18 Tiny Deaths
The story of the Gilded Age Chicago heiress who revolutionized forensic death investigation. As the mother of forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee is the reason why homicide detectives are a thing. She is responsible for the popularity of forensic science in television shows and pop culture. Long overlooked in the history books, this extremely detailed and thoroughly researched biography will at long last tell the story of the life and contributions of this pioneering woman.

18 Tiny Deaths Details

Title18 Tiny Deaths
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 4th, 2020
PublisherSourcebooks
ISBN-139781492680475
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Crime, True Crime, Science, History, Biography, Mystery

18 Tiny Deaths Review

  • Petra-X
    January 1, 1970
    This book is shaping itself up to be the worst book of the year so far. Apology - This review is long, negative and probably boring and I can't bring myself to go back and edit it. I had so little interesting material to work with. The format is so you don't have to wade through it like me but can click on anything that interests you, or nothing at all.The mostly good introduction (view spoiler)[It's starts off well with a description of tiny detailed dioramas of crime scenes that Frances This book is shaping itself up to be the worst book of the year so far. Apology - This review is long, negative and probably boring and I can't bring myself to go back and edit it. I had so little interesting material to work with. The format is so you don't have to wade through it like me but can click on anything that interests you, or nothing at all.The mostly good introduction (view spoiler)[It's starts off well with a description of tiny detailed dioramas of crime scenes that Frances Glessner Lee had built for lectures and continues with a background to death investigations in the US, mostly via coroners who were politically appointees and unsurprisingly corrupt. Maybe a 3 star. But it's all downhill after that. (hide spoiler)]Frances family from the time her father was born more or less in excrutiating detail (view spoiler)[The lives of Frances Lee's parents are written about in far too much detail and they were remarkably boring people who liked collecting things and going to concerts. Ok, he was an attorney who made a lot of money before he was 40 and they encouraged the arts and were liberals in general. That would have been almost enough. But no, we have to go into major local crimes, theatre burnings and mass death. No relevance shown.It didn't need to go into what games her younger brother played, family hobbies, her brother at college having spring-break type fun. It didn't need to go into 90% of all the stuff about her family that it did. Make that 95% and I might have skimmed the 5% and not been so annoyed (it went beyond boredom). (hide spoiler)]Things I objected to (view spoiler)[ The occasional dialogue which was obviously just conjecture as were emotions and reactions ascribed mostly to the father I certainly didn't like the description of a gay friend being described as confirmed bachelor and bohemian. He was a camp gay man, what's wrong with saying that? They might not have said it back then (but I bet they did) but this is a book about then, that's not the same thing. I also objected later on to the extreme misogyny of the author of writing about so many people as Mr. Alfred Jones the dadada and his wife, Mr Algernon Smith the famous whatever and his wife. The wives aren't possessions that tag along and they have names! (hide spoiler)]More tedious trivia that added nothing to the story that I had to try and concentrate on just in case it did (view spoiler)[I didn't care about tourists who drove up to see their estate and ordered lemonade from their cook, or who of the mother's social circle would eat fruit cake and drink wine with them. I didn't like the meaningless quotes from diaries that didn't work towards Frances' invention of modern forensics. I didn't like the excrebly bad (even for a 9 year old) poem that Frances wrote to the doctor who took out her tonsils in her house and not a hospital. I cared still less about knowing what rich people wore to their weekly needlecraft circle or what Frances Lee's wedding dress was made from, what flowers she carried and the music played. The long anecdote explaining how the Mona Lisa came to prominence (it was stolen) was relevant only that yes, if fingerprinting had been invented the case might have been solved. (hide spoiler)]Architects. Why? (view spoiler)[ I had no interest at all in the three architects who build their extravagent homes. I didn't want to know what other places they had built, their styles, what awards they had won and their place in American architectural history and what school they went to. Why would I?. (hide spoiler)]Confederate heroes. (view spoiler)[ Well we all know what they were fighting for. Heroes? I didn't care at all about her husband's father being a Confederate hero and what he'd done to be considered that, who he'd ordered fired on and why. How can you be a hero when you are fighting to keep slavery as an economic system where punishment is mandated by the state? See They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South. (hide spoiler)]Needlecraft and a wedding (view spoiler)[ I cared still less about knowing what rich people wore to their weekly needlecraft circle, what bags they carried or what Frances Lee's wedding dress was made from, what flowers her were, still less what was the processional and other music played and by whom. (hide spoiler)]The rich are different. And make excuses. (view spoiler)[Frances as befits a filthy rich heiress had excuses about why she didn't go to college or get a job. She wanted to go to Harvard which didn't admit women, no matter who your father was and how much money he might give. Nor did I care that she played her part as a proper wife was expected to do (organise the staff and flowers I think). Didn't matter he left anyway. (hide spoiler)]High spot, we're getting relevant here! (view spoiler)[ I got a bit interested when she decided to make as present for her mother an entire 1:12 scale miniature of a 90 musician orchestra (with professional help, of course) as that related to the dioramas. But I couldn't sustain it. (hide spoiler)]Knowing far too much about John Jacob Glessner and hardly anything about his daughter but this book is