A Fly for the Prosecution by M. Lee Goff

Read: 28 August, 2015

Goff’s Fly for the Prosecution is about forensic entomology. It’s a pretty thorough book, while still being suitable for a lay audience, covering the full range of the discipline: the history of forensic entomology, determining short post-mortem periods, determining long post-mortem periods, the effects of drugs, the effects of different environments, plus some specifics to the forensic process itself, including how to cope and giving testimony in court. There’s even an index at the back, so the book can be used as a reference.

I imagine the intended audience being people who are into entomology in general, and thinking of going into the field of forensic entomology. I also think the book will appeal to many of the fans of murder/detective stories, though it does get a bit technical and some might find it dull.

My only complaint about the book – and it’s a very small one – is that the author comes off as a little full of himself. This is particularly the case toward the end, where he contrasts the poor practices of other forensic entomologists against his own, good, practices. I feel like he could have found a different way of covering that material, either by depersonalizing it entirely or, at least, by letting some of his colleagues serve as the good examples every so often.

But other than that, his writing style was quite good and, given the material, fairly entertaining. He’s no Mary Roach, certainly, but he did manage to make descriptions of various fly species seem interesting.

The material, being forensic, is by nature quite gross. But I’m generally okay with corpse stuff. I get that icky feeling, but it’s well within what interest can compensate for. The only chapter I really struggled with was the one where he talked about doing forensic entomology on the living (all children or senior abuse victims). That really tried the hardiness of my stomach, even as I appreciate the value of the work.

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