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Traces

The Memoir of a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Investigator
Narrated by: Antonia Beamish
Length: 10 hrs and 9 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (111 ratings)

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Summary

In Traces, Professor Patricia Wiltshire will take you on a journey through the fascinating edgeland where nature and crime are intertwined. 

She'll take you searching for bodies of loved ones - through woodlands, along hedgerows, field-edges, and through plantations - solving time since death, and disposal of remains, from ditches to living rooms. 

She will give you glimpses of her own history: her loves, her losses, and the narrow little valley in Wales where she first woke up to the wonders of the natural world. Pat will show you how her work with a microscope reveals tell-tale traces of the world around us, and how these have taken suspects of the darkest criminal activities to court.

From flowers, fungi, tree trunks to car pedals, walking boots, carpets, and corpses' hair, Traces is a fascinating, unique, and utterly compelling audiobook on life, death, and one's indelible link with nature.

©2019 Patricia Wiltshire (P)2019 Bonnier Books UK

Critic reviews

"Engrossing, emotionally honest and forensically fascinating." (Dr Richard Shepherd, author of Unnatural Causes

What listeners say about Traces

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting science overwhelmed by personal bias

I am an avid true crime fan and I have an interest in forensic sciences, so I thought this book would be perfect for me. The science was certainly interesting, but I found in inclusion of her personal life distracting, irrelevant and plagued with toxic nostalgia for the good old days when everyone was white, heterosexual and allowed their children to run wild in the countryside. There was a consistent tone of superiority, which would be understandable when talking about her break through science, however it was applied thickly to everything, particularly how her force of personality allowed her and only her to find the magic bullet to solve a case or quiet a tense situation. There was also continuous and problematic generalisations about the lgbtq+ community, anyone not white, anyone with mental health issues and “tech crazy” children of today who can’t look away from their smart phones long enough to escape their parents clutches and disappear, completely uncontactable, into a mountain range for an afternoon. It’s like despite all the crime scenes she’s seen, she has no empathy for the people involved and no awareness of how all these murders might effect people’s day to day lives because she’s ok, she’s just got a strong enough stomach to take it. Ok rant over. If she had stuck to the science and maybe focused solely on a couple of interesting cases this would have likely been a very interesting book. Unfortunately I eventually gave up on it as I couldn’t take another section about how great she is and how crap everyone else is.

12 people found this helpful

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Really interesting!

A very interesting take on an aspect of forensic science that is seldom thought about but which seems to be intrinsic in solving many of these high-profile cases, and putting away criminals or even exonerate innocent people. The narration is exquisite and very engaging. Would recommend.

6 people found this helpful

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Disappointing for anyone with any prior knowledge

Just because a person is literate, it does not guarantee that they are literary and “Traces” is an exemplar of the type of memoir that would have been better executed as biography. I don’t blame the author; I blame the editor, who appears to have just run the manuscript through a spell-checker and nodded it through to the printers. To be fair to the author, I was more interested in the science than her personal history, but the writing was so clunky and repetitious that (in the audiobook version, at least) it swiftly became tedious. 

As for the nitty-gritty of the author’s forensic work, there was surprisingly little actual technique described. For example, on a trip to Albania, following a runaway killer, she mentions that the British team found the Albanian fingerprint system better than their own. And then left it at that, without a hint of why they thought this; utterly frustrating for the listener. 

Also, a decent editor would have taken care of the endless clangers like, “aeons of time” which instantly dragged attention from the narrator. Speaking of whom… The narrator has a rather lovely tone and cadence but was obviously not working in her comfort zone with this type of material. I got the feeling that she is more used to light fiction. She mispronounced relatively common technical terms and words, like “KalISHnikov” instead of “KalASHnikov”, which was mighty distracting and only really came alive when the text gave her the opportunity to dramatise verbatim dialogue. The quality of audiobooks has improved massively in recent years but it seems as though professional readers are not paid enough to pre-read books and prepare for the words or syntax which sometimes trip them up and derail the flow of the story for the listener. A half-decent producer would pick this sort of thing up but I’m guessing that they aren’t budgeted for either. I’m clearly in the minority and I’m happy that most people enjoy the book. But for anyone wanting either hard science or rich biography, this is thin pickings.

9 people found this helpful

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Great book!

Understated, fascinating & beautifully narrated. A very down-to-earth account of a little known aspect of forensic science. Loved this book, the author’s personal life was explanatory to the main topic without becoming the main focus. I was entertained and educated in equal portions.

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excellent!

downloaded as a recommendation after listening to something similar, had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. treated to a fantastic insight into another area of forensic investigation. Well worth a listen.

1 person found this helpful

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fascinating

loved it, so much fascinating information, but why do criminals share shoes? an excellent listen

1 person found this helpful

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Botany, life and solving crimes

The part which botany can play within the modern investigation of crime isn't something which is given much thought to. This book explores this and the life of one of its top proponents. I found the whole book very enjoyable and exciting; the different elements are beautifully interwoven to create a very memorable. The passages which describe the various crimes and their investigations an are written without sensationalism and are mindful of those left behind; so many books are disrespectful using this aspect to drive sales. It was very interesting to hear the author's problem solving as she was faced with varying materials, botanical substances and crime scenes. I found the way a run of the mill, cheap process could be a key to presenting results, as much as a piece of expensive equipment showed that often it is the long-established process which still is valuable. The style of writing brings a feeling of being within the author's circle of friends as you hear about her life, studies and career. The feeling is hightend by the choice of reader who's voice is very pleasant to listen to. It is certainly something which increases the pleasure of the audiobook. If you enjoyed the books by Professor Dame Sue Black, I think you would also enjoy this book.

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Intriguing and thoroughly engrossing.

I found the book fascinating, I am always astounded by the ingenuity of people who work in this field, and am always interested in listening to different perspectives. This did not disappoint.

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interesting and fascinating

You learn so much interesting information which makes you think of your surroundings. It is fascinating in how so much information can be found from where you walk , drive . It is a hard job with great rewards with crimes being solved with the evidence found in the lab/test tube. A book you would keep reading as there is so much fascinating information.

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interesting stuff

tricky to understand at times but very interesting. I'll listen to it again in a couple of months. I learned so interesting things from this. Thank you.