Case Closed: The Real Scoop on Detective Work

Overview

On a police force or employed by a private agency, detectives gather and analyze evidence. How do they operate? What is their training? What are their tools? Full of information for aspiring investigators and curious mystery lovers, this absorbing book examines the history, changing technologies, and current challenges of a very intriguing profession.
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2001 Hard cover New in fine dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 96 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: Children/juvenile.

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Overview

On a police force or employed by a private agency, detectives gather and analyze evidence. How do they operate? What is their training? What are their tools? Full of information for aspiring investigators and curious mystery lovers, this absorbing book examines the history, changing technologies, and current challenges of a very intriguing profession.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
One of the best nonfiction writers of children's books comes through again with this breezy, sometimes colloquial, and informative look at how detectives gather and analyze evidence, various branches of the detective occupation, how one trains and then behaves as a detective, and examples where it all comes together. In an interesting chapter on the rise of the Pinkerton detective, Meltzer explains how this group became the national police force and a precursor of the FBI. What Meltzer does especially well is give plenty of examples from history, current events, and famous criminal trials like the Lindbergh baby's kidnapping or the conviction of the Mafia's John Gotti. These capture the reader's attention and show how varied a detective's job may be. Touched on are forensic detection, the use of common sense as well as modern technology to solve crimes, and some famous revisitings of past crimes with new technology (DNA testing, new witnesses) to free people unjustly imprisoned. For any middle schooler interested in this profession, Meltzer shows how varied and fascinating detective work can be. Chapters are short and the picture research is thorough but sometimes stiff or not very compelling. The captions, however, often are small stories in themselves and serve as sidebar-like extras in this strong and well-organized text. It's perfectly suitable for school occupational study but stands on its own as a fascinating book, as well. 2001, Orchard Books, $18.95. Ages 9 to 14. Reviewer:Susan Hepler
VOYA
Seeing this skilled and demonstrably agile author's name affixed to a title that promises almost instant popularity raises the bar on a reviewer's expectations. With more than fifty nonfiction books, including histories such as Ain't Gonna Study War No More (Harper, 1985/VOYA August 1985), Bread and Roses (Facts on File, 1991/VOYA June 1991), and Witches and Witch-Hunts (Blue Sky/Scholastic, 1999), and many individual and collective biographies for youthful readers to his credit, Meltzer generally is a reliable source of both facts and insight-provoking interpretation. This current book, however, barely glances off the surface of its stated topic. Divided into three sections, it sails through a few of the mechanical aspects of detection—a few scientific tools, a smattering of types of investigation, and targets of investigation such as narcotics squad work. The book then hurries along to brief introductions to lab work and the evolving means of analyzing physical evidence before hastening to a concluding look at extra police force detecting opportunities, from Pinkerton's founding to the present. Although the lack of depth will frustrate readers who believe the subtitle of the book, what is most troubling is the steady stream of examples based on cases in which contemporary detective work has been questioned on the basis of either its attached political agenda (as in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping) or latter-day improvements in scientific analysis. Because of the brevity of the text, many cases offered as examples, although familar to adults, will have no context for younger readers. The illustrations here are ample and helpful but the certainty that the text could have been glowing bycomparison to these stock images rankles. Photos. VOYA CODES: 2Q 3P M (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Orchard, 88p,
— Francisca Goldsmith
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Divided into three sections, Meltzer's book covers the day-to-day work of detectives, the crime lab, and investigators outside the police force. Separate chapters provide information (including some history) on handwriting and DNA analysis, organized crime, the Pinkertons, and the efforts of investigative journalists. The author does a fine job of balancing discussions on the excitement of the field with the extremely difficult, and often dangerous, work done by the men and women in it. The descriptive text is full of real-life examples of work on criminal and white-collar offenses. A few black-and-white illustrations, mainly photos, accompany the text. A thorough index and extensive bibliography are included. A good choice for career reports or for anyone interested in the fascinating world of criminal investigation.-Carol Fazioli, formerly at The Brearley School, New York City Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In his usual meticulous fashion, Meltzer (Piracy and Plunder, below, etc.) explores the many facets of detective work, from the historical perspective to the contemporary sleuthing of the detective on the street and the laboratory scientist. Part one of this fascinating work explores the everyday lives of detectives, how detecting became a profession, what questions detectives have to answer, why they use scientific tools, and the techniques they use when they deal with witnesses and white-collar criminals. Part two describes the many ways forensic science solves crimes in the laboratory. Cogent explanations accompanied by black-and-white photographs detail how scientists use DNA testing or how scientists analyze fabrics, hair, or dirt found at the crime scene in the search for clues. The reader gets a short course in ballistics, visits a serological lab involved in blood testing, learns about the study of documents and handwriting as well as lie detectors and eyewitness identification and forensic anthropology. Part three details the many kinds of detective opportunities available outside the traditional police force. Here, too, Meltzer's in-depth approach segues from the Pinkertons and the Molly Maguires and the growth of the private-detective sector to the current work of the Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law, where professors and their students have become detectives looking for evidence that frees unjustly accused prisoners. Meltzer blends historical narrative, scientific description, and practical career information to create an interesting, offbeat look behind the scenes of the detective story. An extensive bibliography, photo credits, and index increase itsusefulness for student reports. (introduction) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439293150
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/2001
  • Series: Case Closed Series
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1090L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.36 (w) x 10.31 (h) x 0.79 (d)

