31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Teasing Secrets from the Dead

Teasing Secrets from the DeadTeasing Secrets from the Dead: My Investigations at America’s Most Infamous Crime ScenesEmily Craig's Teasing Secrets from the Dead: My Investigations at America's Most Infamous Crime Scenes by Emily Craig

Forensics and forensic anthropology fascinates me – I’ve already written about the book Death’s Acre, and I debated with myself quite a bit about which book to include in this series, and which one would get left out. I ended up including Craig’s book in the series because it’s a bit more personal.

I was especially intrigued by her career prior to going into forensic anthropology. She was a medical illustrator, and her art background ended up serving her well in her new career. Craig has worked at some of the most famous crime scenes the US, but her stories from not-so-famous cases were just as interesting as the well-known ones.

And, the no-surprises-here disclaimer: if you’re squeamish, don’t read this. There are some gruesome details included (kind of hard not to when you’re writing about this topic, so nothing is extraneous, but it’s still there.)

Publisher’s Description:
Teasing Secrets from the Dead is a front-lines story of crime scene investigation at some of the most infamous sites in recent history. In this absorbing, surprising, and undeniably compelling book, forensics expert Emily Craig tells her own story of a life spent teasing secrets from the dead.

Emily Craig has been a witness to history, helping to seek justice for thousands of murder victims, both famous and unknown. It’s a personal story that you won’t soon forget.

Emily first became intrigued by forensics work when, as a respected medical illustrator, she was called in by the local police to create a model of a murder victim’s face. Her fascination with that case led to a dramatic midlife career change: She would go back to school to become a forensic anthropologist——and one of the most respected and best-known “bone hunters” in the nation.

As a student working with the FBI in Waco, Emily helped uncover definitive proof that many of the Branch Davidians had been shot to death before the fire, including their leader, David Koresh, whose bullet-pierced skull she reconstructed with her own hands. Upon graduation, Emily landed a prestigious full-time job as forensic anthropologist for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a state with an alarmingly high murder rate and thousands of square miles of rural backcountry, where bodies are dumped and discovered on a regular basis. But even with her work there, Emily has been regularly called to investigations across the country, including the site of terrorist attack on the the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, where a mysterious body part——a dismembered leg——was found at the scene and did not match any of the known victims. Through careful scientific analysis, Emily was able to help identify the leg’s owner, a pivotal piece of evidence that helped convict Timothy McVeigh.

In September 2001, Emily recieved a phone call summoning her to New York City, where she directed the night-shift triage at the World Trade Centre’s body identification site, collaborating with forensics experts from all over the country to collect and identify the remains of September 11 victims.

From the biggest new stories of our time to stranger-than-true local mysteries, these are unforgettable stories from the case files of Emily Craig’s remarkable career.

31 Days of Great Nonfiction

No surprises here, since I debated about which one to include, but if you like this one, please read Death’s Acre by Bill Bass as well. He even mentions her in his book (although I don’t remember if he uses her name, or if you can just recognize a story they both tell from their own perspectives).

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.

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  1. Sounds fascinating!

  2. Great pick. I have had this book on my list for a while.

    • So for once I didn’t add to your list! 😉

      • LOL. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get on the list. 🙂

        BTW, I just finished Still Writing by Dani Shapiro (a memoir on being a writer) and it was really great. It didn’t make me cry though. 😉

        • I’ve added that memoir to my list. I do love great memoirs – and I really like not having to worry about them making me cry. 🙂

  3. I liked Stiff by Mary Roach but I don’t particularly like gruesome murder mysteries. What do you think? Can I handle it?

    • I think if you could handle Stiff you’ll be fine with this book – there really aren’t lots of gross details included, it’s just the overall concept of what they’re doing, and the process of decomposition that I can easily imagine being too much for some readers. Roach’s book doesn’t shy away from that, so if you were ok with her writing I’m going to cautiously guess this one won’t be a problem either.

  4. oh and Congrats and Kudos for winning the blog for book lovers! When I scrolled down I saw it. Way to go, you’re awesome : )


  1. […] Teasing Secrets from the Dead by Emily Craig* […]

  2. […] the topic this might appeal. Otherwise, for related reading I’d suggest either of the memoirs Teasing Secrets from the Dead, or Death’s […]

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