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Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist

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From a skeleton, a skull, a mere fragment of burnt thighbone, Dr. William Maples can deduce the age, gender, and ethnicity of a murder victim, the manner in which the person was dispatched, and, ultimately, the identity of the killer.  In Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Dr. Maples revisits his strangest, most interesting, and most horrific investigations, from the baffling cases o From a skeleton, a skull, a mere fragment of burnt thighbone, Dr. William Maples can deduce the age, gender, and ethnicity of a murder victim, the manner in which the person was dispatched, and, ultimately, the identity of the killer.  In Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Dr. Maples revisits his strangest, most interesting, and most horrific investigations, from the baffling cases of conquistador Francisco Pizarro and Vietnam MIAs to the mysterious deaths of President Zachary Taylor and the family of Czar Nicholas II.


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From a skeleton, a skull, a mere fragment of burnt thighbone, Dr. William Maples can deduce the age, gender, and ethnicity of a murder victim, the manner in which the person was dispatched, and, ultimately, the identity of the killer.  In Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Dr. Maples revisits his strangest, most interesting, and most horrific investigations, from the baffling cases o From a skeleton, a skull, a mere fragment of burnt thighbone, Dr. William Maples can deduce the age, gender, and ethnicity of a murder victim, the manner in which the person was dispatched, and, ultimately, the identity of the killer.  In Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Dr. Maples revisits his strangest, most interesting, and most horrific investigations, from the baffling cases of conquistador Francisco Pizarro and Vietnam MIAs to the mysterious deaths of President Zachary Taylor and the family of Czar Nicholas II.

30 review for Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    This book could be a manual for murderers - the author discusses the details of unsolveable cases. So, to give yourself the best chance of getting away with murder: firstly, get some tools but not locally. Preferably in a place without cameras. Maybe online, if not, pay cash. Go somewhere where no-one will hear you. Wear protective clothing. Hack person you killed into pieces. Distribute them widely preferably underwater and not in garbage bags. Throw the tools into a lake. Burn the clothing. Wha This book could be a manual for murderers - the author discusses the details of unsolveable cases. So, to give yourself the best chance of getting away with murder: firstly, get some tools but not locally. Preferably in a place without cameras. Maybe online, if not, pay cash. Go somewhere where no-one will hear you. Wear protective clothing. Hack person you killed into pieces. Distribute them widely preferably underwater and not in garbage bags. Throw the tools into a lake. Burn the clothing. What are the differences and similarities between a pathologist and a forensic anthropologist when it comes to dead bodies? A pathologist is a medical doctor with extra training. A forensic anthropologist isn't the guy to call for an autopsy in the hospital, it's a relatively rare career requiring a PhD in anthropology and deals with putrefying bodies, gone beyond the greasy wax of adipocere into bones picked clean by time and insects. The author was able to identify the cremated ashes found in a box discarded on an interstate even. This is a really interesting book. Both though, sometimes examine disgusting corpses exhumed from vaults full of the gases of decay and decomposition. Both look for the truth, for the method of murder, for the clues to the murderer himself. How and why did these people end up as corpses? n corpses, or bits of them, even recent ones. There was a case where the widow refused to accept that her husband had committed suicide. He had but he didn't mean to and it was difficult to sort out. It was really a case of 'truth being stranger than fiction' People at a train station observe a man at the far end of the platform opposite plunge onto the rails right in front of an oncoming train. His family refuse to accept that he committed suicide and he certainly wasn't pushed. What the author found was that he was peeing on to the tracks and the stream hit the live rail, electricity travelled straight up it and he was electrocuted and died before his body even fell onto the tracks. Related books I read recently are very good, Unnatural Causes is forensic pathology and Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death is very light and entertaining. Neither are in the same league as this book. Read October 2019, reviewed December 2019

