rule, rather than in addition to, which is not entirely helpful.
Overall I liked and enjoyed this book. I would have preferred it to have a larger word-count and include more information, possibly by leaving out a few of the ubiquitous photos, but certainly I learned a lot. It probably isn't a book for the in-depth mystery writer, but it is a book for those writers who occasionally put details of investigations into their stories and want to be authentic. At least the author did include a further reading list, so you'll know where to look to find more information.