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American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI

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The story of the birth of criminal investigation in the twentieth century. Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities--beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners, and hundreds upon hundreds of books--sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least two thousand cases in his forty-year career. Known as the "American Sherlock Holmes," Edward Oscar Heinrich wa The story of the birth of criminal investigation in the twentieth century. Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities--beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners, and hundreds upon hundreds of books--sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least two thousand cases in his forty-year career. Known as the "American Sherlock Holmes," Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of America's greatest--and first--forensic scientists, with an uncanny knack for finding clues, establishing evidence, and deducing answers with a skill that seemed almost supernatural. Heinrich was one of the nation's first expert witnesses, working in a time when the turmoil of Prohibition led to sensationalized crime reporting and only a small, systematic study of evidence. However with his brilliance, and commanding presence in both the courtroom and at crime scenes, Heinrich spearheaded the invention of a myriad of new forensic tools that police still use today, including blood spatter analysis, ballistics, lie-detector tests, and the use of fingerprints as courtroom evidence. His work, though not without its serious--some would say fatal--flaws, changed the course of American criminal investigation. Based on years of research and thousands of never-before-published primary source materials, American Sherlock captures the life of the man who pioneered the science our legal system now relies upon--as well as the limits of those techniques and the very human experts who wield them.


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The story of the birth of criminal investigation in the twentieth century. Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities--beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners, and hundreds upon hundreds of books--sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least two thousand cases in his forty-year career. Known as the "American Sherlock Holmes," Edward Oscar Heinrich wa The story of the birth of criminal investigation in the twentieth century. Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities--beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners, and hundreds upon hundreds of books--sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least two thousand cases in his forty-year career. Known as the "American Sherlock Holmes," Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of America's greatest--and first--forensic scientists, with an uncanny knack for finding clues, establishing evidence, and deducing answers with a skill that seemed almost supernatural. Heinrich was one of the nation's first expert witnesses, working in a time when the turmoil of Prohibition led to sensationalized crime reporting and only a small, systematic study of evidence. However with his brilliance, and commanding presence in both the courtroom and at crime scenes, Heinrich spearheaded the invention of a myriad of new forensic tools that police still use today, including blood spatter analysis, ballistics, lie-detector tests, and the use of fingerprints as courtroom evidence. His work, though not without its serious--some would say fatal--flaws, changed the course of American criminal investigation. Based on years of research and thousands of never-before-published primary source materials, American Sherlock captures the life of the man who pioneered the science our legal system now relies upon--as well as the limits of those techniques and the very human experts who wield them.

30 review for American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    2.5 i had a very difficult time deciding how I felt about this book. It was a very uneven, mixed read, or so I felt. What I liked: Oscar Heinrich, his professional accomplishments are admirable. The first to use scientific investigations for solving a crime. The first to use blood spatter analysis and to use UV light to determine blood. He testified in many criminal cases. In some he was successful but not all, which irked him beyond belief. Each case started with a quote from one of Sherlock Holme 2.5 i had a very difficult time deciding how I felt about this book. It was a very uneven, mixed read, or so I felt. What I liked: Oscar Heinrich, his professional accomplishments are admirable. The first to use scientific investigations for solving a crime. The first to use blood spatter analysis and to use UV light to determine blood. He testified in many criminal cases. In some he was successful but not all, which irked him beyond belief. Each case started with a quote from one of Sherlock Holmes fictitious cases. The Fatty Arbuckle case. Since I had previously heard about this case, I found the details interesting. What I didn't: His personal life was not as interesting as his professional.. Sometimes the cases were too detailed and we're a slot to get through. Too much repetition, if I had to hear if his money problems or his dislike of what he called phony experts or his lack of recognition, or how stressed he was juggling everything he had to juggle. Well let's just say, I ended up skimming more than I wanted. Anyway, there you have it. There are fascinating parts and others may have more patience than I. ARC from Edelweiss