  2. 4 out of 5

    Naleen

    Well, I loved this book when it focused on actual cases and forensics. I HATED this book when Maples went off on tangents about how brilliant, smart and better than everyone else he was. His arrogance is grating, and I recognize his importance and contributions to the field of forensic anthropology, but you don't have to be so goddamn full of yourself. And if I hear another old-man-forensic-slash-biological-anthropologist brag about how much food he can eat while being surrounded by grisly putri Well, I loved this book when it focused on actual cases and forensics. I HATED this book when Maples went off on tangents about how brilliant, smart and better than everyone else he was. His arrogance is grating, and I recognize his importance and contributions to the field of forensic anthropology, but you don't have to be so goddamn full of yourself. And if I hear another old-man-forensic-slash-biological-anthropologist brag about how much food he can eat while being surrounded by grisly putrid remains OR about how shocked people are when he pops a bit of human bone into his mouth to check for consistency, I think I will scream. It's old news, guys. Also, I did not appreciate the subtle sexism at play. I am not even sure that Maples himself was even aware that he being sexist, so I tried not to hold it against him, but it was very annoying. Anyway, not sure how to grade this one. Probably four stars when the content focused on bones and dead people. One or two otherwise...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    A very interesting account of Maples' career, thoughts, & more interesting cases. He's about the same age as William M. Bass, best known for Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales. I found Bass more enjoyable to read, although no more interesting. Neither can top Mary Roach in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, but they have their moments & get into areas she didn't touch on. Maples tends to be (write?) a bit pompous, although he has e A very interesting account of Maples' career, thoughts, & more interesting cases. He's about the same age as William M. Bass, best known for Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales. I found Bass more enjoyable to read, although no more interesting. Neither can top Mary Roach in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, but they have their moments & get into areas she didn't touch on. Maples tends to be (write?) a bit pompous, although he has every right to be. He's been all around the world solving mysteries through bones. One of the final cases was working on the Romanovs & figuring out whether Anastasia could have survived. He was pretty good about not getting too technical without explanation. He didn't bore me with irrelevant detail nor repetitive. There were plenty of interesting facts & he was very clear about avenues that were considered during investigations & why. He showed why the narrative outside the lab was so important to his work. His final thoughts on the state of his profession are really interesting. That's a perspective I haven't run across in any other book. 21Apr2015 Update: I stumbled across The Doe Network: International Center for Unidentified & Missing Persons which makes me realize just how 'best case' or 'perfect world' some of the identification shown in this book & TV shows really is. Searching through the descriptions showed that there were often huge discrepancies or ranges in various details. For instance, some had an age range of 50 - 99 years old. Here's one really strange description: http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/1044u... - Height: 5'4" (OCME lists her as 5'7" but photo is consistent with LE's report of 5'4") - Weight: 180 lbs. (OCME lists her as 121 lbs. but photo is consistent with LE's report of 180 lbs.) A difference of 3" & 60 lbs between the two, not to mention the difference between the artist rendering & the photo (click on the link). The ME seemed confident at picking out the race. It was known in every case, including partial skeletal remains. One Jane Doe was described as first generation mixed race (black-caucasian). http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/771uf... DNA was not taken or retained in many cases. In fact, even when a corpse was listed as 'recognizable', a lot of information is sometimes missing as in this case: http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/1271u... Is this information just not available to the Doe Network, did it get lost, or what?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    As much as I love a good forensic anthropology tale, I had trouble becoming interested in the stories while dancing around some of the most pompous, self-serving writing I've seen on the subject. Maples pats himself on the back and paints a picture of the victim's crusader for justice, when it's quite clear that ego, not empathy, is the driving force. As much as I love a good forensic anthropology tale, I had trouble becoming interested in the stories while dancing around some of the most pompous, self-serving writing I've seen on the subject. Maples pats himself on the back and paints a picture of the victim's crusader for justice, when it's quite clear that ego, not empathy, is the driving force.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Like many other reviewers, I found this book to be somewhat verbose, occasionally redundant, somewhat sexist, and the author - while definitely accomplished and intelligent - arrogant (interestingly, a trait he doesn't hesitate to point to with disdain when observed in his colleagues!). In many places his narrative is histrionic and choice of words anachronistic - whether this is natural or a conscious choice is not apparent, but I found myself reaching for the dictionary on several occasions on Like many other reviewers, I found this book to be somewhat verbose, occasionally redundant, somewhat sexist, and the author - while definitely accomplished and intelligent - arrogant (interestingly, a trait he doesn't hesitate to point to with disdain when observed in his colleagues!). In many places his narrative is histrionic and choice of words anachronistic - whether this is natural or a conscious choice is not apparent, but I found myself reaching for the dictionary on several occasions only to find that the word in question wasn't even listed. It got a little old. That said, the subject matter made for an informative and interesting read, but if you're easily upset by graphic descriptions of crimes, this book probably isn't for you. I did appreciate that it was written with an eye to educate rather than sensationalize, and the author's respect for the dead is obvious.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Becky B