supposed to be about her! (view spoiler)[ In all that over-detailed verbiage you'd think that the personality of Frances would shine through, that I would be able to say well she would have voted this way, I can imagine her reading these books, these were her passions, these were the things she abhorred, but I can't. I just know she was a very wealthy lady who enjoyed needlework and making miniatures and was a mother. That's not much. (It was all TMI about her father, John Jacob Glessner and his personality). (hide spoiler)]Our heroine's attitude towards money which is one I've never heard expressed before. (view spoiler)[ Frances has given a lot of money to her daughters not so that they might live off the interest but so they may have the "comfort of capital" of their own. This comfort she said was very important to her, although they didn't need the interest any more than she had done as their allowances were more than adequate. But oh the comfort of having capital, could warm your heart counting it on a cold night! (hide spoiler)]At last! One chapter past the half way mark, Frances is going to get into forensics. She establishes a department of legal medicine at Harvard and pays the salaries of Dr William Brickley and Dr Timothy Leary (!) as faculty. I almost got going there, got some enthusiasm, but no we have to get back into architecture and how the father had left one of his houses to the American Institute of Architects and how much they wanted from the daughter to remodel it. Yadayadayada That was it, I can stand no more.Why this book does not get a 1 star or, the small plus point (view spoiler)[ I really only give books I found really objectionable, usually full of hatred or prejudice or propaganda to persuade you that some evil bastards were really good guys if you just looked at it the PC way. So in order to preserve the integrity of that rating, this gets a 2 star. It was tedious, it was over-written, it never looked like getting to the point but it wasn't objectionable in any way. (hide spoiler)]Maybe a better editor could have guided the author, or maybe the author was just the wrong person to write this book. I don't doubt he is very learned and I'm sure his text books have the requisite dryness that restricts them to students of the field, maybe they would enjoy this book too. I didn't. DNF. I can't waste my life like this.________________(view spoiler)[ All reviews so far are of freebies. Out of 30 text reviews, 14 do not disclose this. This is a bit like advertisements passing themselves off as "news". I cannot believe so many people thought this was a 4 or 5 star book. But who knows, perhaps they read text books curled up on the sofa? (hide spoiler)]17/2020
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  • Obsidian
    January 1, 1970
    Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.This one is definitely a good read for those who are True Crime enthusiasts. This starts off a little slow, but I found myself fascinated by the end of the book. Goldfarb follows the true story of Frances Glessner Lee who I am just going to say, is the mother of forensics as we understand it in the United States today. Lee was a wealthy heiress with an interest in medicine which of course was discouraged Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.This one is definitely a good read for those who are True Crime enthusiasts. This starts off a little slow, but I found myself fascinated by the end of the book. Goldfarb follows the true story of Frances Glessner Lee who I am just going to say, is the mother of forensics as we understand it in the United States today. Lee was a wealthy heiress with an interest in medicine which of course was discouraged for a woman living in the time and place that she did (Chicago in the late 1800s). When Lee's father died, she finally was able to take that money and use it to help detectives follow what they should do in order to develop clues to solve murders. I kind of fell in love with the idea of her creating "rooms" in which detectives and others could use to hone their skills. She was pretty much the original creator of "The Escape Room."The only reason why I gave this 4 stars and not 5 is that it does take a while to get going and a few of Goldfarb's sections just drifted along. I noticed a lot of repetition in places. As someone who loves True Crime, Forensic Files, and other shows, I could not believe I had never heard of Lee before.
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  • Dee Arr
    January 1, 1970
    I had never heard of Frances Glessner Lee before reading this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed author Bruce Goldfarb’s book. There are many elements contained within its pages. Readers are permitted an intimate look at Ms. Lee’s ancestors as well as the events of her earlier life (before the main focus of the book, her tireless efforts to advance the field of modern forensics). The explanation of the origins of the coroner system was enlightening and one can begin to understand the frustrations I had never heard of Frances Glessner Lee before reading this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed author Bruce Goldfarb’s book. There are many elements contained within its pages. Readers are permitted an intimate look at Ms. Lee’s ancestors as well as the events of her earlier life (before the main focus of the book, her tireless efforts to advance the field of modern forensics). The explanation of the origins of the coroner system was enlightening and one can begin to understand the frustrations Ms. Lee dealt with throughout her life as this system is still employed in many states. The impact of Ms. Lee’s efforts cannot be overstated. The classes she started while at Harvard still continue, with her miniature and lifelike dioramas still being employed. Though some of her work has been swallowed and is almost forgotten (such as the Magrath Library, containing over 3000 books), there are countless reminders of exactly what Ms. Lee accomplished. It is noted in the book that “18 Tiny Deaths” is the first biography about Frances Glessner Lee. I found it to be a satisfying description of a woman who chose to pioneer a new field, her struggles to bring her dreams to fruition, and the many accomplishments that she was instrumental in bringing about. Recommended to everyone. Five stars.My thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks for an advance electronic copy of this title.