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lori Lamothe

    This is an engrossing read that chronicles the life of Edward Oscar Heinrich, a brilliant man who pioneered many techniques that shaped American forensics. Nicknamed the “American Sherlock” during his time, Heinrich has fallen into obscurity—I was shocked to find he doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry. Not only did Heinrich solve more than 2,000 cases, including some of the most famous crimes of his era, but he also discovered many scientific techniques that are still in use today. Kudos to Kate This is an engrossing read that chronicles the life of Edward Oscar Heinrich, a brilliant man who pioneered many techniques that shaped American forensics. Nicknamed the “American Sherlock” during his time, Heinrich has fallen into obscurity—I was shocked to find he doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry. Not only did Heinrich solve more than 2,000 cases, including some of the most famous crimes of his era, but he also discovered many scientific techniques that are still in use today. Kudos to Kate Winkler Dawson for bringing him into the public eye again. Though I feared the book would be dry, Winkler Dawson's writing style is fast-paced and engaging. Each chapter begins with an Arthur Conan Doyle quote and focuses on a specific case, most often one that illustrates a particular technique Heinrich developed. Winkler Dawson bases her book on a vast collection of documents and other material stored at UC Berkeley, where Heinrich taught criminology courses for decades. Like Holmes, Heinrich's curiosity and expertise on matters related to all facets of criminology was vast. He worked obsessively, often going 24 hours without sleep and traveling the country to work on case after case. Not surprisingly, Heinrich recorded everything (and I mean everything) and often found clues that the police had overlooked. He wasn't infallible: some of his techniques, like handwriting analysis, are no longer considered reliable, but he was far ahead of his time. He was one of the first criminologists to successfully profile suspects, to use insects to establish time of death and to study microscopic soil fragments in order to pinpoint the scene of a crime. Though Heinrich did marry and father two boys, he turned the first floor of his home into a sprawling crime lab where he tested poisons, photographed bullet slugs, analyzed fingerprints, collected thousands of books and studied blood spatter patterns (even going so far as to cut himself and various volunteers). Like Holmes, Heinrich also had his Watson—a librarian named John Boynton Kaiser. The two friends didn't actually work together but they corresponded for most of their lives, discussing books, cases Heinrich was working on and personal struggles. Unlike some of Heinrich's rivals, Kaiser didn't seem to mind Heinrich's ego (which raises another key similarity with Holmes). I also found it interesting – and more than a little ironic - that the one thing Heinrich couldn't do was to write detective fiction, despite his ardent desire to do so. If you're a fan of shows like Bones and CSI, you'll likely enjoy this book. My only complaint is that I wish it was a little more detailed. My electronic copy ended at 72 percent; the rest of the text was mostly acknowledgements and footnotes (not notes). With so much material available via the Berkeley archives, I would have liked more information about some of the other cases Heinrich worked on, as well as more specifics about his development of the techniques mentioned above. An additional drawback mentioned by another reviewer is the lack of pictures and illustrations. My hope is that Winkler Dawson and others will write more about Heinrich in the future. And American Sherlock is a riveting place to start. Much thanks to Penguin Group and NetGalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Edward Oscar Heinrich, nicknamed American Sherlock, was a pioneer of many crime scene investigation techniques, some are still used today in modernized forms. Heinrich was involved in investigating around 2,000 total cases around the country, but primarily on the west coast. The book covers selected cases that Heinrich was hired (at this point in time forensic investigators were private contractors) to investigate, often for the prosecution, but at times for the defense. Some of these cases are f Edward Oscar Heinrich, nicknamed American Sherlock, was a pioneer of many crime scene investigation techniques, some are still used today in modernized forms. Heinrich was involved in investigating around 2,000 total cases around the country, but primarily on the west coast. The book covers selected cases that Heinrich was hired (at this point in time forensic investigators were private contractors) to investigate, often for the prosecution, but at times for the defense. Some of these cases are fairly well known, such as the "Fatty" Arbuckle case and the methods he used to solve them. Often times these are methods he created or was the first in the States to use them. Heinrich developed many revolutionary methods for solving crimes including fingerprints, blood spatter, and comparative microscope (invented by someone else, but he was among the first to use it). He was also credited with techniques that are now considered junk science, like handwriting analysis. The book is written in a very engaging manner and it doesnt get too dry. I'm not necessarily a true crime junkie, but I found it to be fascinating to see how these techniques came to be when you compare them with how they're done now. Mixed in with these cases are stories of how Heinrich grew up, the stresses of his childhood and adult life, his family life, and the toll that forensic science investigation took on his personal life, physical and mental health. If you're interested in true crime and history, this is a good choice to read! My appreciation to G.P. Putnam's Sons, author Kate Winkler Dawson, and Edelweiss for gifting me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Outstanding individual and the life story and career determination is interesting. But the way this was told after about page 90 became a total slog drag. It's not sequential or a logical organization for continuity. It goes off on tangents and name drops, and then leaves cliff hangers it might answer 100 plus pages later. Very sloppy overall. What a intriguing person Oscar was. It's too bad the story was not less by case minutia skips & transfers to others' parsings and more about his developing Outstanding individual and the life story and career determination is interesting. But the way this was told after about page 90 became a total slog drag. It's not sequential or a logical organization for continuity. It goes off on tangents and name drops, and then leaves cliff hangers it might answer 100 plus pages later. Very sloppy overall. What a intriguing person Oscar was. It's too bad the story was not less by case minutia skips & transfers to others' parsings and more about his developing chronological practices for different degrees of his various inventions; particularly the plateaus of their developments. And much more about the failings too that just didn't work out. It has to be that numerous wrong roads were gone down? Also the time frames don't always connote to me. At least I know his name now, and I do understand the diligence and OCD exactness and patience that this kind of work requires. And that he used so much of his own resources and own security of funds to develop and innovate and discover. As most invention, if not all, it comes from desire for quest and repetition- within the sphere of private ideas. With patience that doesn't follow the lines of hierarchy support or governmental dictate or demand timing much at all. Too much pandering to the competition feuds etc. and not enough about the core forensics, IMHO. So it disappointed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Krystin Rachel