    Imagine that your uncle or grandfather were a forensic anthropologist who worked on famous cases like identifying the remains of the Romanov family or figuring out if President Zachary Taylor had died of arsenic poisoning, and you asked him to tell you stories every time you got together. As he told you stories about cases he's worked on, he would mix in some history, science, and descriptions of things like the labs he's worked in. Inevitably, as these storytellers do, (especially if they are e Imagine that your uncle or grandfather were a forensic anthropologist who worked on famous cases like identifying the remains of the Romanov family or figuring out if President Zachary Taylor had died of arsenic poisoning, and you asked him to tell you stories every time you got together. As he told you stories about cases he's worked on, he would mix in some history, science, and descriptions of things like the labs he's worked in. Inevitably, as these storytellers do, (especially if they are experienced teachers who know the students won't get it till the third time you say it) he will repeat some points he really wants you to get. If you wrote down those stories, this would be the book version. I found this a fascinating read, but perhaps I am not the average reader since I have taught Biology and Anatomy, and I actually seriously considered going into forensic anthropology myself. Puzzles and science have always intrigued me. That said, this book is definitely not for everyone. If you can't eat dinner while watching CSI or Bones, you may want to avoid this book, particularly if you have a good visual imagination. Dr Maples does go into some graphic details at times. There are a few pictures in the book, mostly of skeletal remains, but they could be easily avoided since they are printed on different paper and you know exactly where they are in the book. The language in the book is for the most part clean, except for one f-word in a suicide note that is included in one of the chapters. The cases in the book range from average to strange murders, accidents, and suicides in the USA, to the challenges of identifying remains from wars, to extremely famous cases like identifying the remains of the Czar's family in Russia. I liked that this was a good dose of reality after watching too many CSI-type shows in which the criminalists quickly identify the victim and find the criminal within 24hrs almost every time. Dr Maples points out that the real life of a forensic anthropoligist is filled with more unaswered questions than solved cases and that even those that do have answers can take a really long time to wrap up; an important thing to know, especially for anyone who wants to go into the field. This book was actually written before CSI and all the other forensic science shows hit the tv scene. You would think the science in this book would be dated since it is almost 20 years old, but the only thing I really noticed was how hard it was for him to get DNA testing done. It actually took me a little while to realize the book had been written in the 90s instead of in the past decade.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    This book was much better than I thought it was going to be. Co-written with Michael Browning, this was a well-written and fascinating look into the world of forensic anthropology from the point of view of skeletal remains. There are many interesting cases William Maples covers in this book, and that alone should convince a person to read it. But, what I liked best about the book was the language: sometimes graphic, sometimes poetic, but always informative and interesting. This is an author who This book was much better than I thought it was going to be. Co-written with Michael Browning, this was a well-written and fascinating look into the world of forensic anthropology from the point of view of skeletal remains. There are many interesting cases William Maples covers in this book, and that alone should convince a person to read it. But, what I liked best about the book was the language: sometimes graphic, sometimes poetic, but always informative and interesting. This is an author who frequently quotes poets. He comments on the evil that murderers commit by saying, "...even after long, enforced communion with the foulest recesses of human nature, I cannot trace this dark river to its source, nor can I suggest a way to dam or divert it." He makes a case for forensic anthropology by summing up: "...the lamp of science, properly grasped and directed, can shine its rays into the very heart of darkness." But I am drawn to any author who uses words like "fanfaronade". Wonderful!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    Dead Men do Tell Tales... OF COURSE, THEY DO! Despite this being more than two decades old, it was pretty interesting. I love the tales of Africa and was dying when he was bitten by the baboon.... cringe. If this is your area, then the book is worth the read! 4 stars Happy Reading!