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  • Shaelene (aGirlWithBookss)
    January 1, 1970
    This was one of my most anticipated books for 2020, forensics is something I’ve always had a strong interest in. So I was thrilled when I got approved for this arc. Frances Lee Glessner was born into a very wealthy family in Chicago and incredibly well educated. She always had a strong fascination with medicine and death. This book is supposed to tell us how she got into forensics to become one of the people that helped to establish medical examiners as well as courses at Harvard on the subject. This was one of my most anticipated books for 2020, forensics is something I’ve always had a strong interest in. So I was thrilled when I got approved for this arc. Frances Lee Glessner was born into a very wealthy family in Chicago and incredibly well educated. She always had a strong fascination with medicine and death. This book is supposed to tell us how she got into forensics to become one of the people that helped to establish medical examiners as well as courses at Harvard on the subject. However I never got that far as this novel is DRY AS A BONE. I love nonfiction, it makes up the majority of my reading, I’ve read some dry nonfiction in my life. But this was just too dry, and boring.We are reminded every few pages about how wealthy Lee and her family are. For at least half of the book, we are following her and her wealthy family and all the eccentric things they got up to. This is all interspersed with tidbits about how the coroner system worked in the states during her time, as well as some notable cases that went unsolved because of shoddy work on part of the coroners. While this was interesting, it's not what I intended to read and I found myself not wanting to pick the book up or read at all. So, I DNF’d it at 50%. I realized I didn’t enjoy reading this at all and couldn’t force myself to read more.2 stars.** ARC provided by Sourcebooks & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Kelly Long
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This book is a great history of the "medico-legal" subject. A lot of research went into this. It's a fascinating look at not only Frances Glessner Lee but also George Magrath and others who helped Lee shape what is now known as forensic science. I think this subject is definitely underrated in the true crime genre so I highly recommend this book.
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  • Lauren Stoolfire
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb isn't quite what I was expecting, but still an intriguing read. It does take a while to get going and it does go off on quite a few tangents, but it's still intriguing if you're mostly in it for Lee's work. I can definitely say that I'll have to watch the movie Mystery Street directed by John Sturges though that's for I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb isn't quite what I was expecting, but still an intriguing read. It does take a while to get going and it does go off on quite a few tangents, but it's still intriguing if you're mostly in it for Lee's work. I can definitely say that I'll have to watch the movie Mystery Street directed by John Sturges though that's for sure since it's connection to true events.
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  • Travelling Bookworm
    January 1, 1970
    (I have received this book as an ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)Death fascinates us as humans: despite its inevitability, we are still shocked, upset, and morbidly curious about it. How? Why? And the unanswerable what next?And so, science and law has had to come a long way over centuries to help us understand this inevitable phenomenon, particularly for the unexplained and suspicious cases of death.18 Tiny Deaths paints a compelling picture of Frances Glessner Lee: an (I have received this book as an ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)Death fascinates us as humans: despite its inevitability, we are still shocked, upset, and morbidly curious about it. How? Why? And the unanswerable what next?And so, science and law has had to come a long way over centuries to help us understand this inevitable phenomenon, particularly for the unexplained and suspicious cases of death.18 Tiny Deaths paints a compelling picture of Frances Glessner Lee: an inspiring woman, who has dedicated her whole life and a great part of her (seemingly bottomless) finances to the establishment of a reliable medicolegal system in the USA, despite lacking any formal academic education about medicine or law herself. With her endless efforts in educational, political and social spheres, fighting against corruption and condecension, it is no wonder that she can be considered the mother of forensic science in the USA.And more specifically, she is the creator of “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”, a set of dioramas depicting 18 cases of unexplained death scenarios.The book is packed with very interesting facts for true crime lovers, explaining the technical terminology where necessary and sharing curious historical tidbits at others. (Did you know exactly how an autopsy is done? So fascinating! So gross!)However, the text often gets bogged down with too much information, which makes it difficult to read at times. There are some confusing tangents that seem only partially-related to the subject, and too many names to remember (there is a handy guide for this at the start of the book, though). Nonetheless, it is a wonderful biography of a woman worth learning about.
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  • Tedi
    January 1, 1970
    There are always points in biographies or historical nonfiction such as this that I think to myself “I do not care.” That never once happened with this book. I was captivated through every chapter. Frances Glessner Lee had a vision and she pursued it with determination and vigor, relentlessly. While the money she had certainly helped the situation, what this story truly was to me was a story of passion and how finding our passion can transform our lives.Also, there was the true crime bit which I There are always points in biographies or historical nonfiction such as this that I think to myself “I do not care.” That never once happened with this book. I was captivated through every chapter. Frances Glessner Lee had a vision and she pursued it with determination and vigor, relentlessly. While the money she had certainly helped the situation, what this story truly was to me was a story of passion and how finding our passion can transform our lives.Also, there was the true crime bit which I loved just as much. Where would forensics be without Frances Glessner Lee? It is truly hard to say because she is so interwoven in its beginnings that the histories of both are inseparable.TLDR; I loved this.