    Book Blog | Bookstagram Opening Case: How much did Fatty Arbuckle actually weigh? Main CSI: Gil Grissom maintains "old man crush" status. Plot Truthi-ness: Beefs and peas in a dessert trifle. You might think that you're getting a novel about "murder, forensics and the birth of American CSI," when you pick up this novel. That's exactly what I thought. And also exactly what they put in the fucking title. But why should titles ever tell you what you're going to be reading, I guess? What you're actually Book Blog | Bookstagram Opening Case: How much did Fatty Arbuckle actually weigh? Main CSI: Gil Grissom maintains "old man crush" status. Plot Truthi-ness: Beefs and peas in a dessert trifle. You might think that you're getting a novel about "murder, forensics and the birth of American CSI," when you pick up this novel. That's exactly what I thought. And also exactly what they put in the fucking title. But why should titles ever tell you what you're going to be reading, I guess? What you're actually getting here is a choppy, mishmash of relatively boring cases and life stories about Oscar Heinrich, the "American Sherlock." If I had known this was going to be about one man's life and not a historical rundown of the evolution of forensic sciences centred around different murder cases, I probably wouldn't have read it. But since I did, it's probably necessary to note that I have no issue with a true-life story about a remarkable human who deserves to be applauded. It's the execution of the telling of that life where it falls apart on this one. I think this book is best described as the trifle Rachel makes on Friends. It was almost good, but something got fudged up so no one really wanted to eat it. The events of this book aren't sequential, which isn't necessarily a problem except that there was so much space created between chapter drop-offs that any momentum to the pacing was killed and required a forensic expert to find out what the fuck happened. Someone call Gil Grissom. The reader is repeatedly given some ominous cliffhanger, but we don't come back to the resolution for that until 100-something pages later after multiple jumps between time and events. Then the wrap-up is less than adequate, almost as if the author forgot she had alluded to important information yet to be revealed. After the third or fourth time, you start to realize that the cliffhanger line is a bunch of bullshit meant to trick the reader into slogging through another hundred pages of out-of-order events, endless discussion on Heinrich's obsession with finances (he never hits any kind of bottom so I don't know why we needed to keep harping on this,) and tangents from the author that only served to highlight a tedious writing style that slowed the pace to a near crawl. I also found it borderline hilarious, but mostly confusing, that Heinrich is held up as a god in the forensic community, described as a genius and trailblazer who has solved thousands of cases with his techniques (which is all true,) but most of the cases that are used as examples in the book are ones where his testimony contributes to no indictment being returned, mistrials and acquittals. The case against Fatty Arbuckle was the most interesting part of all of this, but again, there wasn't a real resolution to this as the case resulted in two hung juries after Heinrich's expert testimony. It's clear that Heinrich is a very important figure in forensic sciences, but this book seemed to only do him a disservice from my standpoint. It was sloppy, hard to follow the advances he made in the field and when; and the cases exampled didn't portray him in the best light, at some points only showing him as obsessed with a dick-measuring competition with another forensic scientist instead of focusing on the case he'd been hired to investigate. I'm not really sure what I should be taking from this book other than hoping someone else writes a better one about Heinrich so we can get a clearer understanding of who he was and what he did. This wasn't a "bad" book, it's just garbled and boring when it shouldn't have been considering the main subject. ⭐⭐ | 2 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    There's a good book in the story of Oscar Heinrich, aka "America's Sherlock Holmes." This, however, is not it. The author constantly teases the reader with click-bait lines like "But soon their loyalty would be tested..." without adequate follow-up: It's nearly two hundred pages later that the incident she alludes to occurs, and then there is no discussion of how that test ends: are they still loyal to each other? Are they still on speaking terms, at least? We assume so, but...we don't really kn There's a good book in the story of Oscar Heinrich, aka "America's Sherlock Holmes." This, however, is not it. The author constantly teases the reader with click-bait lines like "But soon their loyalty would be tested..." without adequate follow-up: It's nearly two hundred pages later that the incident she alludes to occurs, and then there is no discussion of how that test ends: are they still loyal to each other? Are they still on speaking terms, at least? We assume so, but...we don't really know. It was important enough for portentous cliff-hanger line, but not important enough to resolve adequately. There are many mentions in the book about Heinrich's prowess and how he solved thousands of cases, but why then are we given so many cases in the book where he FAILS? (Acquittal. Mistrials. No indictment at all.) It's confounding. Did she have no editor available to tell her she's making assertions she isn't backing up? And speaking of editorial ovesight: In her description of a case from July of 1925, the author has Heinrich using Luminol to discover blood. In a later chapter on a case from December of that same year, she mentions that the use of Luminol was still a decade in the future... So, um, which is it? (The latter. Its interaction with blood was discovered in 1928. Its first use in forensics occurred in 1937.) This isn't to say that the book is bad, just...sloppy. Too much time is spent telling us that he's anxious about his finances (another red herring: he never goes bankrupt, meets no financial crisis) and it grows tedious, as if that were the only personal item about him she could uncover, so she keeps returning to it for lack of anything else to say. Read this book for the various trials described - they are more interesting than Oscar Heinrich's participation in them. But how sad that he ends up being a minor player in a book that is ostensibly all about him.

