Sometimes my reading comes in clusters. The cluster here is leftover audiobooks and books around the house before I permanently delete them or donate them! Quarantine house cleaning!!
The Butterfly Girl 2/5 Stars –
This is the second of the Naomi Cottle series. Naomi is a former abducted child with the uncanny ability to find missing, lost, and abducted children. In the previous book she reconnected with a former friend from childhood and formed a relationship with him. In this book, that partnership is at odds as Naomi looks to find her still, long lost younger sister, while taking on a new case involving child trafficking, as she looks for and connects with a teenage who is/had been trafficked. Like the previous novel, this one is also hard to take because of the grimness of the subject matter, the obtuseness of the story and writing, and the kind of overtly fast-paced, but not necessarily thrilling or exciting structure. The writing is pretty good though, and that does carry it a long way, and in fact might be the only thing that does carry it.
Forensics 4/5 Stars –
This is a nonfiction exploration of the history, development, growth, and application of multiple kinds of forensics expertise, primarily in UK criminal courts, but extending beyond at times. The book catalogs different topics like burns, fingerprints, blood splatter, facial reconstruction, digital and financial forensics, DNA, and bugs. All told the history and research is compelling and seems completely sound.
It gets murky based on where you find yourself on the question of law and order and the application of these different kinds of investigative techniques. The book hedges, successfully, when it argues that the proper application of these techniques as an informed expert opinion on analysis, and not as infallible factual analysis. What this means is that when investigative techniques and their advocates recognize that the role of the analysis is to provide expert opinion, that’s good. Each can be a part of a case, but ultimately, there’s disagreement and ambiguity in lots of cases.
Where the book fails is that it’s firmly in the camp of: these are tools to solve crimes. And well, that might well be true, but there’s a long history of abuse, absolute fabrication, lying, and police misconduct that this book doesn’t seem to recognize as real or is explained away, or dismissed as “mistakes were made, but things have gotten better”.
I have a complicated feeling about criminal justice that comes down to: the system sets the rules to be effective and efficient. And in one of the cases I was a juror, I was seriously put off by the ways in which the criminal justice system, and especially prosecutors and police insists upon themselves. In one moment, I kept getting told how impressive the resume of a police officer was, but I couldn’t escape the fact that this was power justifying itself. And so when the criminal justice systems finds itself finally having a somewhat tough time because evidence can be pushed back on, I just don’t have sympathy for it. Oh well.
Passenger to Frankfort 2/5 Stars –
A pretty empty later novel by Agatha Christie. I know that she began having health problems in the 1970s and would die not too much longer after this novel was written. That said, one from 3 or so years earlier is among my favorites of hers. This one feels decidedly anemic, overly complicated and far-fetched, and really doesn’t even feel like one of her novels. The one thing I do like about it, and this remains true about any of the later Agatha Christie novels is her familiar writing and take but applied to an increasingly contemporary world. It’s crazy to me too to think about what airports used to be like, where passports really didn’t have pictures and you could basically exchange identities. It’s sort of the beginning of the end of these kinds of stories at least in settings.