Case Files: 40 Murders & Mysteries Solved by Science


Savvy investigative work and scientific knowledge combine to answer perplexing questions...40 amazing stories of how scientists solve crimes, reveal identities, untangle evidence and discover the truth.


Honour Book, Silver Birch Non-fiction, 2013
Nominated, McNally Robinson Book of the Year for Young People, 2012
Nominated, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, 2013
Recommended, Best Books for Kids and Teens 2012, The Canadian Children's Book Centre


"Larry Verstraete combines his training as a science teacher with his talent for research. ...the fast-paced stories are so full of dramatic events and historical information that readers will be hard pressed not to eagerly read the book from start to finish!"
                                                                            Canadian Materials, Volume XVIII, Number 10
                                                                           To read the full review, visit Canadian Materials

"Case Files is an intriguing book...The high interest level of the case studies and stories, combined with the book's many features of non- fiction text (sidebars, lots of curious photographs, captions, glossary, index, etc.) are a winning combination."
                                                                                                      Canadian Teacher Magazine
                                                          To read the full review, visit Canadian Teacher Magazine 

"Case Files is a great book for any young person looking to spice up standard school curriculum in science and history, hoping to put a little scandal in a school project, or simply hoping for a good, compelling read."
                                                                                                   Quill & Quire, December 2011

"All kinds of science, from acoustics to zoology, are used in these interesting and thought-provoking cases, and each scientist uses different tools and methods."
                                            Best Books for Kids 2012, The Canadian Children's Book Centre



The flesh was gone: only bones remained. Who was this person
buried in such a careless and callous manner?

The ramshackle, three-storey house in Cardiff, Wales was under renovation when workmen, digging for a new sewer pipe, struck something strangely soft with their pickaxes. Buried under a garden wall was a roll of carpet tied up with an electrical cord. When the bundle was unwrapped, a human skeleton was revealed. The flesh was long gone, but a few scraps of clothing clung to the bones. A small skull was framed by a tangle of blond hair and, nearby, a pair of earrings.

Work on the house stopped. Police were called and by late afternoon the house at 29 Fitzhamon Embankment was converted into a crime scene. Tape was strung across doors. The yard was cordoned off. A large plastic tent was erected over the area and investigators scoured the yard for clues. It appeared as though someone had gone to a lot of trouble to hide the body and never intended for it to be found. Just when, why and how the crime had happened, though, was anyone's guess. But the most important question on everyone's mind was, Who was the person in the carpet?

An army of scientific investigators was called. Among them was forensic entomologist Dr. Zakaria Erzinclioglu of Cambridge University. Erzinclioglu was sent soil and carpet samples along with insect and plant material from the ditch. His job was to use his knowledge of insect biology to help solve the crime. Erzinclioglu found large numbers of empty pupal cases, a sign that scuttle flies had once occupied the body's soft tissues. The flies had laid eggs, which later hatched to produce larvae. Still later, the larvae had pupated and entered a cocoon-like stage before shedding their protective casings and transforming into adults. Erzinclioglu also found wood lice that had been attracted to fungus growing on the bones. By determining their stages of growth and by comparing them to the growth of insects found in the surrounding soil, Erzinclioglu was able to estimate the time of death. The victim had died at least five years before.

Erzinclioglu's findings were confirmed when a sweatshirt found with the body was checked against dates from the manufacturer's records. The death had likely occured between 1980 and 1984. With this information, detectives could narrow down the list of possible identitites to people who had gone missing in this period of time.....


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