  9. 4 out of 5

    verbava

    реальна судова антропологія не завжди така захоплива, як усілякі серіали з покійниками, але доктора мейплза доволі приємно читати, та й почуття гумору в нього хороше. Most suicides are far better thought out than most pregnancies. I always make a point of telling the airline ticket agent just how many skulls I have with me in my baggage—not to shock her, but to make sure that, in case the plane crashes, investigators will know why there were more skulls than passengers aboard. This is mere profess реальна судова антропологія не завжди така захоплива, як усілякі серіали з покійниками, але доктора мейплза доволі приємно читати, та й почуття гумору в нього хороше. Most suicides are far better thought out than most pregnancies. I always make a point of telling the airline ticket agent just how many skulls I have with me in my baggage—not to shock her, but to make sure that, in case the plane crashes, investigators will know why there were more skulls than passengers aboard. This is mere professional courtesy to my colleagues, who will have to pick through my remains in the event of an accident.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Starfish

    This book is written by a forensic anthropologist about his work identifying people's remains from their skeletons, first published 1994. It's an interesting book. I was surprised how morbid it was; I was expecting CSI rather than what is almost a memoir. Maples treats his subjects thematically, rather than on a case by case basis, and includes many instances of cases where identification was impossible, or murderers never found. He likes to talk about how gruesome his work is, and can be a bit This book is written by a forensic anthropologist about his work identifying people's remains from their skeletons, first published 1994. It's an interesting book. I was surprised how morbid it was; I was expecting CSI rather than what is almost a memoir. Maples treats his subjects thematically, rather than on a case by case basis, and includes many instances of cases where identification was impossible, or murderers never found. He likes to talk about how gruesome his work is, and can be a bit tiresome actually, going on about how he managed to keep his lunch in instances where policemen did not. It's interesting, but I think that owes more to the subject matter than the writing. The style is a bit flat, and Maple's scholarly approach to things, while having definite advantages, does become a bit much after a while. Browning goes on about how the bones speak, but I found that the book would have benefited if the bones had been allowed to speak for themselves more, without the author constantly pressing his own judgements upon us. I enjoyed the book for the contrast it poses to CSI and other brands of mystery fiction, but I wouldn't read it again.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pippa

    This was a fascinating book. I don't agree with other comments about it being arrogant and sexist. I think Maples is justifiably proud of what he does, and he gives full credit to his wife for her part in supporting him and doing her own job as media specialist. I found the case histories fascinating, and was impressed by what forensic anthropology could contribute to criminal investigations. (In fact I'm reading this book nearly twenty years after it was first published, so I guess things may b This was a fascinating book. I don't agree with other comments about it being arrogant and sexist. I think Maples is justifiably proud of what he does, and he gives full credit to his wife for her part in supporting him and doing her own job as media specialist. I found the case histories fascinating, and was impressed by what forensic anthropology could contribute to criminal investigations. (In fact I'm reading this book nearly twenty years after it was first published, so I guess things may be even better now. (? I don't know.) If ever a book made a case for the need for more forensic anthropologists this one does. I wonder if we have them? Tomorrow I must do some research...

  12. 4 out of 5

    John

    I found the book overall rather disappointing. The first half consists of the author's background, followed by gory, explicit details of cremations, executions, etc. Second part was more interesting - and more what the average reader is likely expecting (looking for) - actual cases Maples has worked on from the evidence provided. Still, he came across to me as arrogant and whiny. Not particularly recommended. I found the book overall rather disappointing. The first half consists of the author's background, followed by gory, explicit details of cremations, executions, etc. Second part was more interesting - and more what the average reader is likely expecting (looking for) - actual cases Maples has worked on from the evidence provided. Still, he came across to me as arrogant and whiny. Not particularly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Dead Men Do Tell Tales is not the book that I expected. Imagine the stories that a forensic anthropologist would tell in a keynote: short vignettes, grisly deaths and those of the famous (e.g., Francisco Pizarro, Tsar Nikolai and his family, and President Taylor). These are amusing, entertaining, and enlightening stories, but not necessarily thought-provoking. These stories are the Indiana Jones of forensic anthropology, and I imagine William Maples' students sitting in the front row of class, f Dead Men Do Tell Tales is not the book that I expected. Imagine the stories that a forensic anthropologist would tell in a keynote: short vignettes, grisly deaths and those of the famous (e.g., Francisco Pizarro, Tsar Nikolai and his family, and President Taylor). These are amusing, entertaining, and enlightening stories, but not necessarily thought-provoking. These stories are the Indiana Jones of forensic anthropology, and I imagine William Maples' students sitting in the front row of class, flashing "I love you" as they blinked, while he told his stories of death and investigations. Almost certainly, Dead Men is more exciting than the book I had expected and wanted, but I still was disappointed. Maples and Browning flitted along engagingly, alluding to rather than describing the probably truer story of time in the trenches, work that requires considerable conscientiousness, attention to detail, scientific knowledge, and critical thinking. This is the sadder story: at least in 1994, when Dead Men was first publisher, the market for forensic anthropologists was soft. While Maples believed that there should be at least one forensic anthropologist per state – and more in more populous and warm states – this was not to be. As he concluded: Seldom does a week go by without my receiving a visit or a telephone call from some young person eager to go into forensic anthropology. Will I accept him or her as a student? Alas, I don’t have the money to support large numbers of students, nor the space in which to teach and train them, nor the time to give them all the attention they deserve. Even if I were to take them in, where would they go when they left me, having won their doctorates? Where would they get jobs? No doubt a handful of them would, as I did, work their way into a university system and slowly establish a practice. Most wouldn’t. That is the bitter truth. (Kindle 4286)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Trena

