30 May 2022

Review: CSI Told You Lies by Meshel Laurie

CSI Told You Lies by Meshel Laurie book cover

I walk past the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) in Melbourne almost every other day, and I never stop wondering what goes on in there. With the Coroner's Court of Victoria on the other side of the complex, there is usually a number of hearses, funeral home vehicles, ambulances and other nondescript vehicles coming and going from VIFM on any given day.

After the Bourke Street attack killed six people and injured 27 pedestrians in 2017, I learned that one of the VIFM staff members frequented the same (awesome) local day spa as I did. I purchased a candle in store for the staff member to say thank you from the community for the difficult work they do. Hearing the feedback later on that it 'made their day' was comforting, but I still wondered at the mental fortitude required to work in that field and perhaps the mental and emotional toll it presumably took to do so.

When I read the blurb for CSI Told You Lies by Meshel Laurie, I thought this might be my chance to find out:
"CSI Told You Lies is a gripping account of the work of the forensic scientists on the frontline of Australia’s major crime and disaster investigations. They are part of the team at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM), a state-of-the-art facility in Melbourne. VIFM is a world-renowned centre of forensic science, and its team members have led major recovery operations over the years, from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires to the shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014." (From the blurb).
It sounded like this was going to be a unique opportunity to find out more about these silent heroes in our community and what they do at VIFM. Unfortunately, this isn't really that kind of book.

Meshel Laurie is an Australian comedian, radio host, author and true crime podcaster and I enjoyed her narration of CSI Told You Lies. Laurie has a genuine interest in true crime and a natural talent for interviewing subjects about their work as she interviewed forensic pathologists, homicide detectives, defence barristers and victims’ families for this book. She takes the reader back in time to tell us about the Flinders Street Extension where bodies were taken for identification and analysis. Various cases are mentioned (David Hookes, Nicole Patterson, Eurydice Dixon and more), and various staff members and experts (and their careers) are included, however I wasn't taken on the VIFM tour I'd hoped and expected to go on.

The end result was more like a discussion of cases and people, not unlike retired NSW Homicide Detective Gary Jubelin's podcast I Catch Killers where he talks shop with fellow detectives which makes for interesting listening. Just as I enjoyed I Catch Killers, I did enjoy CSI Told You Lies, but it wasn't what I was seeking.

On completion, I also became a little confused about the title, and the reference to CSI. This book wasn't structured to show the flaws and misconceptions created by the vast range of shows by the CSI media franchise to come out of the US. They always depict a likeable cast of characters fighting crime with science, but this wasn't a myth busting book at all. Rather, a look over Meshel Laurie's shoulder as she pursues her interest in true crime, and tries to seek meaning in it all in an effort to honour the victims.

Recommended for readers of Australian true crime, fans of true crime podcasts and those with an interest in forensic science.

My Rating:

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