Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

The dead talk. To the right listener, they tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died – and who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help justice to be done using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene or the faintest of human traces.

Forensics draws on interviews with top-level professionals, ground-breaking research and Val McDermid’s own experience to lay bare the secrets of this fascinating science. And, along the way, she wonders at how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine time of death, how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist uncovered the victims of a genocide.

In her novels, McDermid has been solving complex crimes and confronting unimaginable evil for years. Now, she’s looking at the people who do it for real. It’s a journey that will take her to war zones, fire scenes and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.

An exhibition of ‘Forensics: The anatomy of crime’ runs from 26 February to 21 June 2015 at Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE. A wide programme of events will accompany the exhibition, Val McDermid’s book of the same name is available (published by Wellcome Collection and Profile Books, £20 hardback and eBook).


“McDermid has the ruthless psychological scalpel that forms part of the equipment of all good novelists, whatever their genre. And, fortunately for us, she knows just how to use it.” – Guardian

“The sheer brio of McDermid’s writing produces that increasingly rare thing, a genuine page-turner that doesn’t insult its readers’ intelligence.” – Independent

“To write one brilliant book is hard. To write 25 is a miracle. That is what Val McDermid has achieved over the course of her career and it’s why she is a much-loved legend in the literary world.”- Sunday Express

“McDermid provides a grimly absorbing account of crime and its detection.” – The Observer

“A satisfying insider’s excursion into the scientific realities behind CSI-style pop culture.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…gruesomely fascinating book. Fans of McDermid’s fiction will gain a greater understanding of where her ideas come from.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Val McDermid is one of the most skilled of crime writers and she has gone a step beyond killing by writing with crisp authority on the facts that lie behind gruesome events.” – Washington Post

“McDermid would make a good doctor, managing to be clinically precise but engaging at the same time . . . Drawing on interrogative skills learned from her first career as a journalist, the result is a highly readable, eye-opening account of the way in which criminals have slowly had their wings clipped and their getaways thwarted over the past hundred and more years.” – The Heraln (Scotland)

“Our fascination with crime has spawned libraries of books and years of TV programming. Val McDermid is a major player in the genre . . . She has now written a guide to criminal forensics that is every bit as compelling as the best of the fiction . . . She combines science with the macabre, from the Great Fire of London to some of the most sensational trials of recent times.” – The Irish Times

“McDermid turns out to be a remarkably intelligent and witty guide for a tour of such gruesome subjects as blood spatter, DNA analysis, toxicology exams and forensic entomology. …a riveting book that armchair sleuths and anyone interested in the inner workings of crime detection will want to read.” – BookPage