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  • Susan F
    January 1, 1970
    Frances Glessner Lee appeared to be a "rich woman who didn't have enough to do." What she really was created a widespread industry reaching from "Legal Medicine" , i.e. forensics to homicide investigations, on to the multi million dollar entertainment world of true crime stories, fiction books, movies etc. This wealthy woman held a fascination for unexplained deaths and her journey totally revolutionized how crime involving murder is investigated, processed and determined today. This account of Frances Glessner Lee appeared to be a "rich woman who didn't have enough to do." What she really was created a widespread industry reaching from "Legal Medicine" , i.e. forensics to homicide investigations, on to the multi million dollar entertainment world of true crime stories, fiction books, movies etc. This wealthy woman held a fascination for unexplained deaths and her journey totally revolutionized how crime involving murder is investigated, processed and determined today. This account of her life is fascinating and at times mind boggling as to how this woman literally fought her way to the point where law officers could receive good and thorough educations on how to conduct investigations. It's an amazing story to me. Once again, as seen in history, a woman saw a need and pushed those men who would listen to her toward breakthroughs that changed the world relating to the handling of a crime scene and the intricacy of processing, investigating and bringing justice to the victim.Author Bruce Goldfarb, a journalist with a medical background became the Executive Assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland. Serving as public information officer, Goldfarb also became de facto curator to the amazing seventy year old dioramas created by Lee which was just one of her offerings from a life dedicated to the medical legalities involved with unexplained death. He wrote this book after meticulously researching Lee's life and work. It is excellent.Readers who are interested in books, televisions shows and movies about true crime or fictional homicide investigations should find Frances Glessner Lee an amazing woman as I have. Law officers or students of forensics should learn about the woman who studied and financially funded the fight for better education for them to do their jobs in the 1930's on into the 1950's. She gave the world a great gift yet the basically shy woman took very little credit as she wanted the process and education to be the thing in the spotlight, not her part in it.This book took me awhile to read, there's a lot to take in. I can't begin to explain what a widespread influence Lee had during her lifetime and afterward. She even became friends with one of the most popular crime authors of the day and a movie starring Ricardo Montalban came to be because of her diligent work with "Legal Medicine". I want to thank the publisher and NetGalley for my advanced copy of the book. It's a fascinating account of an amazing woman.
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  • Dawn Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    I am a crime geek - I love books on crime, I watch crime-based shows, I read cozy mysteries and regular mysteries. And I, at one time, wanted to be a criminal forensic scientist or pathologist. Alas, that was not to be as I am allergic to many of the chemicals that they use daily and there there is the whole math issue. I think that disappointment is why I really dive into books and shows about this subject - I live vicariously now through all of that. BUT! with all that knowledge, I had NO I am a crime geek - I love books on crime, I watch crime-based shows, I read cozy mysteries and regular mysteries. And I, at one time, wanted to be a criminal forensic scientist or pathologist. Alas, that was not to be as I am allergic to many of the chemicals that they use daily and there there is the whole math issue. I think that disappointment is why I really dive into books and shows about this subject - I live vicariously now through all of that. BUT! with all that knowledge, I had NO FREAKING IDEA that a woman [and a formidable one at that] both created and developed what is now modern forensics. So when I saw this book, I jumped at it. And B O Y -howdy am I glad I did. What an amazing read and an even more amazing woman. WOW. This book is really for true forensic fans/geeks/lovers. It is, at times, fairly technical. And at times, it is not. Her story is really amazing and how she was treated [I am looking at you Harvard University] over the years just blows my mind, even though I know what it was like for women then [and now. You'd think things would have changed. Sigh.] I really loved every second of this book - in the discovery of how photos helped catch criminals. The conversations about H.H. Holmes [who I had learned about in Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City" - a serial killer that STILL makes my blood run cold], and other conversations that I had previously read about, but had no idea that the basis of them came from Frances Lee. IF you truly love forensics and stories about crimes that were seemingly impossible to solve, but were eventually solved because of the amazingness of forensics, then this book is for you. We all should know about this woman, her life and her huge contribution to the invention of forensics. You will not be sorry. Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks [Nonfiction] Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • thereadingowlvina (Elvina Ulrich)
    January 1, 1970
    ***4.75 stars*** "… forensics science - the application of medicine to matters of law and justice."Frances Glessner Lee is a familiar name to any true crime fans, especially forensics aficionados. She was the first female captain in US after being commissioned by the New Hampshire State Police in 1943, and was known as the "mother of forensic science", spending most of her life educating, reforming and teaching medical and law officers about the importance and credibility of forensic science or ***4.75 stars*** "… forensics science - the application of medicine to matters of law and justice."Frances Glessner Lee is a familiar name to any true crime fans, especially forensics aficionados. She was the first female captain in US after being commissioned by the New Hampshire State Police in 1943, and was known as the "mother of forensic science", spending most of her life educating, reforming and teaching medical and law officers about the importance and credibility of forensic science or legal medicine as it was known back then. She was also well-known for her true crime scene dioramas she created in dollhouse scale known as the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death which were used as training material and is still used in forensic seminars today.18 Tiny Deaths details Lee's remarkable story and her relentless effort and endless contributions to legal medicine/forensic science. The author did an excellent in-depth research as this book is replete with facts and true crime stories which were intriguing. I enjoyed Lee's background story which was pivotal to her work and contributions to legal medicine/forensic science later on in her life. I learnt about George Burgess Magrath, a medical examiner, who was the one to inspire Lee in this field. This book also talks about the history of coroner system which was a notoriously corrupt practice back then, wrongly convicted many innocent lives. Overall, this is a must read if forensic science is something you enjoy. I enjoyed the history part, true crime cases (albeit not long) and how Lee managed to revolutionize the legal medicine or forensic science we have today. It's insightful and entertaining. Favourite quotes/sayings by Frances Glessner Lee: "Legal Medicine may be likened to a three-legged stool, the three legs being medicine, the law and the police. If any one of these is weak, the stool will collapse.""It must be understood, these models are not 'whodunits' - they cannot be solved merely by looking at them," Lee said. "They are intended to be an exercise in observing, interpreting, evaluating and reporting." "The cocktail hour has come to be important time with me - not for the liquor, but for the pause, the relaxation, the daintiness and pettiness of the service," Pub. date: Feb 4, 2020 ***I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from SOURCEBOOKS (non-fiction) through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed in this review are my own and was not influenced by the author, publisher or any third party.***