  7. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    4.5 stars This book covers the life of Edward Oscar Heinrich - known as the American Sherlock Holmes. Almost single handedly this man pioneered and perfected our forensic history - with many methods still being used today. During Heinrichs most productive years of research and development in the 1930's to 1940's he had many competitors, most falling way behind his abilities. However he had to face these people and contradict them in many court hearings. It took Heinrich many years of testimony an 4.5 stars This book covers the life of Edward Oscar Heinrich - known as the American Sherlock Holmes. Almost single handedly this man pioneered and perfected our forensic history - with many methods still being used today. During Heinrichs most productive years of research and development in the 1930's to 1940's he had many competitors, most falling way behind his abilities. However he had to face these people and contradict them in many court hearings. It took Heinrich many years of testimony and proving his forensic methods to win out as a qualified scientific forensic expert. Among others, Heinrich perfected the way law enforcement gathers information at a crime scene. His methods and tools that are still in use today include ballistics, lie detector testing, bloodstain patterns, and fingerprinting. This book takes you through a number of criminal cases - murders - that Heinrich worked, proving that the crime was committed differently than first expected and that the intended offender was not the murderer. I found these easy to read narratives very interesting, in that they not only told of the crimes, Heinrich's process in solving them, but of his own life as time went on. Had this book not been written, this man, the most prolific at introducing and furthering forensics, may never have come to light. Thanks to the author for pushing UC Berkeley into cataloging and archiving Heinrich's extremely large collection for her use in research. A very satisfying read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ken Hammond

    American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson fascinating study into Edward Oscar Heinrich forgotten pioneer of our modern day scientific criminal forensics, many of his techniques are still in use today, but without Kate bringing his story back to life, probably no one except a few people in that field would even know, now however when you read that next crime story you can picture Edward's pioneering work, making that crime novel mind pictures even more delicious and fantastic.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emg

    Interesting subject but annoying writing style - too many "as he would soon find out" teasers which turn out to be rather ho-hum incidents.

