Ask a Forensic Artist by Lisa Bailey
Written by Ashley Kelmore, Posted in Reviews
I’m pretty sure I found this book based on an excerpt that was posted on a link on one of the blogs I regularly follow. But I’m not sure which one. You might recall that I have a particular interest in books related to death and dying, as well as forensic anthropology. This very quick (like, 90 minute) read is a nice introduction to what forensic artists do and, more interestingly, how they do it.
Ms. Bailey started her “ask a forensic artist” website as a way to answer questions folks have about her profession. No, it’s not like it is on Bones. No, you don’t have to be an expert artist (but you should have some talent). It is apparently a pretty popular site, so she decided to write a book. As I said, it’s a very simple read despite what could be a complicated subject. In fact, the writing is VERY simple, to the point where at times it could have doubled as a young adult work of non-fiction. Also, how can something be the “most unique profession?” Unique is an adjective that cannot be modified. Arg!
It was basically exactly what I was looking for from the title, and would have gotten about four stars from me except for the end. That’s right – it wouldn’t be a Lollygagger review if I didn’t talk about racism, sexism or rape culture, amiright? The author decides to end the book with anecdotes from other forensic artists from across the U.S., which is a nice idea in theory. She states multiple times that her opinions on some areas aren’t universally shared; this would be a good place for her to highlight some of those differing opinions.
That’s not really what these little two-page bits do; they are instead meant to be a little bit about how these particular artists got into the field and a couple of illustrative stories about their work. What bothered me is that three of the dozen or so artists used their time to tell stories about times when people were making up the crime and so describing people they knew, not criminals. That’s not so much an issue, but two of those three stories were about women making false rape claims. The first one angered me; the second one pissed me right off. I get that those things happened, but considering that only about 2% of reported rapes are false reports, and that this is the same percentage as for other felonies, it’s just bullshit to highlight these stories as though this is a common occurrence. One mention of it, I guess, maybe. But including TWO stories (one of which was told with such acid on the writers tongue that I got the distinct impression that this man just doesn’t like women) is to my mind irresponsible and is just another subtle way to promote this ridiculous idea that women lie.
So yeah. If this is a topic that interests you, read the book. But stop when you get to the anecdotes section at the end.