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    Exactly as the title says, it is both about Frances Glessner Lee and her life, and about the invention of "legal medicine" as a field of study. There's quite a lot of intersection, but if you are reading for one or the other you might not like what you consider digressions. I felt like the background into Lee's life was important to set the stage of her class and the pattern of noblesse oblige while also showing why she couldn't get into medicine herself. (Important to note the noblesse oblige Exactly as the title says, it is both about Frances Glessner Lee and her life, and about the invention of "legal medicine" as a field of study. There's quite a lot of intersection, but if you are reading for one or the other you might not like what you consider digressions. I felt like the background into Lee's life was important to set the stage of her class and the pattern of noblesse oblige while also showing why she couldn't get into medicine herself. (Important to note the noblesse oblige vs charity because of Harvard not seeing the value in things like her lavish suppers, while she was attempting to increase the prestige of homicide detectives, make them more than they were considered, lift the profession. She was very aware of giving them a lot of dignity while they learned)A little slow to get into at first, which is a problem I generally have with all but the absolute most engaging nonfiction, and while this is probably more like a 4 star read compared to my usual nonfic reading habits, I'd give a 3 stars overall. Some of the sentences are choppy and there is a lot of repetition, possibly because this was a review copy, or possibly because there are a lot of school and program titles and they may have style guides that require the proper name every time, with Goldfarb rewording it more simply afterwards.I was given a review copy to read through NetGalley, and I did not allow that to change my review in any way.
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  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes I love picking up a nonfiction book on a totally random (to me) subject and this was one of those times, found through the library’s new books feed. The book wasn’t quite what I expected (I expected more on the dioramas themselves; they didn’t make an appearance until two-thirds through the book) but I found something even better. Lee’s story is amazing. Her family was very well off and education wasn’t important for girls. Her life could have easily fallen into oblivion, filled with Sometimes I love picking up a nonfiction book on a totally random (to me) subject and this was one of those times, found through the library’s new books feed. The book wasn’t quite what I expected (I expected more on the dioramas themselves; they didn’t make an appearance until two-thirds through the book) but I found something even better. Lee’s story is amazing. Her family was very well off and education wasn’t important for girls. Her life could have easily fallen into oblivion, filled with social graces that don’t make headlines. Instead, she took her hobby and ran with it. Read the book. Look at everything she accomplished with her life, far more than many will even today, and imagine what she could have done with a 21st century education. She’s truly an inspiration on following your dreams no matter what they are. She’s definitely my new hero. As a stay at home mom in the suburbs, what do I have to offer society as a whole? Now if only I could turn my copious book reading into a fancy legacy...
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  • Dree
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley and SourceBooks for providing me with an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.————I expected this book to be a career biography about doctor/investigator/scientist who was instrumental in developing the field of forensics as we know it. I expected that she had been forgotten due to her own success. I was a little off all the way around.This is a birth-to-death biography of Frances Glessner Lee—gilded age heiress untrained in any field. In midlife she found out about Thank you to NetGalley and SourceBooks for providing me with an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.————I expected this book to be a career biography about doctor/investigator/scientist who was instrumental in developing the field of forensics as we know it. I expected that she had been forgotten due to her own success. I was a little off all the way around.This is a birth-to-death biography of Frances Glessner Lee—gilded age heiress untrained in any field. In midlife she found out about the field of legal medicine through a close friend, and she put all her efforts and devoted the rest of her life (and much of her money) to developing a department at Harvard and introducing the possibilities to police and legal departments around the country.There is very little science here—this is largely about the strength of one personality who used her connections, her time, her talents, her wallet, and threats of withdrawing money to accomplish what she envisioned. Did she accomplish it? Not in the form she envisioned, but yes, her skills (and money) were important. She received several honorary degrees and police captaincies during her lifetime. She even had a hand in the first police procedural movie (Mystery Street with Ricardo Montalban).This book is well written and meticulously researched, and Goldfarb has amazing access to materials as an employee of the Maryland ME’s office. I learned a lot reading this book--about the establishment of forensic science/legal medicine, about Harvard's Medical School, about the coroner and medical examiner systems, and about police death investigations. This is, however, a biography of Lee's entire life--including her childhood. There is little about the actual "invention" of modern forensics. This is a history of science, not the science itself.Perfect for: fans of biographies and police procedurals and those interested in the history of crime, Harvard’s medical school, and policework.
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  • Woody Chichester
    January 1, 1970
    I tore through this to get to the stuff about the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths. Along the way, I got an education on the beginnings of Legal Medicine, better known today as forensic science. Lots on George B. McGrath, as well as the Glessner family background. Written in matter of fact, historical fashion, this has some fun (albeit tragic) read aloud tidbits, too. Molasses flood of 199, anyone? FGL4EVA!