  10. 5 out of 5

    sXe Punk Girl

    Author Kate Winkler Dawson splendidly weaves together the life and cases of "America's Sherlock Holmes," Edward Oscar Heinrich, who is one of the most significant forensic scientists in America. A riveting book that explores the early 20th-century law and order in the US and a must-read for any true crime enthusiast, full review to come.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Well narrated with a lot of interesting information that was very poorly presented. Edward Oscar Heinrich was incredibly innovative in his investigation techniques & his work helped solve thousands of crimes. Incredibly, he doesn't have a Wikipedia page at this time, though! I'm glad this book brings his legacy back to light. As a private forensic scientist, he brought enlightenment to a science that the author contends is still quite dubious in many instances. From other books I've read, I thin Well narrated with a lot of interesting information that was very poorly presented. Edward Oscar Heinrich was incredibly innovative in his investigation techniques & his work helped solve thousands of crimes. Incredibly, he doesn't have a Wikipedia page at this time, though! I'm glad this book brings his legacy back to light. As a private forensic scientist, he brought enlightenment to a science that the author contends is still quite dubious in many instances. From other books I've read, I think she's off base on some of that, but her point is valid. There isn't enough oversight of many methods & 'experts'. It's caused a lot of heart ache & her long-winded descriptions of several cases show that it was certainly a problem in Heinrich's time. If she directly pointed out the obvious, that better public science education is needed, then I missed it. The point was quite obvious from the bewilderment of juries when Heinrich testified back in the 1920s & 30s, but a lot of this stuff was new then. Fingerprinting had been in use, if not fully accepted yet in the US, for decades. Blood typing was first discovered back then, though. So the author had great material to work with, but she presented it in a haphazard fashion, mostly by straying off the topic at hand & far into the past or future. That confused the time line for me tremendously. There was a LOT of repetition. The afterword consisted of information that had usually been presented several, if not half a dozen times already. Yuck! There was also a lot of over-explanation. For instance, the author explained the purpose of gun sights, so the text was continually padded. The book could have been half the length & would have been far better for it. I managed to get through it, although I would have done a lot of skimming had this been in print. If there is a decent alternative biography of Heinrich's life & work, I'd recommend reading that instead, though.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    Fascinating reading. Perfect for lovers of true crime.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I loved this book. I’m surprised by so many low ratings from people who were annoyed by Oscar Heinrich’s obsession with personal finance! Maybe this story performs better as an audiobook, which is the format I was able to get from my local library. I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life, and Bay Area Murderinos is exactly the audience I would recommend this to. I always love when I hear references to local places, even if it involves a macabre subject, and this book delivers: San Francisco, Ber I loved this book. I’m surprised by so many low ratings from people who were annoyed by Oscar Heinrich’s obsession with personal finance! Maybe this story performs better as an audiobook, which is the format I was able to get from my local library. I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life, and Bay Area Murderinos is exactly the audience I would recommend this to. I always love when I hear references to local places, even if it involves a macabre subject, and this book delivers: San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Colma, Alameda, Walnut Creek, and Bay Farm Island are just a handful of locations mentioned. I was fascinated by Heinrich’s method of putting together criminal profiles, especially as he was also developing the method for doing so during the 1920s. The minutiae that he focused on to arrive at conclusions about the type of person they were looking for made me realize I am not as detail-oriented as I would like to think. The author explores several different murders, mostly of women but there’s also a train heist, where Heinrich draws conclusions about what happened using different methods we know well today: handwriting analysis, blood spatter patterns, fingerprints, and dental examination. Toward the end of the book, the author also reveals how some of these methods have led to serious problems over time, and in some cases have led to the conviction of innocent people. Heinrich had many failings during his own time as well. The author regularly notes that he was criticized for being too scientific in his testimony which confused jurors. I found this surprising as he was a teacher, but it’s also a skill to be able to explain the things you know well to different kinds of people who have various levels of understanding. In any case, if you have any interest in the history of forensics, or Bay Area murder cases, definitely pick this up. See more of my reviews: Blog // Instagram

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rian *fire and books*

    I’m both fascinated by Oscar Heinrich and frustrated by him.

  15. 5 out of 5

    KC

    A couple decades or so after the turn-of-the-century in Berkley, California, Edward Oscar Heinrich was becoming a household name, evolving as the first American expert in forensic science, working on high profile murder investigations, unsolvable crimes, inventing while perfecting his craft. Over his career, Heinrich set the standard for modern forensic investigation, and proudly known as the American Sherlock Holmes. For fans of C.S.I and Forensic Files.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cara Putman

    A really interesting look at cases from the turn of the century to 1935.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Allison Sesame

    An engaging read about Edward Oscar Heinrich, a pioneer in forensic science. I enjoyed how the author took us through a selection of his thousands of cases and his various techniques, as well as his personal life. I’m sure the next time I watch Bones or Law & Order or some other crime show, I’ll think about this book. An engaging read about Edward Oscar Heinrich, a pioneer in forensic science. I enjoyed how the author took us through a selection of his thousands of cases and his various techniques, as well as his personal life. I’m sure the next time I watch Bones or Law & Order or some other crime show, I’ll think about this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Denise Mullins

