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Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals  By  cover art

Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals

By: Elizabeth A. Murray,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Elizabeth A. Murray
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Publisher's Summary

Modern history is filled with terrible crimes, baffling hoaxes, and seedy scandals. The infamous Jack the Ripper slayings. The alleged survival of Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of the murdered Tsar. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong's public fall from grace. The Chicago Tylenol poisonings and the copycat crimes that followed.

Step into the world of forensic science and study the most fascinating crimes and mysteries from the last two centuries in the 24 lectures of Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals. Professor Murray, a forensic anthropologist with nearly 30 years of experience in the field, has crafted lectures that are a remarkable blend of storytelling and science - a whirlwind tour that takes you from the gas-lit streets of Victorian London to small-town America. As you journey around the world and into the past, you'll re-examine modern history's great crimes and scandals using the tools and insights of forensic science. In doing so, you'll learn how cutting-edge advancements in science and technology are applied to investigations and how to evaluate evidence and think like a forensic scientist.

Using her extensive background in the field and her skill at weaving riveting stories, Professor Murray invites you peer over the shoulders of investigators as they examine some of the most famous crimes in history, as well as cases that shed light on what happens when the justice system goes awry. Whether they're controversial or by-the-book, solved or unsolved, hot or cold, these cases are an opportunity to gain deeper insight into the historic and cutting-edge methods and tools forensic scientists use on the job. Having participated in hundreds of investigations in America and abroad, Professor Murray intersperses these historical examinations with some of her own, equally intriguing, personal experiences.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2014 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2014 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals

Average Customer Ratings
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    3 out of 5 stars

History of tabloid crimes - very little science

From the title and summary I garnered the impression that this was going to be a college type course covering famous crimes and their solving from a forensic SCIENCE view point. In practicality, it is an almost tabloid-like recounting of historical events with a surprising amount of unproven conjecture and conspiracy (in fairness labeled as such) and very little explanation as to how the field of forensic science actually worked and developed. The professor does an acceptable job at story telling, but don't expect to learn anything more about the workings of forensic science than what you would from an average article about the crimes in question. Had I spent college tuition type dollars on this course, I would have been terribly disappointed and would wonder what it had to do with any degree. However, in this format it was passable while exercising, doing yard work etc.

87 people found this helpful

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Different from many of The Great Courses

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Kudos to Audible for placing this series under the "True Crime" category. That's an unusual place to put one of The Great Courses, but it applies perfectly to this series, which plays out like a true crime detective show.

Don't get me wrong. I love The Great Courses. I'm addicted to The Great Courses. It's just that the buyer should understand that this series is more history than science. Oh, the science is there, but you're learning more about the history of how and when it was developed -- and how that science did (or didn't) play a role in landmark cases -- than you are in the minutia of how the science works.

Any additional comments?

Professor Murray has a folksy style that I found engaging. She has a dry wit, and I suppose that's a requirement given the work that she does. If the idea of hearing about decaying bodies, sexual mutilation, or other grizzly crimes on your daily commute sounds too disgusting, you might want to try a different title.

If this type of history sounds good but you'd prefer something that focused less on murder, then I highly recommend Doctors: The History of Medicine Told Through Biography, also by The Great Courses. Brilliant.

74 people found this helpful

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REHASH OF EXISTING TV FORENSIC SHOWS

I thought this book would be about the little known crimes in forensic history, combined with the added insight of an educator. Instead these are the same old stories that have been "done to death" (pun intended) in a century of written material and decades of shows like "Forensic Files" and "Unsolved Mysteries". It starts out with the most chewed on crime of all - Jack The Ripper. WHO CARES ANYMORE!? Even if investigators found a viable suspect, he or she died a long time ago, thereby avoiding earthly justice.

There are so many other crimes that could have benefited from a in-depth analysis by university professor. Instead she chose criminal events in which she could have done her research and due diligence with her feet up on the sofa, remote control in hand. No need to spend time in now-deserted library stacks when a "Forensic Files' marathon on Netflix or HuluPlus will "get 'er done". This method of classroom teaching is perfect to keep the attention of bored college students, only attending class to receive a barely passing grade. But any real true crime buff will not be satisfied after listening to hours and hours of crimes that we've already seen on television in 4 or 5 different depictions and reenactments. Same old stuff: Black Dahlia, The Brothers Melendez, Anastasia Romanov, the Tylenol poisonings, dirty cops, falsified evidence, police brutality, witness intimidation, coerced confessions, inaccurate eyewitness testimony, shoddy lab work, Russian double agents, etc., etc., etc. BLEH!

Professor Murray has a pleasant speaking voice but the production of the audiobook is not up to par - her frequent stumbles and stutters are not edited out. In the synopsis, we are promised a "look over the shoulder" of on site investigators. Yet we are given no more than we have all learned by watching "Court TV". Aren't we all now as proficient in pathology and forensics as Drs. Michael Baden, Henry Lee, Cyril Wecht, etc.? Nothing new here - PASS on it!

37 people found this helpful

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Overall, quite excellent and thorough presentation

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, especially if the friend enjoyed reading murder mysteries or true crime books. The information in the lectures is extensive.