    This is the collected war stories of a forensic anthropologist, a specialist in identifying human remains based on their bones. The tales are deliciously gruesome and salaciously horrifying (though some are sad and disturbing and you feel like the bad kind of voyeur). It's not a book for the faint of heart or stomach, especially the photographs. But I found it interesting; I had no idea how much such a profession can do with so little. It is docked a full star for the excrutiating writing, made a This is the collected war stories of a forensic anthropologist, a specialist in identifying human remains based on their bones. The tales are deliciously gruesome and salaciously horrifying (though some are sad and disturbing and you feel like the bad kind of voyeur). It's not a book for the faint of heart or stomach, especially the photographs. But I found it interesting; I had no idea how much such a profession can do with so little. It is docked a full star for the excrutiating writing, made all the more puzzling and inexcusable by the fact that it was co-written with a ghost writer. The style is way too "poetic" and pointlessly "fancy"; it wouldn't be a good style for any book other than a Victorian bodice ripper, and it is particularly ill-suited to a medico-scientific book by a practicing clinician. Examples: Of Francisco Pizarro. "It was the last meal he would ever eat. While he was yet at table, a tumult was heard outside the governor's palace." Yet at table? Bodice ripper. On the media, after tests revealed Pres. Zachary Taylor did not die of arsenic poisoning. "The satellite dishes were stowed, the camera lenses were capped, the generators were unplugged, the notebooks snapped shut. No more did the networks jangle my phone, wooing me with their blandishments." Why not, "The media stopped calling"? Perhaps these don't sound so bad but a whole book of them really gets old.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erth

    now i am hooked. This was such a great, easy and creative book. i was hooked after the first page. The characters were easy to fall in love with and follow, along with the story. the author made the mental visions so easy and vivid of the surroundings and the characters actions felt so real. i would highly recommend this author and this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike Shultz

    Fascinating and brutal. This book focused more on stories and cases that the author was involved with, as opposed to trying to teach forensic science (although there was plenty of science.) Nothing dull herein. Particularly fascinating were the "Meek-Jennings" suicide case, the examination of the bones of the murdered Russian Csar and his family, and the description of the bones of Pizarro. A couple sections were brutal in their gruesome detail, although the author took pains to share his knowle Fascinating and brutal. This book focused more on stories and cases that the author was involved with, as opposed to trying to teach forensic science (although there was plenty of science.) Nothing dull herein. Particularly fascinating were the "Meek-Jennings" suicide case, the examination of the bones of the murdered Russian Csar and his family, and the description of the bones of Pizarro. A couple sections were brutal in their gruesome detail, although the author took pains to share his knowledge in a way that didn't glorify the horrific nature of it all, most notably the section on the remains of children who have been abused and murdered. The pictures were a nice addition. It felt only slightly out of date--written in 1994, DNA analysis existed but was described as more expensive/difficult than I think it is now. The writing itself was excellent and unusually evocative for a book about science.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    This was a reading assignment in my Forensic Anthropology class last semester. At first I thought the author's tone was narcissistic. Thankfully, towards the middle and end the author wrote about more about forensic science and less about his younger years, and he included more information on the field of forensic anthropology itself. The writing itself is excellent. Dr. Maples is clearly very well educated, and his hobby of reading literature shines through in some parts. He covers war crimes, This was a reading assignment in my Forensic Anthropology class last semester. At first I thought the author's tone was narcissistic. Thankfully, towards the middle and end the author wrote about more about forensic science and less about his younger years, and he included more information on the field of forensic anthropology itself. The writing itself is excellent. Dr. Maples is clearly very well educated, and his hobby of reading literature shines through in some parts. He covers war crimes, suicides, and murders. I wish he would have gone into detail about more specific, high profile cases like he did in the last three or so chapters. I find those stories so interesting because I love learning more about the victims, the perpetrators, and even how the media reacted.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    This was right up my nerdy geeky alley! Not only are pictures included (which, if you're queasy, ignore), but step-by-step conclusions to some of his real life cases are explained in detail. He throws in the murderers and some really good who-dunnits, but also throws in the cases of former President Taylor (was he poisoned or did he die of natural causes?), and of course, Anastasia and the last Romonovs. Ah, if only I would have been a forensic anthropologist instead of a medical anthropologist. This was right up my nerdy geeky alley! Not only are pictures included (which, if you're queasy, ignore), but step-by-step conclusions to some of his real life cases are explained in detail. He throws in the murderers and some really good who-dunnits, but also throws in the cases of former President Taylor (was he poisoned or did he die of natural causes?), and of course, Anastasia and the last Romonovs. Ah, if only I would have been a forensic anthropologist instead of a medical anthropologist.... I'm going to have to purchase this for my anthropology collection. Loved it and would read it again and again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rosalie

