Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals

Narrated by: Elizabeth A. Murray
Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,419 ratings)

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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
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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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.

50 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.

53 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.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

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.

7 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.

21 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.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

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 .

8 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.

12 people found this helpful

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Didn't feel like a class /course

I like the great courses a lot. I enjoy it more when it feels like a real life class. Great example is "story of human language". This felt like reading off a script and not the best at that either. The material was all right.

1 person found this helpful

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Mixed course. Some interesting vignettes.

The course deteriorated as it progressed. The stories of various solved and unsolved crimes are interesting and well-done. Gradually, a pro-defendant bias emerges. Several tiresome lectures on cases that she personally has worked on. Great Courses should edit this down in half and re-release it.

1 person 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

1 person 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

2 people 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.

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  • Alexander Munday
  • 11-02-19

Well read and written

Murray is an incredibly captivating story teller, who discusses the most important parts of forensic science history. This is a perfect read for someone deciding to study any forensic course, and still wonderful to someone with just a curiosity or love for true crime.

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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!

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  • Robert
  • 09-15-18

interesting stuff

Maybe not quite what I had expected - hoped for a bit more forensic archaeology & pathology. Perhaps more detail of famous cases. But a decent overview of forensic science.

Presentation was clear but I found some of the prose a bit cheesy & delivery a bit hammy

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  • bush
  • 02-23-16

Guilty pleasure

Didn't majorly learn anything but is by far one of the most engrossing series to date. Excellent storyteller and well worth checking out.

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  • LIUFA
  • 10-02-15

Easy read

If you could sum up Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals in three words, what would they be?

It's not a very scientific book more like compilation of stories where each lecture has 2 or 3 cases that have happened is specific area like kidnapping, or fraud. I didn't return this book as it was easy and didn't require my attention like other great courses gooks, but I wouldn't have bought it had I known it's contents beforehand.

Any additional comments?

I didn't like the last part of book and believe it shouldn't be there as it was just author talking about stuff that is relevant to her but not reader.

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  • LondonBubble
  • 08-23-15

Nowhere near as good as price would suggest

A rewarmed soup of public ally available stories with a dash of scientific data to give it some much lacking character. narration is appalling

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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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  • 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 the examination of how science is employed to solve crimes that would otherwise go unsolved. 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 how forensic knowledge is used. 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.

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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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  • Jennifer2
  • 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.

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  • Clinton
  • 03-02-16

Great Course. Sometimes.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

It's hard - the book covered many different areas and i found some engaging, riveting even... and some not so. It would be different for each listener I suspect

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Probably the more grisly ones, the murders and serial killer chapters. The fraud and espionage lectures weren't really my thing.

What aspect of Professor Elizabeth A. Murray’s performance might you have changed?

The Professor was great, I just wasn't as excited by some of the topics as she was

Was Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals worth the listening time?

Half yes, half no... but that was my personal judgement. If you're a fan of espionage and fraud cases then you'll get a lot more out of the second half than I did.