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  • Posted January 15, 2009

    The informational book Case Closed: The Real Scoop on Detective Work, written by Milton Meltzer, is a very good read for anyone considering a job as a detective. This book outlines the basis of detective work, and also the forensics involved.

    The book begins explaining the background of detective work by informing the reader that detectives are people who reveal the secrets of criminals by tracking evidence of a crime. Detectives weren¿t created until the 19th century, when they were called ¿thief takers¿ who would recover stolen goods from thieves for a price from the victim. The history and origin alone displays one of the main components of the occupation; the ability to disguise and play many roles. Meltzer writes, ¿Sometimes it takes lies and shams to counter lies and shams.¿<BR/> In the first section, Meltzer also displays the basics of detective work. He writes that in investigating they must answer the 6 questions: Who? , What? , Where? , When? , Why? , And How? In addition, he writes that the first principle of detection is observation, in that they must be able to detect valuable pieces in a crime scene, most of time involving serendipity.<BR/> Furthermore, the book tells a great deal about how to assess a crime scene. It talks about collecting evidence such as hair and fibers which are brought to the lab. It also talks about how to approach and outsmart witnesses who are frequently scared and therefore will not tell all of what they know.<BR/> In the second section of the book, Meltzer adequately lays out the forensic science which detective work entails. He talks of the importance of hair, blood and semen collected by the detective at a crime scene. Meltzer gives an example of a crime in which a chemist named Edward O. Heinrich put together the profile of a man involved in an Oregon train robbery, which police failed to solve for several weeks. This enlightening instance was one of many that Meltzer appropriately includes in this book. He also writes in depth about fingerprint analysis using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), and the history of how such science evolved with the help of men including Henry Fauld, Francis Galron, and Edward Henry. Along with fingerprint analysis, Meltzer describes how important DNA is in an investigation, in that it only takes a few cells (be it from hair, skin, blood, and exc.) to ID the person it came from.<BR/> Other examples of forensic science Meltzer speaks of are used in the investigation of the actual crime scene. He lays out the basis of ballistics, or the study of firearms and bullets, and how bullets are compared by markings left by the barrel of the gun it was shot from. Meltzer also explains the examination of bloodstains at a crime scene, and how to go about matching it to the victim or suspect; first determining if it is animal or human blood and then determining the sex of the person. Throughout the book Meltzer includes random, interesting facts such as that it is now known that 80% of people secrete their certain blood group in other bodily fluids such as saliva. Finally, Meltzer explains handwriting analysis in a lab in which they can identify typewriting, ink, paper, and even writing left on charred paper, all under a high power microscope.<BR/> Case Closed: The Real Scoop on Detective Work is an extremely interesting, and informational book about the work of a detective. Milton Meltzer keeps the reader interested with many cases in which certain techniques of detective work are utilized, and is very informant on the history of detection and the corresponding forensic science. If you are thinking of working as a detective, this book would be a especially helpful read.

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