Book Review of Practical Homicide Investigation, 3rd Ed.
Article by Michael J. Koryta
PI Magazine: Journal of Professional Investigators
October 2004

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"This 800-plus page guide to the forensic techniques and fundamental procedures of a homicide investigation will serve two types of private investigators. It is a must-have if you frequently deal with criminal defense work, or will provide an excellent primer on homicide investigation for any investigator with more than an average amount of curiosity on the topic. however, if your client base does not produce much criminal defense work, you may find the $90 retail cost a little hefty.

Geberth, a retired Lt. Commander of the New York Police Department, has produced what may be the finest, most-detailed guide for homicide investigators ever written, and almost every chapter has been updated in this new edition to reflect the ever-changing technology in the forensic fields. There are nearly 500 photographs, including 24 full-color inserts, but be advised - the photo displays are not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. They are graphic crime scene photographs showing violence a tits most brutal, but they also go a long way in helping the reader visualize the topic at hand, and in some cases - for example; defense wounds, lividity, wound structure - the images are quite necessary to grasp the subtle differences referenced by Geberth. A detailed look at suicide cases that may be difficult to distinguish from homicides, and vice-versa, will also be of interest to those working in the private sector. A revised section of criminal profiling offers a good base for those without much knowledge of the process and explains the role of law enforcement databases such as HITS (Homicide Investigation and Tracking System) and VICAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program).

The book is geared towards law enforcement, to private investigators, and some sections, such as notifying the next of kin, are going to be little benefit to those without a badge. If you are involved in criminal defense, though, the book will offer a wonderful starting point in evaluating the procedures of a homicide investigation and looking for potential areas of neglect, as Geberth breaks down the duties of the first officer on scene, the preliminary investigation, methods of caring for evidence, and crime scene contamination. A new chapter on DNA analysis will help the private investigator understand this forensic tool and how it applies to the investigative process. The format of the book makes its many pages more readable than the average textbook, as Geberth begins with the initial crime scene discovery and then moves in chronological fashion through the investigation, dropping in 90 case studies to lend real-life examples to the procedural guide.

About 80 pages of this volume are devoted to sexual homicides, but Geberth also has a companion volume entitled Sex-Related Homicide and Death Investigation that offers far more detail on those specific crimes. Published in 2003, this volume included a never-before published diary of a serial rapist, as well as a look at autoerotic deaths and homosexual suicides. If you're involved with any sort of sexual homicide case, order this book immediately, as it is far and away the most in depth work focused on solely sex-related murder. Both Geberth volumes are published by CRC Press as part of the Practical Investigation Series."

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