The Scottish crime writer Val McDermid is a fan of forensic scientists. She points out that they ‘are willing to engage with the darkest and most frightening aspect of human behaviour on a daily basis’ and make sacrifices for the sake of justice. They appreciate their champion too. McDermid played a crucial role in mobilising other famous crime novelists in support of the ‘Million for a Morgue’ campaign to fund a world-class mortuary at the Dundee University Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification. In exchange for donating, members of the public were allowed to vote for which writer should have the morgue named after them. The centre’s director, the forensic anthropologist Sue Black (one of several living scientists who appear in this book), at whose feet McDermid has been sitting for two decades, announced delightedly that the winner was ‘the fabulous Val McDermid’. Such famous supporters of the appeal as Lee Child and Kathy Reichs came nowhere but in recognition of the strong vote for another Scot, Stuart MacBride has a dissecting room named after him.
I’m a crime writer myself, but being squeamish I am from what Reginald Hill christened the Jane Austen wing of the profession. McDermid is made of sterner stuff and takes the gruesome in her stride. Having long been fascinated with the methods of discovering who did what nasty thing to