Every Contact Leaves a Trace - book review

Posted On: Wednesday - May 12th 2021 6:50PM MST
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As is the usual case for me nowadays, I got this book due to a mention in the Unz Review comments somewhere. Every Contact Leaves a Trace is a 15 y/o book now, by one Connie Fletcher. Not much of the book was really written by Mrs.(?)* Fletcher though. She let the subjects of her book write most of the content (the amazon way), as she edited all the quotes and stories into certain sections.

Connie Fletcher is into cop stuff, and this is one of 3 or 4 books on the subject of their work lives that she's written. Every Contact Leaves a Trace is about modern (at least in 2006) detective work and all the specialty fields that may be utilized in the more difficult forensic cases. You'd know about half of these fields if you do some thinking about it, but there are ones I never would have thought of. There are experts in blood splatter dynamics, tires, clothing, and the entomology of bugs that live in the body after death, for example.

There's nothing wrong with the author's not having written that much of the actual book. Her method of letting the detectives and various scientific/technician types do the explaining and story-telling works pretty well. All in all she has 80 contributors. Their biographies are in the back, though she does not connect the bios. with the anecdotes for anonymity. The 9 chapters are mostly organized along the various phases of the investigations, lab work, courtroom time, etc.

Some of the scenes described are pretty gruesome and/or horrible, though not all of the crimes in the book are necessarily murders. The contributors do a pretty good job, most with their own senses of humor. Goodreads reminded me of this same quote that I had already intended to put in, from Chapter 2 on inside crime scenes
“We get a lot of calls where the person is murdered at home, but is not found for a period of time. And so the animals have already started to take the body apart because they haven't been fed in that period. So your evidence is being chewed up by the family pet.

I tell you - Dogs are more loyal than cats. Cats will wait only a certain period of time and they'll start chewing on you. Dogs will wait a day or two before they just can't take the starving anymore. So, keep that in mind when choosing a pet.

You know how a cat just stares at you, maybe at the top of the TV, from across the room? That's because they're watching to see if you're gonna stop breathing.”
Haha, I take offense at that one as a cat lover. He's just staring at me because he loves me, I'm sure ...

One of the first things the author discusses is the words out of so many detectives and crime scene experts she has interviewed relating real life to CSI. Where have I heard something like that before? Oh, yeah, Peak Stupidity noted that real life is not like the Jason Bourne movies that show the experts doing everything just right with all the tools that could possibly be on hand.** Author Connie Fletcher picked out her anecdotes and discussions from probably many more, and she includes many with the comparisons of this real life analysis to the TV show. The excerpts do include talk about the TV crime shows cluing people in on what crime analysts CAN do, but people assume the best case scenarios. I would think that would make people too optimistic (as relatives of victims) or too paranoid (as criminals). Regarding the latter, I guess criminals are usually too stupid or impulsive to be paranoid though, except after the fact.

Discussion in Chapter 7 on the modern crime labs tells us that the situations in CSI scenes are unrealistic as the resources are spread much more thin in real life. Wait times for analysis can be in months rather than right after the commercial break.

In the many, many stories in this book, besides a few high profile cases, as in the Green River Killer south of Seattle, names and other specifics are not given but there are some damn interesting cases. Race of the victims, suspects and proven perpetrators is not given (but, of course!), though for some of the crimes, well, it's just pretty obvious.

The real meat of this book is in the chapters on "Trace Evidence" (4) and DNA (6). That's where you learn what all can be used to try to solve crimes that don't just solve themselves by sheer stupidity of the criminals or confessions. The title "Every Contact Leaves a Trace" comes from this material, in which those amazing very specific technical fields of knowledge are used, often in association with each other to solve the tough cases. The DNA chapter says that this science is a game changer in lots of ways for the whole field of crime analysis, and this is from 15 years back.

This is an entertaining book that can be read in a day or less. I will add this, at the risk of sounding like an agitator or worse: I don't sympathize with any of the criminals in the stories, though I'm sure more sympathetic ones could have been included. However, the way things are going in this country, we may find ourselves under Police State rule sooner than we may have imagined a few years ago. It'd perhaps be helpful to read this book for the information on what kind of tracing can be done on us. Something to consider is that the detectives and others in the book are working to not just solve a crime but get enough evidence to convict someone in a court of law. Big-Gov's standard for persecution is a lot lower. Anyway, this is almost a moot point though unless we take into account our pieces of iEspionage, something that could not be included in this book from 2006.

* Understandably, since she is involved with cops and the investigations by cops, the author doesn't leave much of a biography on the web. She was a Professor of Journalism at Loyola in Chicago and is 74 years old. She is the sister of a cop, but I don't know if she's married. We still use the old-fashioned Miss/Mrs. here, hence the necessary footnote.

** See Apprehending Jason Bourne, we're the government and we're all on it, Part 2, and Part 3.

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