Annal: 2003 Gold Dagger Award for Nonfiction

Results of the Dagger Award in the year 2003.

Book:Pointing from the Grave

Pointing from the Grave: A True Story of Murder and DNA

Samantha Weinberg

This is the remarkable and gripping true story of a murderer and his victim, and the tiny molecule that linked their fates. It is both the history of a science overlaid with human drama, and a human tragedy inextricably entwined with science. It is about two lives made and destroyed by DNA—and by each other.

In 1984, Helena Greenwood, a young British DNA scientist, was sexually assaulted in her San Francisco cottage. A year later and 500 miles south, she was strangled to death. The alleged rapist, Paul Frediani, was the prime suspect, but police and forensic experts failed to link him to the murder. The crime was consigned to the cold case file.

Over the next fifteen years, Frediani continued his life—with a job, children, and apparently nothing to tie him to Greenwood’s death. Scientists, meanwhile, were beginning to use DNA to unravel the riddle of human identity. Their discoveries beat…[more]

Book:The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Erik Larson

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is…[more]

Book:Gang War

Gang War: The Inside Story of the Manchester Gangs

Peter Walsh

In the mid-1980s, a Chicago-style gang war erupted on the streets of one of Britain’s major cities that continues unabated to this day. Gangsters with automatic weaponry brought terror to the streets of Manchester.

Investigative author Peter Walsh traces the inside story of the Manchester mobs and their bloody internecine feuding. He reveals how top villains took over the drug trade and nightclub security, leaving more than three dozen dead, and tells how a new gang culture evolved unlike anything seen before in the UK.

Book:Imprint of the Raj

Imprint of the Raj: How Fingerprinting was Born in Colonial India

Chandak Sengoopta

A fascinating account of the invention of fingerprinting in colonial India and the story of how the technique was exported back to Victorian England.

Opening with the first case in a British criminal court to use the radical new technique of fingerprinting to identify the perpetrators of crime in 1902 this riveting book takes us back to the origins of fingerprinting in India. Despite many books on the subject of fingerprints in general, none have looked closely at the fact that this standard tool of forensic science was born in India during the Raj. As the author points out, with the exception of curry there is not one other instance of something so fundamental to British life being imported fully-formed from the Empire and then being tailored to fit conditions at home.

Based on original and hitherto unpublished research Imprint of the Raj gives a unique insight into our colonial past and offers a vivid account of this extraordinary and largely ignored story.

Book:An Underworld at War

An Underworld at War: Spivs, Deserters, Racketeers and Civilians in the Second World War

Donald Thomas

The Second World War produced numerous acts of self-sacrifice, but it also made many people rich. Donald Thomas draws on extensive archival material to reveal the ingenuity and sheer scale of wartime criminality, making fascinating reading of one of the great untold stories of the war.

Book:Wicked Beyond Belief

Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper

Michael Bilton

For over twenty years, the dark secrets of the biggest criminal manhunt in British history have remained a closed book—until now. Wicked Beyond Belief is a powerful indictment of the calamitous investigation that logged over two million manhours of police work; its revelation of crucial new evidence relating to Peter Sutcliffe’s meticulously planned killing methods caused headlines in the newspapers (“Mad, bad—or both?”); and it argues convincingly that Sutcliffe’s crimes were far more extensive than hitherto admitted. With exclusive access to the detectives involved, to pathologist’s archives and the Home Office’s own top secret Byford Report into the police handling of the case, the story of the hunt reads as tensely as any thriller.

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