    Dr. William Maples tell you tales of his involvement in solving horrible crimes. If you are a fan of CSI don't bother me. If you are interested in how stuff really works in all the gory detail and what it's like to be an actual forensic anthropologist this is the place. More of a series of memoirs than a scientific study, but greatly explains the science stuff as well very neatly and humorously at time. Not for the easily queasy, but great for those seriously interested in light reading in this a Dr. William Maples tell you tales of his involvement in solving horrible crimes. If you are a fan of CSI don't bother me. If you are interested in how stuff really works in all the gory detail and what it's like to be an actual forensic anthropologist this is the place. More of a series of memoirs than a scientific study, but greatly explains the science stuff as well very neatly and humorously at time. Not for the easily queasy, but great for those seriously interested in light reading in this area of study and crime solving. Does has photos and great stories as well as trying times and a bit upsetting actual details to crimes. Very well written. Very enjoyable.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Fishface

    Dr. Maples' memoir of working as a forensic anthropologist at the Identification Lab in Gainesville, Florida, right across the way from the memorial wall where he can see the names of Danny Rolling's victims daily. Here's a man after my own heart -- he even majored in English Lit, like I did -- and the writing gets more florid, purple and literary as the story moves on. His forecast of the future of forensic anthropology is daunting, to say the least, but this book should help make it clear to a Dr. Maples' memoir of working as a forensic anthropologist at the Identification Lab in Gainesville, Florida, right across the way from the memorial wall where he can see the names of Danny Rolling's victims daily. Here's a man after my own heart -- he even majored in English Lit, like I did -- and the writing gets more florid, purple and literary as the story moves on. His forecast of the future of forensic anthropology is daunting, to say the least, but this book should help make it clear to anyone who doubts that this is a needed skillset in a crime-ridden world. The stories in here are remarkable and not to be missed.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I'm a fan of the TV show "Bones" and generally enjoy memoirs by medical doctors and such, so I was looking forward to this volume. The author writes well, and when he focuses on a deceased person, such as Pizarro or the "Elephant Man," the stories are interesting and informative. Unfortunately, he spends too much of the book talking about himself and either explicitly or implicitly relating how wonderful and amazing he is. Dude, your readers are much more likely to admire you if you let them rea I'm a fan of the TV show "Bones" and generally enjoy memoirs by medical doctors and such, so I was looking forward to this volume. The author writes well, and when he focuses on a deceased person, such as Pizarro or the "Elephant Man," the stories are interesting and informative. Unfortunately, he spends too much of the book talking about himself and either explicitly or implicitly relating how wonderful and amazing he is. Dude, your readers are much more likely to admire you if you let them reach that conclusion than if you inform them that you're awesome. Such a turnoff. I really wish he'd gotten out of the way of his own story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robin Hobb

