The Science of Crime Scenes


  • Max Houck, Vice President, Forensic and Intelligence Services, LLC
  • Frank Crispino, University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Chemistry-Biology Department, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada
  • Terry McAdam, Laboratory Manager, Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, Seattle, Washington, USA

The recent National Research Council's report on forensic science calls for more fundamental education and training in the science behind the discipline. Nowhere is this need greater than in crime scene investigations. Long seen as merely "bagging and tagging," crime scene investigation and processing is now a complex process, involving numerous sciences and methods. The Science of Crime Scenes addresses the science behind the scenes and demonstrates the latest methods and technologies in depth.

The Science of Crime Scenes covers the philosophy of crime scenes as historical events, the personnel involved at a scene (including the media), the detection of criminal traces and their reconstruction, and special crime scenes, such as mass disasters and terroristic events. Written by an international trio of authors with decades of crime scene experience, The Science of Crime Scenes is the next generation of crime scene textbooks.

View full description


Advanced undergraduate and graduate students in forensic science programs; forensic practitioners and crime scene technicians


Book information

  • Published: July 2012
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-386464-2


"The Science of Crime Scenes is a good reference for the crime scene investigator. It incorporates excellent tables, charts, and illustrations which can be a great aid when processing a scene…It does a good job in describing the total spectrum of factors which can impact crime scenes and provides the reader with the necessary knowledge and tools to successfully evaluate and process the scene of a crime."--Journal of Forensic Sciences, July 2013
"The text provides in-depth detail of the science behind the scene and demonstrates the latest methods and technologies - as well as the philosophy and history behind crime scene work."--Evidence Technology Magazine, July-August 2013
"…The Science of Crime Scenes is a good reference for the crime scene investigator. It incorporates excellent tables, charts, and illustrations which can be a great aid when processing a scene."--Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2013
"…The Science of Crime Scenes fits well within the framework of crime scene training and documents the nuances of the challenging tasks required of these specialized personnel. This reviewer’s recommendation is that forensic laboratories add The Science of Crime Scenes to their training literature, and allow analysts to garner invaluable insight from the highly experienced trio of authors."--Crime Scene, Volume 39, Issue 2, Spring 2013
"A half century has not dimmed skeptics' suspicions about the death of Marilyn Monroe at age 36, but the intervening decades have seen technological leaps that could alter the investigation were it to occur today… ‘The good news is we're very advanced from 50 years ago,’ said Max Houck, a forensic consultant and co-author of ‘The Science of Crime Scenes.’ ‘The bad news is, we're still trying to put it in context,’ he said."--
Associated Press article on the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death carried on multiple publications and sites incuding

Table of Contents

1.0  The "forensic mindset"
1.1  From scene to laboratory to court
2.0  What is a crime scene?
2.1  Crime scene intelligence:  Connecting people, places, and things

3.0  Personnel
3.1  First responder on the scene
3.2  The investigator in charge
3.3  The forensic team: Officers, scientists and specialists
3.4  Non-forensic personnel: Superiors, officials, and the media
4.0  General crime scene procedure
4.1  “Freezing” the scene and the 3R’s (Recognize, Recover, and Record)
4.2  The chain of custody
4.3  Recording the scene: Sketching, photography, and video

5.0  Searching for evidence: Recovery
5.1  Detecting
5.2  Collection
5.3  Preserving
5.4  Submitting evidence to the laboratory
6.0  Evidence types and enhancement
6.1  Chemical evidence
6.2  Biological evidence
6.3  Impression evidence
6.4  Other types of evidence
7.0  Crime scene reconstruction
7.1  An archaeological approach
7.2  Bloodstain pattern analysis
7.3  Photogrammetry and 3D reconstruction

8.0  Special crime scenes
8.1  Disaster and mass fatalities
8.2  Terrorist crime scenes
8.3  CBRN crime scenes
8.4  Underwater and underground crime scenes