The BookBrowse Review

Published January 22, 2020

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

18 Tiny Deaths
The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics
by Bruce Goldfarb
4 Feb 2020
368 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks
ISBN-13: 9781492680475
Genre: Biography/Memoir
Critics:
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The story of a woman whose ambition and accomplishments far exceeded the expectations of her time, 18 Tiny Deaths follows the transformation of a young, wealthy socialite into the mother of modern forensics.

Frances Glessner Lee, born a socialite to a wealthy and influential Chicago family in the 1870s, was never meant to have a career, let alone one steeped in death and depravity.

Yet she developed a fascination with the investigation of violent crimes, and made it her life's work. Best known for creating the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of dollhouses that appear charming―until you notice the macabre little details: an overturned chair, or a blood-spattered comforter. And then, of course, there are the bodies―splayed out on the floor, draped over chairs―clothed in garments that Lee lovingly knit with sewing pins.

18 Tiny Deaths, by official biographer Bruce Goldfarb, delves into Lee's journey from grandmother without a college degree to leading the scientific investigation of unexpected death out of the dark confines of centuries-old techniques and into the light of the modern day.

Lee developed a system that used the Nutshells dioramas to train law enforcement officers to investigate violent crimes, and her methods are still used today.

18 Tiny Deaths transports the reader back in time and tells the story of how one woman, who should never have even been allowed into the classrooms she ended up teaching in, changed the face of science forever.

"Goldfarb's storytelling gifts will lead readers of insightful true crime to hope he will write more in the field. Devotees of TV's CSI will have their minds blown." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Thorough research helps him paint a captivating portrait of a feminist hero and forensic pioneer." - Booklist

"[E]ye-opening...A genuinely compelling biography." - Kirkus Reviews

"Goldfarb's clearly written and well-researched book is recommended for history and legal studies audiences." - Library Journal

"A culmination of years of historical research using primary sources, including the papers of Frances Glessner Lee herself. It is the story of how one stubborn, intelligent, creative, and self-taught woman could immerse herself in a passion that had immense repercussions in the fields of both medicine and the law...As this absorbing and evocative book will show you, Frances Glessner Lee should be recognized as the matriarch of the modern practice of forensic pathology." - Judy Melinek, M.D., co-author of Working Stiff

"Frances Glessner Lee's dioramas of death have long been objects of fascination; now Bruce Goldfarb, the man who knows them best, has written a definitive account of how they came to be, and of the compelling, complex woman who created them. This book will beguile anyone with an interest in forensic science or the history of crime investigation." - Rachel Monroe, author of Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession

A former EMT/paramedic and a nursing school dropout, Bruce Goldfarb has written for national and local newspapers, magazines, and web publications. He also wrote and edited several medical texts and reference books. 18 Tiny Deaths is his first book of popular nonfiction. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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