    Absolutely fascinating tales of how forensic evidence can be obtained from a corpse.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    Forensic anthropologist, Dr. William R. Maples has studied the bones of people killed in almost every conceivable way: "meat cleavers, machetes, ice picks, bayonets, hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, crowbars, pry bars, two-by-fours, tree limbs, jack handles...neckties, pantyhose, ropes, bootlaces, towels and chains." Even a frozen ham. He (along with his co-author, Michael Browning) tells a vivid story and is not afraid to editorialize: "At the center of the labyrinth of certain human personalitie Forensic anthropologist, Dr. William R. Maples has studied the bones of people killed in almost every conceivable way: "meat cleavers, machetes, ice picks, bayonets, hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, crowbars, pry bars, two-by-fours, tree limbs, jack handles...neckties, pantyhose, ropes, bootlaces, towels and chains." Even a frozen ham. He (along with his co-author, Michael Browning) tells a vivid story and is not afraid to editorialize: "At the center of the labyrinth of certain human personalities there lurks a Minotaur that feeds on human flesh, and we have not yet found the thread to help us map this maze and slay the beast." I've read many classics by forensic pathologists such as Sir Sidney Smith ("Mostly Murder"), Dr. Keith Simpson ("Forty Years of Murder"), and Dr. Michael Baden ("Dead Reckoning: the New Science of Catching Killers") and have read crime fiction by forensic anthropologists such as Bill Bass ("Carved In Bone" published under the pseudonym 'Jefferson Bass'). "Dead Men Do Tell Tales" is my first autobiography by a forensic anthropologist, and it deserves to be placed on the shelf with my all-time favorite true crime books. There are case studies of heinous crimes--the drifter, Danny Harold Rolling, who murdered five University of Florida students--but also cases involving historical figures such as President Zachery "Old Rough and Ready" Taylor who died of an unspecified gastrointestinal disorder after only sixteen months in office. Was he our first assassinated president? In one of his most famous cases, Dr. Maples was invited to Russia to examine the bones of what might have been the last Czar of Russia, his family, and servants. All were gunned down by a Bolshevik death squad in July, 1918. Along with other forensic scientists, he has also been involved in identifying the bones of our soldiers who never returned from war. One of the most affecting skeletons that he was asked to examine was that of the "Elephant Man," Joseph Merrick. This book is truly a feast (a somewhat grisly feast) for those of us who value the application of science to otherwise unsolvable mysteries. If you are reading "Dead Men Do Tell Tales" while at the dinner table, you might want to save the photographs until after you have finished digesting. In 1997, Dr. Maples died of brain cancer at the relatively young age of 59.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alexandria

    This was not exactly what I was expecting but it was interesting all the same. There was more emphasis on the author's career than on the forensics, though there was little distinction between the two at times. I got more of a feel for the industry than their methods and after the initial surprise wore off, I was fine with that. The author was blessedly brief when discussing certain topics, such as children, but there were one or two cases discussed during that chapter. Maples can get a bit prea This was not exactly what I was expecting but it was interesting all the same. There was more emphasis on the author's career than on the forensics, though there was little distinction between the two at times. I got more of a feel for the industry than their methods and after the initial surprise wore off, I was fine with that. The author was blessedly brief when discussing certain topics, such as children, but there were one or two cases discussed during that chapter. Maples can get a bit preachy at times which struck me as odd and frustrated me. I don't particularly enjoy religion creeping into my forensics, but I understand that when a person sees what Maples has seen and has to discuss what Maples discusses, they have to have a rock. Maples' is his religion and that's fine. It can just be jarring when you're not expecting it. The writing flows well and keeps the reader engaged. Maples discusses the cases with relative detachment and tries to limit the nausea-inducing details as much as possible without being so prim that the impact of the situation is lost. It's a fine balance and Maples walks it well. If I weren't already set on my career path, I honestly would have been swayed to look into forensics after reading Maples' passion for the topic. Maybe I still will, who knows?

  25. 5 out of 5

    Flo

    This was an interesting read, and I enjoyed the forensic cases that it covered. There was a pretty good variety of current and historical true crime, and the author clearly did a lot of groundbreaking and important work. Unfortunately, the author really made the book much less of a good read than it could be because of his tone. He just seemed super arrogant throughout, and the tone he used was often frustrating. I mean, obviously, he is good at his job given that he's been involved in so many f This was an interesting read, and I enjoyed the forensic cases that it covered. There was a pretty good variety of current and historical true crime, and the author clearly did a lot of groundbreaking and important work. Unfortunately, the author really made the book much less of a good read than it could be because of his tone. He just seemed super arrogant throughout, and the tone he used was often frustrating. I mean, obviously, he is good at his job given that he's been involved in so many famous cases, but the book felt like he was bragging throughout. Maybe he should be allowed to brag after all his accomplishments, but it was very off-putting to me as a reader. (It sort of made me think of Bones, but without the things that were endearing about her lol.) Also, the first few chapters about his education and such weren't really that interesting to me, so I really didn't get into the book until he really started going into cases primarily rather than his own background. I guess I get why he went into it, but I was promised "strange and fascinating cases" and not "a biography of a forensic anthropologist".