    Before there were TV shows like CSI, Profiler, and Criminal Minds, there was EO Heinrich who established and created a number of remarkable forensic techniques during the 20s and 30s. A true Renaissance man, Heinrich was able to extrapolate how botany, geology, and entomology could be incorporated to solve crimes and predict deviant patterns. And while this book intelligently explains his process and explores some of his most famous cases, it fails to sustain reader interest by needlessly digres Before there were TV shows like CSI, Profiler, and Criminal Minds, there was EO Heinrich who established and created a number of remarkable forensic techniques during the 20s and 30s. A true Renaissance man, Heinrich was able to extrapolate how botany, geology, and entomology could be incorporated to solve crimes and predict deviant patterns. And while this book intelligently explains his process and explores some of his most famous cases, it fails to sustain reader interest by needlessly digressing into Heinrich's obsession with his finances and a writing style that becomes a tedious turnoff.. Despite the book's introductory graphic crime scene which immediately grabs readers, the narration becomes waylaid as it recounts Heinrich's entire career before it concludes with the precursory case that ultimately leaves more questions than it answers. This technique of beginning exploits and then creating lame cliff-hangers throughout the book quickly grows tiresome, destroying the pacing and precluding any suspense from forming.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I wanted to love this book, but unfortunately it was a miss for me. The case stories were laden with interruptions for unnecessary discussions about Heinrich's endless financial worries (no closure on this point either, despite the near-constant mention of it) and unrelated tangents. Jumps in time and subject matter made the flow of the story very choppy. In the end, the writing left Oscar Heinrich feeeling very flat and one-dimensional, despite the fact that he was a very real, fascinating pion I wanted to love this book, but unfortunately it was a miss for me. The case stories were laden with interruptions for unnecessary discussions about Heinrich's endless financial worries (no closure on this point either, despite the near-constant mention of it) and unrelated tangents. Jumps in time and subject matter made the flow of the story very choppy. In the end, the writing left Oscar Heinrich feeeling very flat and one-dimensional, despite the fact that he was a very real, fascinating pioneer of forensic science.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dancing Marshmallow

    Overall: 2.5 stars. While some of the cases featured are interesting, the man himself, Oscar Heinrich, just really wasn’t. This felt like a string of interesting facts smooshed together into a book when it would have better made a journal article. This was a slight disappointment, since I enjoy the history of forensics and really liked the author’s previous book, Death in the Air. Unfortunately, there’s not enough personality in our principle figure to really justify the narrative approach to his Overall: 2.5 stars. While some of the cases featured are interesting, the man himself, Oscar Heinrich, just really wasn’t. This felt like a string of interesting facts smooshed together into a book when it would have better made a journal article. This was a slight disappointment, since I enjoy the history of forensics and really liked the author’s previous book, Death in the Air. Unfortunately, there’s not enough personality in our principle figure to really justify the narrative approach to history here. And, while it’s interesting that Heinrich pioneered so many forensic techniques, the book feels like a laborious stringing together of so many facts, rather than a complex biography of a real person. It took me a month to finish this, which is telling, since I usually devour true crime history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    The subject of this book is fascinating. Groundbreaking early 20th century forensic scientist Edward Oscar Heinrich who pioneered a number of techniques still used in criminal investigations today and provided vital evidence in solving numerous cases might just be one of the most intriguing historical figures I never heard of before. The writing style, unfortunately, proved to be somewhat less than gripping, with the author spending too much time jumping back and forth hap-hazardly and repeatedl The subject of this book is fascinating. Groundbreaking early 20th century forensic scientist Edward Oscar Heinrich who pioneered a number of techniques still used in criminal investigations today and provided vital evidence in solving numerous cases might just be one of the most intriguing historical figures I never heard of before. The writing style, unfortunately, proved to be somewhat less than gripping, with the author spending too much time jumping back and forth hap-hazardly and repeatedly trying to throw in cliffhangers that seemed out of place in a non-fiction book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy "the book-bat"

    I think the writing could have been cleaned up some. It was annoying to have cases started and then abandoned to a different case and then picked back up way later in the book. I think it would have been better to present a complete case before moving on to the next one. The forensic stuff was highly interesting to me. The worrying about money, not as interesting. I would have liked a better balance.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Octavia (ReadsWithDogs)

