Book Review – The Scent of Fear by Tom Adair

A CSIG Review by J. S. Rogers

The Scent Of Fear

“The Scent of Fear is the first novel in a trilogy about the pursuit, capture, and prosecution of a serial sniper at the center of a multi-generational conspiracy to forever change the seat of power in the United States.”

– Tom Adair

As one of my blog’s stated purposes, I want the truth of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI)  known; not that which popular media pushes. As a matter of habit, I keep an eye out for new CSI type novels. I stumbled across The Scent of Fear by retired Crime Scene Investigator Tom Adair. Being a CSI guy, I found myself drawn to this book mainly because another CSI guy wrote it.  When I say a CSI guy (CSIG), I mean someone who has frequently had his boots on the ground behind the barrier tape.

There is a vast array of books using CSI as the main background. Some are decent and some very are far from reality.  Many  based on knowledge gained from interviews with CSIG’s, or minimal experience in the field or lab. But they are not actually written by a CSIG.

I admit starting to read The Scent of Fear with some intrepidity.  I did not want to be disappointed as I had after reading other CSI type novels. However, in this case, I found myself fairly satisfied as I closed the last page.

I am basing this review on my professional and personal experience in five categories.

  1. The realism of the CSI aspects of the story.
  2. The realism/believability of characters and how they react to plot devices.
  3. The realism/believability of the interaction between characters.
  4. The emotions the characters invoke in the reader.
  5. The overall enjoyment I had reading the story.

Adair is spot on in the crime scene aspects of the story.  His crime scenes are well plotted and rational within the story. His descriptions of the equipment and techniques used are what I would expect from a seasoned CSIG, meaning accurate.

The characters are multidimensional and realistic. They react and interact with the other characters and plot devices well.  I have worked with these people (or at least reasonable facsimiles of them) at many crime scenes.

I found myself drawn in quickly to the characters, especially Sarah Richards and Doc.  I felt empathy as they dealt with friend and foe. I enjoyed the character interaction throughout the story and found myself wanting more when the last page turned.  You can check Sarah out at:  www.facebook.com/pages/CSI-Sarah-Richards/295465267169586.

My overall enjoyment of the novel prevented the review from being five-star. The graphic descriptions and quantity of crude language exceeded my personal quota.  I would definitely give this novel a NC-17 rating.  I am not saying their use in the story is not realistic, because it is.  I have seen and heard similar, or worse, at crime scenes I have worked.  I just don’t enjoy so much of it in in my personal entertainment.

In summary, Tom Adair has crafted a fine CSI story in The Scent of Fear (for adult readers). It is full of strong characters, adventure, action, romance, and of course factual CSI. Regardless of the negative aspect I mentioned above, I look forward to the reading rest of the trilogy.

I give The Scent of Fear a CSIG rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

 

A CSI Guy Book Review: God’s Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace

God's Crime Scene

It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. – Luke 21:13 (NASB)

Occasionally I will read a book that moves me to write a post from a Crime Scene Investigator’s point of view, a CSI guy book review. I just finished reading one of those books.

Even in my first few days of Crime Scene Investigation training I was taught to prepare for court testimony. The jury is a CSI’s audience. Everything done in a crime scene investigation is ultimately for their benefit. I ingrain this concept into every trainee I have.

The first time I took the stand in front of a jury was as a witness for the prosecution in a burglary case. I had developed and collected fingerprints at the scene. I later matched those prints to a suspect, the defendant.

The judge, jury, and defense scrutinized me. I was nervous. How is it said—as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs?

After 25 years in the field and many, many, many appearances in court I am not so nervous. Primarily because training and experience give me certainty that what I testify is true and accurate. I also know what kinds of tactics will likely be used against me in cross examination. I am ready.

 In his book Cold Case Christianity, Los Angeles PD detective J. Warner Wallace uses cold-case skills to investigate the claims of Biblical Gospels. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and following the meticulous investigation. I found his writing detailed, understandable, and well researched.

Then I heard in his newest book God’s Crime Scene, J. Warner Wallace continues to use cold-case skills. This time investigating Divine design in our universe. I did not hesitate to pre-order it.

When I received and read it I found no disappointment. Granted, Wallace covers some intellectually deep areas of study (e.g. the origin of life, signs of design, consciousness, free will, and the existence of evil). He uses a precise “inside or outside the room” technique.

However he augments his academic-level thinking, observations, and conclusions with understandable info-graphs and anecdotes from some of his former cold-case investigations. A good example is his use of a murder weapon, a garrote, to explain irreducible complexity and intent of design.

By using the statements of experts (virtual witnesses) who both oppose and support his conclusions he proves-up an unbiased investigation. He also does not take an offensive (attack-dog), tone is his presentation. Juries are favorable to both these characteristics.

As a CSI, I must clearly and convincingly explain to a jury:

  • the techniques and equipment I use at a crime scene investigation
  • the reasons I use them
  • the results of  their use
  • the conclusions I make based on those results

Testimony is given to the jury in the face of a judge, a prosecutor, and a defense attorney. The judge’s responsibility is to ensure that the laws are fairly upheld. The prosecutor presents the case and evidence against the defendant. The defense presents the opposing view of the case and evidence for the defendant.

In my experience defense attorneys usually cross examine the prosecutor’s witnesses with intent to:

  • discredit them, their training, and/or their expertise
  • discredit the validity of the evidence or its analysis

In the end each court case is decided by the conclusions of judge or jury. What they think of the witness and the veracity of evidence presented in testimony make their decision for, or against, possible.

In our culture there are many who will attack the veracity of scripture and belief in a Creator God. I have noted they take very much the same approach that defense attorneys do.

After reading J. Warner Wallace’s newest book I can honestly say he makes a very good case for Divine design. He is obviously aware of the points I made above and executes them well. If I was in a jury box listening to his testimony I would be hard pressed to not decide in his favor.

In Luke 21, Jesus said that His followers would face persecution and trial for their beliefs. He proclaimed this would lead to a chance to witness and give testimony for Him.

This persecution has been consistent since Christ walked in Jerusalem. It is certainly prevalent in our culture today. But do not be nervous. Pray for wisdom, read scripture, read books like Cold Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene. By doing so you can be certain in what, and why, you believe and be ready to testify on His behalf.

I fully recommend this book and give it 4 out of 5 CSIG stars. It would have been 5 out of 5 but I am envious that I did not write it.

Book Review – Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, And More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid

Forensics-Bugs

Val McDermid is a multi-award winning author Scottish crime writer.  Recently I was able to read a copy of her newest book Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, And More Tell Us About Crime.

Her non-fiction book Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime is informational. I do enjoy her mystery writing and have only good to say about it. She certainly deserves the awards she has won. However, this book is a bit on the dry side. I understand.

After teaching and training Crime Scene Investigators and Police Officers for 20 + years I know it can be as dry as Danielle Van Dam’s corpse to teach. You absolutely must inject life into the study of crime and death investigation.

I wish she had instilled more of her personal encounters (or even some very short fiction) into the non-fiction to give the factual some life. She is an exceptional writer and more than capable. It would make a much more entertaining (while educational) read. The section on fire scene investigation seemed to have some life to it. I do not know perhaps she connected personally to the fire investigator.

I would recommend this book to someone wanting interesting facts and data. However, as an enjoyable read…it is just too dry. It reads too much like a good university report on the history of forensics.