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chaitalee Ghosalkar

    If you ask me who should read this book, I won't bat an eyelid before saying 'murderers in the making.' Yes, you read it right. William R. Maples, an anthropologist from Florida gives an account of the cases he has handled over the years as a forensic anthropologist. He has picked his most notable cases and provided a detailed account of all that it takes to identify the victim and essentially a murderer. Use any method of killing-stabbing, burning, shooting, etc. rest assured that the forensic a If you ask me who should read this book, I won't bat an eyelid before saying 'murderers in the making.' Yes, you read it right. William R. Maples, an anthropologist from Florida gives an account of the cases he has handled over the years as a forensic anthropologist. He has picked his most notable cases and provided a detailed account of all that it takes to identify the victim and essentially a murderer. Use any method of killing-stabbing, burning, shooting, etc. rest assured that the forensic anthropologist will come back to you with evidence enough to send the suspect (if he/she is guilty) behind bars. I especially enjoyed his narration of the Meek-Jennings case and couldn't help but Google it to know more. Autobiographical account this might be, but that's no excuse for author's 'I-me-myself' rant throughout. We get that the work he does requires immense study, maybe even an additional dash of talent. Not everyone is cut out for the role. Even so, that's no reason to continually showcase one's importance. Also, it is hard to not tell the readers about their private life (considering how social an animal man is), but don't devote pages and pages to it. Readers came to read about Dead Men telling tales, not how you landed up in Kenya and your subsequent encounter with a baboon.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Evalina

    Maples does a fantastic job of taking the reader though a dark and mysterious world of hidden clues and interesting developments, to reveal truths of deaths that that may have never been known. Investigative forensics seems to be a severely unappreciated field, as Maples describes the struggles and victories of what all the career has to offer. I am so much more appreciative of the work that goes on behind-the-scenes as the intricacies and finesse of what all is required of the field is describe Maples does a fantastic job of taking the reader though a dark and mysterious world of hidden clues and interesting developments, to reveal truths of deaths that that may have never been known. Investigative forensics seems to be a severely unappreciated field, as Maples describes the struggles and victories of what all the career has to offer. I am so much more appreciative of the work that goes on behind-the-scenes as the intricacies and finesse of what all is required of the field is described. Justice for cold cases, illumination of past circumstances and true identities are brought to light in this fascinating read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    Not for the faint-hearted, this book details a long career as a forensic anthropologist. Bones and skeletons, even in pieces, can still tell a story. This author, though, is very impressed with himself, and cannot refrain from telling the reader many times how he is so smart and skilled. I suspect that a lot of work in this field has now been overtaken by advances in DNA identification. There is much territory covered here — everything from serial killers in Florida to identifying the remains of Not for the faint-hearted, this book details a long career as a forensic anthropologist. Bones and skeletons, even in pieces, can still tell a story. This author, though, is very impressed with himself, and cannot refrain from telling the reader many times how he is so smart and skilled. I suspect that a lot of work in this field has now been overtaken by advances in DNA identification. There is much territory covered here — everything from serial killers in Florida to identifying the remains of the Romanovs. Interesting stuff, though repetitive at times, and pompous.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    3.5 I chose to read this book because I am watching the TV series Bones, in which the main character is a forensic anthropologist. This book was very interesting and charmingly told. Though the subject matter is murder, the approach is very human. The author died in 1997, which seems a shame given his ability to articulate complex scientific topics clearly. Our society lacks knowledge or respect for science all too often - this kind of spokesperson is helpful to us all.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    I loved this book and it made me even more interested in the science of death and forensic anthropology. Dr Maples is a dear man, you can tell that in every word you read and by the respect he pays to the dead. Overall, this is a fascinating account of a long and richly full career and, indeed, life. May he rest in eternal peace.

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