    "𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐟𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬" -- 𝐄𝐝𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐎𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐫 𝐇𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐡⁣ ⁣ Whelp, American Sherlock was interesting, but ultimately let me down. I wanted a detailed account of how our CSI system came to be, but this book was more of a history of one of America's first forensic scientists; Edward Oscar Heinrich, and some of the cases he covered.⁣ ⁣ I first had the inkling of irk in the prologue where the author is surprised by Oscar Heinrich's attractiveness...why does this matter? She seems to become quite smit "𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐟𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬" -- 𝐄𝐝𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐎𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐫 𝐇𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐡⁣ ⁣ Whelp, American Sherlock was interesting, but ultimately let me down. I wanted a detailed account of how our CSI system came to be, but this book was more of a history of one of America's first forensic scientists; Edward Oscar Heinrich, and some of the cases he covered.⁣ ⁣ I first had the inkling of irk in the prologue where the author is surprised by Oscar Heinrich's attractiveness...why does this matter? She seems to become quite smitten with him and it shows.⁣ ⁣ Each book chapter is a different case and while they were interesting, I didn't really care about them. I wanted more of learning about which powdered vegetables work to help find fingerprints. The chapters felt chunky and I didn't like how the same case would be broken up and explained a hundred pages after the first mention.⁣ ⁣ Interesting, but not what I expected. ⁣ ⭐⭐⭐⁣ ⁣ ⁣

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kim Gray

    There was a disconnect in the author's portrayal of Oscar. I couldn't like or dislike him. He seemed petty. Too much time was spent discussing his financial fears. I was hoping to learn more about the cases and how he solves them, which the title and comparison to Sherlock would make you assume. I was anxious for this book to be done.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jessi G.

    I loved the forensic science discussed in this book and the background behind how modern forensic science was born. But I found the overall path of the book somewhat confusing and jumbled at points. I might have felt differently had a read a physical copy versus listening to the audio. As much as I usually enjoy listening to an author read their own work, I found that listening to Kate Winkler Dawson was a bit too much like listening to a rather boring college professor. The information was cert I loved the forensic science discussed in this book and the background behind how modern forensic science was born. But I found the overall path of the book somewhat confusing and jumbled at points. I might have felt differently had a read a physical copy versus listening to the audio. As much as I usually enjoy listening to an author read their own work, I found that listening to Kate Winkler Dawson was a bit too much like listening to a rather boring college professor. The information was certainly interesting. The stories could also be interesting as well. But it was far too easy to drift off and miss pieces of the narrative because the narrator couldn't keep my attention. Overall, this is probably a great book for true crime enthusiasts. And, I will say, that even though I wish I'd enjoyed this book more, it has inspired me to look for more books based on forensics and forensic sciences. My interest in the subject has definitely been rekindled!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brittney Gibbon

    First of all, a big thank you to the team at @putnambooks for this gifted copy. Alternating between individual cases and Heinrich’s personal history, American Sherlock provides the reader with a massive amount of insight into this man, his techniques, learnings and contributions to his field. Unfortunately, not all parts were equally as engaging. While I appreciate the personal touch and the insight into Heinrich’s personal life, it felt a little overdone for me. While exploring his obsessive beha First of all, a big thank you to the team at @putnambooks for this gifted copy. Alternating between individual cases and Heinrich’s personal history, American Sherlock provides the reader with a massive amount of insight into this man, his techniques, learnings and contributions to his field. Unfortunately, not all parts were equally as engaging. While I appreciate the personal touch and the insight into Heinrich’s personal life, it felt a little overdone for me. While exploring his obsessive behaviours might help with understanding the way his mind works and translating this to his career, I got pretty sick of hearing about his anxiety over his spending and am not quite sure why it just kept coming up. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy learning about his career. A man with a very real thirst for forensic knowledge identifying gaps in the science and just going for it makes for a compelling read indeed! The first in his field in so many instances, Heinrich undoubtedly has a mind and work ethic to be celebrated. Personal highlights for me were learning about his ability to provide suspect profiles based on science, and his own growth as an expert witness; having to hone his technique and delivery – showing instead of telling – so as to be able to get his point across to the layman. The cases covered in this book were quite varied, and while some were more enjoyable than others, all served their purpose in highlighting Heinrich’s learnings and achievements. Not a bad read overall. But nothing mind blowing either, with some parts being actually completely forgettable. There were some really cool insights and explorations of the development of certain methods and techniques, but the approach felt clunky and unfortunately, the engagement and intrigue just wasn’t consistent. I would recommend this for someone with a little more patience than I.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Decillis