What other book might you compare Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals to and why?

The Great Courses' forensic lectures are based on real life events. Two fictional authors that come to mind that use forensics in their storylines are Patricia Cornwall's Kay Scarpetta series and Kathy Reichs' Temperence Brennan stories. There are, of course, many excellent text books and other general non-fiction books on forensics that are highly informative.

What about Professor Elizabeth A. Murray’s performance did you like?

She fumbles here and there, which could have been corrected with overdubbing. But generally, her voice is pleasant and flows at a good pace. She clearly enjoys her subject matter and passing along her knowledge. Occasionally there might be TMI on a lecture subject, however, overall the various layers of discovery of the various disciplines is quite interesting.

Any additional comments?

All of the Great Courses are a terrific value when purchased through Audible.com. They are of high quality and have great topical focus. You just have to find the ones that interest you among a myriad of subject matter. If you were to price these on The Great Courses website, you would find the pricing to be prohibitive.

23 people found this helpful

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Superficial crime stories.

Nothing particularly scientific or technical here. Mostly a retelling of crime stories like Oj, Menendez bothers etc. mildly interesting but can't say I learned much.

21 people found this helpful

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You'll never want to kill again

This is worthwhile read on forensic anthropology. Fast moving and free of jargon. This book is well worth the time for anyone interested in police science.

14 people found this helpful

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Lots of stories; not a lot of science or technique

I expected more details on forensic science and technology. The story telling made this more of a pass-the-time course than really educational.

11 people found this helpful

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Not satisfying

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Elizabeth A. Murray?

I usually love the Great Courses, but this one fell flat. I didn't really learn anything about forensic history (which seems for this professor to just be a re-telling of sensational cases). I was hoping to learn more about the evolution of the investigator role over time -- but that didn't happen. The lecturer must be in some CrimJ program because her language was imprecise and over-extended for an academic... repeatedly uses the term "bad guy" instead of more professional, less accusatory, language. Also, she name-drops a lot.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Probably. I've purchased several of their courses from both their site and through Audible, so perhaps this was just a dud. The only aspect that bothers me is that this is probably one of the most up-to-date lectures... perhaps the quality of GCs are slipping.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

She has a southern Ohio accent that becomes more folksy as the course progresses. She also mis-pronounces words a lot... normal, I guess, since she's not a performer, rather a lecturer, but somewhat distracting.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Blah...

10 people found this helpful

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was expecting more details and less history

nothing new . old cases that don't give you real idea about forensic work now days or how a forensic expert approaches a case . in other words only really vague general concepts are given but no appropriate methodology .
the presentor lacks charisma . trying to show excitement in the wrong situations .

9 people found this helpful

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Was hoping for more science, less "tru-crime!"

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Elizabeth A. Murray?

I'd probably try another Great Courses book, however I'd pay close attention to the reviews.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Something non-fiction. And non-tabloid.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

She's not a professional voice performer, she's a lecturer. She stumbled and stuttered a number of times. I've gotten used to audio book performances where these are edited out. It was a bit distracting.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointed that it was more a retelling/rehashing of the history of tabloid-esque crimes (Jack the Ripper, the Menendez brothers, etc.), as opposed to a history of the science of forensics and how they helped solve cases.

Any additional comments?

A much better choice in the history of forensics would be "The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York", tho that is forensic chemistry-heavy. It's a very enjoyable listen.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Terence
  • 10-25-19

Orwellian rewrite of history.

Lecture 22. The Red Army Faction, a far left terrorist group that grew from the German far left terrorist Baader Meinhof gang, could never be mistaken for Neo Nazis. Yet Elizabeth A. Murray claims one of the demands of the Black September terrorists that committed the Munich Olympic massacre was to free captured Neo Nazis Andreas Baader & Ulrike Meinhof!
Later on Murray again goes on to claim that Neo Nazis of the Red Army Faction were subjects of the demands of the Muslim terrorists, her first error is clearly not a mistake.
One can only guess at the reasons why a lecturer should try to pass the blame for such an attrocitie as the Munich Olympic massacre away from the Black September group & the far left terrorist Red Army Faction, one must also be aware that anti semitism is not the preserve of the right wing, The UK's Labour Party is a shining example of that.
Up until Lecture 22 I was quite enjoying the book, now I wonder what other historical facts in the book may have been changed to suit the authors agenda!
I guess it just goes to show that even lectures on forensic examination must be subject to forensic examination!

6 people found this helpful

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  • Lesley S.
  • 01-22-15

Excellent

Where does Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This my first Great Courses audiobook and I'm impressed. I like the lecture room feel to it.

What did you like best about this story?

I'm a true crime buff and I was worried this would be covering old ground but there were many cases I had never heard of and even those that were well known had a new angle.