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  • Mitch Karunaratne
    January 1, 1970
    I've been fascinated by these small dollhouse-like dioramas used to support the training of police officers in crime scene reading and early forensics and this book is the biography of their creator - Frances Glessner Lee. It's a brilliant historical plotting of the Lees involvement in developing forensic science as a profession. She's a determined woman, with no college education, but with sufficient wealth and connection to make organisations and institutions listen and take action. What was I've been fascinated by these small dollhouse-like dioramas used to support the training of police officers in crime scene reading and early forensics and this book is the biography of their creator - Frances Glessner Lee. It's a brilliant historical plotting of the Lees involvement in developing forensic science as a profession. She's a determined woman, with no college education, but with sufficient wealth and connection to make organisations and institutions listen and take action. What was missing in this history was emotion - it felt cold and clinical and more a chronology of fact than an exploration of a woman's life.
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  • Bamboozlepig
    January 1, 1970
    I was disappointed in this. There's a lot about the political atmosphere surrounding the job of coroner/medical examiner. There wasn't a lot about actual cases, which would've made the book more fascinating.
  • Judy Argo
    January 1, 1970
    Very dry....
  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    Superspeed readers like me can read 150 - 200+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOLI received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do .The fascinating story of the forgotten woman who pioneered forensic scienceAs America ramps up efforts toward Superspeed readers like me can read 150 - 200+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOLI received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.The fascinating story of the forgotten woman who pioneered forensic scienceAs America ramps up efforts toward victory in World War II, Frances Glessner Lee stands at the front of a wood-panelled classroom within Harvard Medical School and addresses the young men attending her seminar on the developing field of forensic science. A grandmother without a college degree, Lee may appear better suited for a life of knitting than of investigation of unexpected death. Her colleagues and students, however, know her to be an extremely intelligent and exacting researcher and teacher-the perfect candidate, despite her gender, to push the scientific investigation of unexpected death out of the dark confines of centuries-old techniques and into the light of the modern-day.Lee's decades-long obsession with advancing the discipline of forensic science was a battle from the very beginning. In a time when many prestigious medical schools were closed to female students and young women were discouraged from entering any kind of scientific profession, Lee used her powerful social skills, family wealth, and uncompromising dedication to revolutionize a field that was usually political, often corrupt, and always deeply rooted in the primal human fear of death.18 Tiny Deaths transports the reader back in time and tells the story of how one woman, who should never have even been allowed into the classrooms she ended up teaching in, changed the face of science forever.You hear all about Locard as his effect on forensics, yet I have never heard of Dr. Lee despite my love for all things true crime and forensic novels. (Kay Scarpetta? Of course, we have heard of her - but the truth is often stranger than fiction!) However, I take offence with the description of "how one woman, who should never have even been allowed into the classrooms she ended up teaching in" . It was the 1940s, not the 1840s - Elizabeth Blackwell was the first to graduate in 1849: I know that as I did a book report on her in primary school!That misnomer aside, this as a well researched and written book that will excite feminists and be appreciated by anyone with an interest in crime and forensics. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials" on Instagram and Twitter..get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🔪🔪🔪🔪
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  • Stella
    January 1, 1970
    I first learned of Frances Glessner Lee from a short CBS Sunday Morning piece on her work. Her intricate dollhouse-style dioramas were both fascinating and terrifying to me. The amount of detail work - and how these dioramas were used in actual court cases is just the tip of Lee's influence of modern medicine. 18 Tiny Deaths is the story of Frances Glessner Lee's life and how she became the Grandmother of Legal Medicine. From her early days growing up in a house of privilege to her reunion with I first learned of Frances Glessner Lee from a short CBS Sunday Morning piece on her work. Her intricate dollhouse-style dioramas were both fascinating and terrifying to me. The amount of detail work - and how these dioramas were used in actual court cases is just the tip of Lee's influence of modern medicine. 18 Tiny Deaths is the story of Frances Glessner Lee's life and how she became the Grandmother of Legal Medicine. From her early days growing up in a house of privilege to her reunion with her old medical examiner friend - we find out the why's and how's of how these forensic masterpieces were used. This book is heavy and does take a bit to get going. I do wish there were close up photos of the dioramas, but overall, I learned much more about Lee than the 2 minute news piece. Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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  • Pratibha Pandey
    January 1, 1970
    I love all things related to forensic science - books and shows alike. And some how the shows had made me think that the reality is pretty advanced too. This book shows how ignorant I have been to the present stage and overall growth of this field. As much as it is a really just portrayal of Lee's life and her struggles with the system , it also has so much historical and cultural references all over the book. It is a little dry , to the fact book but not too much once you get into the flow of I love all things related to forensic science - books and shows alike. And some how the shows had made me think that the reality is pretty advanced too. This book shows how ignorant I have been to the present stage and overall growth of this field. As much as it is a really just portrayal of Lee's life and her struggles with the system , it also has so much historical and cultural references all over the book. It is a little dry , to the fact book but not too much once you get into the flow of the subject matter. The opening chapters about her early life were a little too long for me.
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  • Kendra
    January 1, 1970
    An utterly absorbing account of Frances Lee, a wealthy society woman who became fascinated with early forensic science and assisted in developing the medical examiner system in the US, while also creating a library for the study of "legal medicine," as it was known, and for making numerous, painstakingly-detailed dioramas of death scenes for investigators to learn from.
