18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb

The story of the Gilded Age Chicago heiress who revolutionized forensic death investigation. As the mother of forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee is the reason why homicide detectives are a thing. She is responsible for the popularity of forensic science in television shows and pop culture. Long overlooked in the history books, this extremely detailed and thoroughly researched biography will at long last tell the story of the life and contributions of this pioneering woman.

I don’t read much non-fiction these days, but when the chance to read 18 Tiny Deaths came up, I jumped at the chance. Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of crime novels, and the opportunity to see how the forensic science at the heart of them came to be was one not to be missed.

It’s a fascinating story about a fascinating woman. Born into money in 1878, Frances Glessner Lee showed a keen interest in medicine and became a driving force behind the development of forensic science.

Her use of meticulous dioramas, the 18 tiny deaths of the title, as a training aid for police officers was revolutionary. Presented not so much as a ‘solve this puzzle’, but more an exercise in observation, the miniature models were exact replicas of crime scenes, down to the blood spatter on the walls.

If anything, I wish there had been a bit more about the detail behind these dioramas, the cases involved and what happened. But that’s a minor quibble! The story of Captain Lee’s life is astonishing, and Goldfarb’s account is well-written and comprehensive.

18 Tiny Deaths is as meticulously researched and presented as Captain Lee’s dioramas. Fascinating to read, this is one for any true crime buff.

Highly recommended.

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb is published by Octopus and is out now.

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Octopus Publishing for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and for the copy of the book for review.

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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