What does Professor Elizabeth A. Murray bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

I loved her narration and she is clearly passionate about the subject. Yes, she does stumble occasionally but I find it endearing, it's just like being in a lecture room

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anne
  • 08-06-19

Forensic History

I found this a really fascinating listen. The lectures were very easy to understand, it was like being there although i found the sound somewhat flat in some of them. All in all i have due to this course downloaded several more of The Great Courses. I find them informative but not overly jargonised

2 people found this helpful

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  • HEATHER R.
  • 10-28-22

Interesting Stuff

Interesting subject matter although personally I would have preferred more British cases. The kidnapping of Muriel McKay would have been suitable for the Chapter on kidnappings. Colin Pitchfork & more about Dr Alex Jefferies when talking about DNA. And someone should tell her that Ibiza is pronounced Ibitha!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anna G
  • 03-24-20

Interesting history of true crime

This lecture series covers the development of forensic methods and their use in famous historic cases from Jack the Ripper to political assassinations. Very informative.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sarahabi
  • 02-07-15

Fascinating, very detailed excellent audiobook

This is an extremely interesting and comprehensive overview of forensics. For those interested in this area it covers all the major crime types and even ones that are typically missed in these types of books eg political crimes.
Very good value, excellently narrated

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rachael C.
  • 10-30-22

Very interesting

This book is so interesting. Stumbled across it by accident and downloaded it, but I'm so glad I did. A scientific page-turner, no prior experience necessary. I would listen to this book again without hesitation, but I'll see if there is another one similar first.

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  • Pete
  • 10-23-22

Wasn't too sure but very good.

Enlightening. But I feel the teacher avoided more home USA nonsense. JFK, MLK, Vietnam atrocities etc. Oklahoma bombing 3 people killed in Puerto Rico compared to El Salvador, Grenada. etc
But very worth a listen. Take care.

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  • william beardon
  • 10-20-22

surprised how good this was

I've always loved true crime books but this extremely well thought out and narrated journey into true crimes and evidence was something I found very interesting im sure most are pleasantly suprised

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-09-22

very thought provoking

I really enjoyed listening to Elizabeth. She has a great background knowledge and a very clear and concise approach to teaching this course.

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  • meredith mcarthur
  • 02-18-20

amazing

For anyone new to forensic investigation this is a fascinating introduction to a constantly evolving area of knowledge.
As much as I was appalled by the kind of low life criminals that come to the attention of forensic scientists, there was something so heartwarming in this discussion re the examination of how science is employed to solve crimes that would otherwise go unsolved. I loved the search for justice that goes into this pursuit, and the positive outcome being that for each low life who destroys other people's lives and liberty, there are a hundred others who are working to defeat such ghastliness. There is undoubtedly a human element of intuition and dedication that comes into this field as well, although we are given examples of where such input can cause the search for truth and justice to go awry.
Elizabeth Murray has a lovely voice, and is obviously passionate about her subject. She employs many fascinating anecdotes to illustrate the depth and breadth of forensic knowledge and its application.
Some of these stories come from her own direct involvement involvement is cases. I found audiobook to be well worth the investment, and plan to review it again at some stage.

1 person found this helpful

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  • lmc91
  • 11-01-22

Interesting and so well delivered

Unfortunately- I was not able to hear all of this as I found it too late and it was removed from my membership. However- the 75-80% I heard was such an interesting subject read by the lecturer so well, that I hope it becomes available again as part of my membership. If you are interested in true crime and or modern history -
I’d highly recommend it.

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  • SJ
  • 10-31-22

thorough & comprehensive

This was better than I expected it to be. it was quite long but it held my attention the whole time.

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  • Becky Beaney
  • 10-28-22

Excellent book/course

What an interesting listen! The variety of topics and cases covered is brilliant and the narration by the doctor is engaging and clear. Definitely recommend to anyone interested in forensic science, anthropology, or even just true crime.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-04-22

History Wikipedia Articles + TV CSI

Pretty much Wikipedia articles read to you. No detail added to the stories "Imagine if they had DNA analysis during the time of Jack the Ripper", "The technology didn't exist to detect gun powder residue at the time".

The narrator stumbles over words occasionally which is more of a production issue because they didn't go back and do another take.

If I paid for this course at University I would be wanting my money back.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Louise
  • 09-29-22

Interesting perspectives on known cases and issues

This series presents a lot of material which has been covered many times but does so with a focus on forensic analysis. It’s really interesting and adds new ideas and thinking. The narration isn’t great but not bad enough to detract from the experience.

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  • Dan
  • 09-24-22

blandness personified

what could have beenan interesting listen was made into an audible sleeping story with an incredibly boring monotone

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  • Jason
  • 09-18-18

Interesting!

This course will give great insight to the ways people have been caught but unfortunately also highlight the awful evils people can commit in this world. Not everyone gets caught but we’re getting better

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-09-17

Binged

Fascinating insight and loads of unique stories. I listened to the whole thing in one day, I just could not turn it off.
Some cases discussed are well known and nicely summarised along with things I had never heard about such as Human Rights Anthropology.
Absolutely loved it.

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  • Jon
  • 12-09-16

I certainly did enjoy it.

A very informative 'behind the scene' look at SO much relating to crime. These are great stories along with a fascinating look at historical events and inventions which assist crime fighting. The narration is very pleasant. I will listen again.