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  • Nora
    January 1, 1970
    The subject matter is definitely interesting (and oh, the things money can do!), but the storytelling wasn’t always as interesting as I wanted it to be.
  • Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir
    January 1, 1970
    Frances Glessner Lee is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a household name. However, the work she did in medicine and law enforcement has had a major impact on both fields and on countless lives.Lee was a pioneer of what is now called Forensic Science, but what she knew as Legal Medicine. When she started her life’s work, Forensic Science was just a notion, based on European models, of overhauling the medieval coroner system. Lacking a college degree or any specialized training in Frances Glessner Lee is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a household name. However, the work she did in medicine and law enforcement has had a major impact on both fields and on countless lives.Lee was a pioneer of what is now called Forensic Science, but what she knew as Legal Medicine. When she started her life’s work, Forensic Science was just a notion, based on European models, of overhauling the medieval coroner system. Lacking a college degree or any specialized training in medicine, law or law enforcement, Lee almost single-handedly created the training methods for today’s marriage of medical investigation and detective work that is so crucial to understanding unexplained deaths and solving murder cases.The use of evidence-based investigations to understand cause of death and criminal intent and responsibility that we rely on for justice and closure? We can thank Lee for that. The ubiquitous television and novelistic procedurals where mysterious deaths and tricky crime scenes are investigated scientifically? We have Lee to thank for that, too. Bruce Goldfarb, who is lucky enough to work with much of the material that Lee collected or created, has penned a fascinating biography, 18 TINY DEATHS.Lee was born on March 25, 1878 to a slightly eccentric, quite cultured, upwardly mobile and eventually very wealthy Chicago family. She was privately educated with a curious and keen mind. Her family frequently hosted the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra for lavish meals --- the conductor and many of the musicians being among their closest friends. It was this group of musicians that she created in miniature as a gift for her mother --- a project that foreshadows her famous Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. These 18 dioramas, painstakingly and expensively made to 1/12th scale, were designed and fashioned by Lee to allow law enforcement officers a chance to practice the observational skills needed to work a crime scene and employ modern science techniques.Lee had become interested in medicine when she was young, and this interest intensified after having a tonsillectomy when she was nine years old. She spent time tending to patients with local doctors and even created home remedies in her playhouse kitchen. If she had been a man, she would’ve attended Harvard like her brother. But because the Ivy League school, like most American universities, did not accept women as students, she did not earn a college degree at all, although she would be awarded many prestigious honorary degrees before her death at the age of 83.Her work in Legal Medicine grew out of her friendship with her older brother’s closest college companion, George Magrath, who worked as a pathologist after medical school. Over the next few decades, their professional and personal relationship grew. Together they forged the Legal Medicine department at Harvard, which did not long survive Lee but paved the way for much change in pathology and law enforcement in the US.18 TINY DEATHS is a compelling look at Lee’s life and contributions, as well as an engrossing examination of the context in which she lived --- from the gender bias she fought against, to the systematic corruption she hoped to remedy, to the justice she felt called to pursue. Goldfarb’s enthusiasm for his subject is apparent, and he portrays Lee as the fierce, creative, passionate and groundbreaking figure she deserves to be remembered as.Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman
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  • Anjana
    January 1, 1970
    I usually find it hard to read my way through non-fiction in a few days. It takes time and mental investment to keep myself going even if I find the content inordinately interesting. This was probably one of the few books where I did not have to struggle. It was also a very fascinating character study.The title, although attractive, does not really do justice to the content. The story spans the growth of Legal/forensic medicine in the US as well as the rise of Frances Glessner Lee and her I usually find it hard to read my way through non-fiction in a few days. It takes time and mental investment to keep myself going even if I find the content inordinately interesting. This was probably one of the few books where I did not have to struggle. It was also a very fascinating character study. The title, although attractive, does not really do justice to the content. The story spans the growth of Legal/forensic medicine in the US as well as the rise of Frances Glessner Lee and her family. It begins at the very beginning of how law and order started post-colonial times and the different aspects of it. The presentation was enough to have someone like me, who is very removed from the US or its legal system feel like the time invested in reading about it as time well spent. We can draw so much from the story. The impact of industrialization, and how people got wealthy, how some people used their wealth and perseverance of some who changed their worlds. I picked this book up because I saw a youtube video about the dioramas that were her crowning glory, and I was rewarded with a lot more than just information about it. The lady in question is painted in so many shades by the author. She is not described as self-effacing in the sense that she had confidence in her thought process and used her mind to alternatively charm or use persuasive words to get her way. That said, she did not want the credit for achieving all the things she did. She has left a life long legacy in the country, and if she had had her way, people would not be talking about her at all! These contradictory stands were shown using letters written to and by and about her. All in all, I would highly recommend this to anyone with a passing interest in the history of forensics in the US (probably because of the miscellaneous TV shows), or just of pioneering women who fight against the odds and work long and hard at what they are good at to make a dent in history in general. The author has let his interest in the subject and the woman behind it shine through making for some fascinating reading.I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my reading experience. The only bias I have is the inclination to binge-watch well done US crime shows.
