A riveting blend of science writing and true-crime narrative that explores the valuable but often shocking interface between crime and nature - and the secrets each can reveal about the other - from a pioneer in forensic ecology and a trailblazing female scientist.
From mud tracks on a quiet country road to dirt specks on the soles of walking boots, forensic ecologist Patricia Wiltshire uses her decades of scientific expertise to find often-overlooked clues left behind by criminal activity. She detects evidence and eliminates hypotheses armed with little more than a microscope, eventually developing a compelling thesis of the who, what, how, and when of a crime. Wiltshire's remarkable accuracy has made her one of the most in-demand police consultants in the world, and her curiosity, humility, and passion for the truth have guided her every step of the way.
A riveting blend of science writing and true-crime narrative, The Nature of Life and Death details Wiltshire's unique journey from college professor to crime fighter: solving murders, locating corpses, and exonerating the falsely accused. Along the way, she introduces us to the unseen world all around us and underneath our feet: plants, animals, pollen, spores, fungi, and microbes that we move through every day. Her story is a testament to the power of persistence and reveals how our relationship with the vast natural world reaches far deeper than we might think.
"[The Nature of Life and Death] is reminiscent at times of Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and also the television show Bones.... Fascinating for readers who enjoy science, including ecology and botany, and who aren’t too squeamish." (Library Journal)
"How this mild-mannered but fiercely dedicated academician came to muck around in woodlands, bogs, and parks searching for clues that would otherwise escape the less botanically astute makes for a fiendishly good memoir. Though many scenes are not for the fainthearted, Wiltshire's truthful and candid attitude provides a stellar glimpse into this fascinating field of criminal investigation." (Booklist)
"The Nature of Life and Death draws the reader into the invisible world of a forensic ecologist who utilizes state-of-the-art science to solve grisly crimes that would have otherwise been unsolvable. Fans of true crime such as CSI and Forensic Files will be in for a treat as Pat gives you a personal glimpse into her world and philosophy of life." (Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, and Thomas Patterson, PhD, coauthors of The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug)
"Capturing and studying the almost-invisible clues that nature leaves on victim and suspect alike, Wiltshire uses her deep knowledge of botany and palynology to recreate crime scenes and establish the guilt - and sometimes innocence - of the accused. The Nature of Life and Death is a compelling mystery, an ode to the natural world, and an engrossing account of a female scientist whose passion, expertise, and deep curiousity created an entirely new branch of crime solving." (Cat Warren, author of the New York Times best seller What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World)