The Nature of Life and Death: Every Body Leaves a Trace by Patricia Wiltshire
Penguin Random House: 9/3/19
eBook review copy; 304 pages
The Nature of Life and Death: Every Body Leaves a Trace by Patricia Wiltshire is a highly recommended account of a pioneer in
Patricia Wiltshire share stories from several of the cases she's been
an investigator on as well as personal stories from her life.
Wiltshire is an expert palynologist—somebody who analyses pollen grains and other spores.
"When a crime has been committed, my role is to read and present the
possibilities told by the grains of pollen, the fungi, lichens, and
organisms that have been retrieved, to try and piece together facts
from the natural world." It is a fascinating area of study and she
adroitly explains how she uses her knowledge to help solve real cases in
the UK. This is real scientist working on an investigation, not an
excerpt of a CSI episode. The unseen world all around
us and underneath our feet does touch and actually cling to us every
day. This includes plants, animals, pollen, spores, fungi, and
microbes. They can mark where we have been as surely as a map.
In between walking us through some of her cases, she also shares some
of her biographical background. Although this is not strictly a
biography, it does intermingle stories from her professional scientific
work with her upbringing and background - and, you know, sometimes when
and where you were raised and some of the particulars of your childhood
do influence your life as an adult. Those who believe in an afterlife
will want to take note that Wiltshire does not and succinctly shares her
belief that once dead, a person will simple be reduced to the elements
which the body contains.
The case studies are fascinating and that alone is deserving of a
higher rating, even though sometime the personal opinions shared are a
bit too sharp. It might have served Wiltshire better if she decided on
either a biography or a series of interesting case studies. I would be
up for reading either, but the mix between the two was sometimes
incongruous. When presenting the cases, Wiltshire is at her best,
explain how she determined vital clues bases on the microscopic evidence
she found. I found the cases and her investigations to be captivating
and could esily breeze through the biographical or opinion parts of the
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.