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  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    When I requested 18 Tiny Deaths, it was this sentence in the description that caught my attention: "The fascinating story of the forgotten woman who pioneered forensic science."I'd never heard of Frances Glessner Lee, but one of my reading objectives is to read more nonfiction and more biographies of women. The idea of a woman having pioneered forensic science was an irresistible bonus to a fan of mysteries and police procedurals. Frances Glessner was born in 1878 to a family of great wealth and When I requested 18 Tiny Deaths, it was this sentence in the description that caught my attention: "The fascinating story of the forgotten woman who pioneered forensic science."I'd never heard of Frances Glessner Lee, but one of my reading objectives is to read more nonfiction and more biographies of women. The idea of a woman having pioneered forensic science was an irresistible bonus to a fan of mysteries and police procedurals. Frances Glessner was born in 1878 to a family of great wealth and influence. She and her brother were home schooled by private tutors, receiving a wide-ranging education significantly beyond what a public school could offer. They were also encouraged to be children and to appreciate the outdoors, music, and arts and crafts in ways outside of academics. Although her brother went to Harvard, women were not admitted to those "hallowed" halls and Frances did not go to college. While she may have been brilliant and accomplished (more so than most college educated men), she personally felt the lack of formal education.It is a thorough biography; however, since Frances did not become interested in what was termed medicolegal pathology until the latter portion of her life, it is in the last half of the book that her efforts to transform medical legal medicine into a unique division of medicine is presented. Inspired by her friend and mentor George Magrath, Frances used her wealth and influence to improve the system."She persisted" genuinely applies to Frances' efforts to revolutionize the ways sudden or suspicious deaths were examined, to replace the ancient coroner system with medical examiners, and to train police to preserve crime scenes and become intently observant. Previously much of what can be found about Frances Glessner Lee has to do with her dioramas, the nutshell models--and they are important. But Bruce Goldfarb has brought to light all of what the woman accomplished. While the nutshell models are crucial, what impressed me most was the money, energy, time, and effort Frances put into her attempts to end a corrupt coroner system and replace it with trained medical examiners and to educate crime scene investigators (patrolmen and detectives) on how to observe and preserve a crime scene. A compelling look into the life of the woman who is responsible for scientific approaches to crime investigation. A remarkable book about a remarkable woman--highly recommended for those interested in history, crime, and forensics.Extensive primary and secondary sources.NetGalley/SourcebooksNonfiction/Biography. Feb. 4, 2020. Print length: 336 pages.
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  • Tara
    January 1, 1970
    Note: I received this book via Netgalley. This does not influence my rating or review.I recommend this book to True Crime enthusiasts, those interested in history, and learning about a woman with a noble mission who wouldn't take No for an answer.Frances Glessner Lee used her privilege to the betterment of all. Forensic science, and the collection of forensic evidence, is a fairly new discipline. Mrs. Glessner Lee is a major factor in the existence of a medical examiner in modern times.I was Note: I received this book via Netgalley. This does not influence my rating or review.I recommend this book to True Crime enthusiasts, those interested in history, and learning about a woman with a noble mission who wouldn't take No for an answer.Frances Glessner Lee used her privilege to the betterment of all. Forensic science, and the collection of forensic evidence, is a fairly new discipline. Mrs. Glessner Lee is a major factor in the existence of a medical examiner in modern times.I was able to see the Nutshells of Unexplained Death at a recent exhibition in Washington, D.C. and I wish that this book had been available prior. Although I wholly appreciated what I saw, I feel that I would have had an even deeper understanding beyond the (well done) museum blurbs. This book appears to be well researched, with bibliography that can easily tempt True Crime readers to explore further.
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  • Nancy Ellis
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating story of the woman who practically single-handedly founded the Harvard school of modern forensics studies. Her financial and personal power funded almost the entire operation in an attempt to bring modern methods to forensic pathology and the investigation of unexplained deaths. She also assisted in the replacement of the outdated coroner system with the more professional medical examiner departments and homicide investigation departments in several police departments. An amazing Fascinating story of the woman who practically single-handedly founded the Harvard school of modern forensics studies. Her financial and personal power funded almost the entire operation in an attempt to bring modern methods to forensic pathology and the investigation of unexplained deaths. She also assisted in the replacement of the outdated coroner system with the more professional medical examiner departments and homicide investigation departments in several police departments. An amazing woman indeed who used what she called "nutshell" models, true to life scale models of several types of suspicious death situations, which were used, and are still used today to some extent, to educate homicide investigators and medical examiners.
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  • Naomi's Bookshelf
    January 1, 1970
    If you are a fan of CSI, you should pick up this book! It follows Frances Glessner Lee as she played a big role in modern forensics. I loved learning about the way she got involved and pushed the “legal medicine” forward. The beginning is slow but it picks up. She was a wealthy woman who used her money to benefit science. I have always loved doll house tropes in mysteries so it was wonderful to find out the origin of this technique started with Lee. I really enjoyed this!I received a copy via If you are a fan of CSI, you should pick up this book! It follows Frances Glessner Lee as she played a big role in modern forensics. I loved learning about the way she got involved and pushed the “legal medicine” forward. The beginning is slow but it picks up. She was a wealthy woman who used her money to benefit science. I have always loved doll house tropes in mysteries so it was wonderful to find out the origin of this technique started with Lee. I really enjoyed this!I received a copy via Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Gayle
    January 1, 1970
    The book was tedious, I gave up.
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