    I like doing book clubs because they push me into books I wouldn't choose on my own, like this one. I was both excited about this and worried. Excited because I love reading about forgotten figures in history. Worried because in the last few years I have become strongly against murder porn. I just don't like drooling over the pain of others. This book was extremely respectful of the victims in these cases and so I never felt like I was gawking at the worst moments in their lives. Instead, it dis I like doing book clubs because they push me into books I wouldn't choose on my own, like this one. I was both excited about this and worried. Excited because I love reading about forgotten figures in history. Worried because in the last few years I have become strongly against murder porn. I just don't like drooling over the pain of others. This book was extremely respectful of the victims in these cases and so I never felt like I was gawking at the worst moments in their lives. Instead, it dissected the intriguing ways Heinrich tried to get the right answers in their cases, and so it felt like I was looking at science more than anything. It also was written more as a novel than a historical text, which gets my motor running. Very interesting text that got a little heavy-handed towards the end to forward an argument that seemingly came out of nowhere. But still, a worthy read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda Aull

    Book 2 of my 12 quality non-fiction books in 2020 challenge. Fantastic Strangelings. Very interesting book. There were a lot of “but he didn’t know what would happen next” kind of section endings. I’m not sure all of them got wrapped up. Lots of cliffs, some couldn’t hang on.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: An engaging story looking at some of the earliest use of scientific crime scene analysis in the United States. When author Kate Winkler Dawson read an article that mentioned a man known as the “American Sherlock Holmes”, she immediately knew she’d found the subject for her next book. And when I saw that she had another book coming out, I immediately knew I was going to read it. “American Sherlock” Edward Heinrich was a forensic analyst and early pioneer of many of the techniques used to Summary: An engaging story looking at some of the earliest use of scientific crime scene analysis in the United States. When author Kate Winkler Dawson read an article that mentioned a man known as the “American Sherlock Holmes”, she immediately knew she’d found the subject for her next book. And when I saw that she had another book coming out, I immediately knew I was going to read it. “American Sherlock” Edward Heinrich was a forensic analyst and early pioneer of many of the techniques used to extract evidence from crime scenes today. Here, the author has used a just-organized archive of Heinrich’s belongings to tell the story of many of his most important cases. I found this book a little less engaging than Dawson’s earlier book, Death in the Air. I think this was due to the structure of the book, covering many individual cases. While the stories generally moved forward in time, there wasn’t a suspenseful plot running through the whole book, as in Death in the Air. Despite the lack of suspense, I did find the individual stories interesting. I loved the way the author told each story, including little details such as the weather on a given day, to make the story feel like it was happening just as I was reading it. At times, I could tell that the author must have found a picture of a scene, she was able to so precisely describe what it looked like. I found that very effective. I also enjoyed the way details of Heinrich’s life were mixed in with his cases and I liked the cases the author chose to follow. Many of them seem to have influenced techniques that are still used today, although Heinrich was also an early adopter of some methods that have now been discredited. The few details I didn’t appreciate the author sharing were too-vivid descriptions and even pictures of the bodies of the victims she mentioned. I found it disrespectful to the victims, even in cases where the author also took some care with sharing their life stories. This is one of those reviews where the little negative things have taken more time to discuss than the positives, even though the positives outweighed the negatives for me. There were a few small things I didn’t like and as a result, I didn’t love this quite as much as the author’s previous book. Nevertheless, it was still a strong entry in the true crime genre and is a book I’d recommend to any fan. This review first posted at Doing Dewey.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erin Upshaw

    I dropped this book about halfway through, because while the subject matter was interesting, I found the writing to be quite dry, and I tend to prefer my non-fiction to be written chronologically. The jumping around, the starting one case and then moving to the next, was something I found frustrating rather than compelling. However, I encourage you to give the book a shot and see for yourself; if you're a fan of true crime and non-linear storytelling, I think you'd really enjoy it. Just wasn't f I dropped this book about halfway through, because while the subject matter was interesting, I found the writing to be quite dry, and I tend to prefer my non-fiction to be written chronologically. The jumping around, the starting one case and then moving to the next, was something I found frustrating rather than compelling. However, I encourage you to give the book a shot and see for yourself; if you're a fan of true crime and non-linear storytelling, I think you'd really enjoy it. Just wasn't for me.

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