Review of:  Practical Homicide Investigation:
Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques, 4th Edition

By Robert D. Keppel, PhD
Associate Professor, Seattle University

PI Magazine, May/June 2006

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Review of: Practical Homicide Investigation:Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques, 4th Edition

REFERENCE: Geberth VJ. Practical Homicide Investigation, Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques. 4th ed. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2006, 999 pp

In the past 20 years, there has been a plethora of books on criminal investigation, crime scene investigation, and homicide investigation attempting to explain recommended procedures utilized in homicide investigations. Vernon Geberth's previous editions of Practical Homicide Investigation have always been in the forefront of these texts. The fourth edition of this excellent text is completely revised, and not just another book on homicide investigation. Commander Geberth has created the ultimate work on homicide investigation ever constructed. Within the book's 24 chapters, guidance on investigating virtually all types of deaths is highlighted.

Practical Homicide Investigation should be required reading for all detectives, prosecutors, and police officers working in the death investigation arena. It presents valuable instructions and duties of the first officer at the scene, detectives performing the preliminary investigation, and provides an investigator's checklist of activities specific to investigative duties at the crime scene.

The construction of the book is immaculate. It is thinner is size from the 3rd edition, but it is larger in dimensions, with very finely printed pages with utmost quality. What is most noticeable is the clarity and brightness of the photographs, far better than other previous texts.

Practical Homicide Investigation is written from the investigator's perspective. Geberth presents an in depth analysis of investigating the homicide scene and poses direct questions when considering if the scene is a suicide, homicide, or staged homicide. All of the forensic techniques associated with homicide investigation are discussed in detail with and exceptional and understandable chapter about the uses of DNA evidence at crime scenes. In most chapters, Geberth cites interesting case studies that illuminate the points he wishes to get across. Geberth has given the reader information about investigating sex-related deaths, equivocal death investigations, criminal personality profiling, and serial murder investigations. The chapters covering these subjects are exceptionally documented and written. Geberth has a highly efficient and effective grasp of how to get across to detectives the procedures involved in those investigations.

Commander Geberth's finest work comes in the chapter covering the Identification of Suspects. This chapter deals specifically with solvability and finding out who the killer is. From bite mark identification, hypnosis, latent prints on human skin, polygraph examinations, psycholinguistics, physics, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, theft of a fetus, stalkers, VICAP, to the Homicide Investigation Tracking System, Geberth reveals to the investigator practically all of the possible methods used to identify and catch a killer.

The new edition concludes with specific guidelines for the supervision and management of the homicide investigation. It puts the final touched on understanding the homicide investigation a supervisor's and manager's perspective.

Within each chapter, Commander Geberth has included references and selected readings, which will prove invaluable to homicide detectives. Geberth has keenly supplemented his text with proper attribution to those individuals he has quoted. He respectively gives proper credit to those who have provided him with information about cases or investigative procedures.

For detectives, homicide supervisors, police officers, prosecutors, and other professionals who evaluate, investigate, litigate, or seek to understand the murderer, Practical Homicide Investigation is a must read. Commander Geberth has handled the subject matter with a thorough and comprehensive approach.

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