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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Outlaws, Spies and Gangsters: Chasing Notorious Criminals, written by Laura Scandiffio and illustrated by Gareth Williams. Annick Press, 2014. $14.95 ages 12 and up

"John had been a reckless boy with a wild streak, always promising to straighten out when he got in trouble. But nine years in prison changed John Dillinger from mischief-maker to something much more dangerous. Maybe those years had made him bitter, the police guessed, bitter enough to embark on a crime spree two months after getting out."

Wow! There are eight hunted criminals here - The Mad Trapper, John Dillinger, Adolf Eichmann, Manuel Noriega, Aldrich Ames, Vladimir Levin, Christopher Coke, and Osama bin Laden.

"The stories in this book are accounts of those hunts and captures - eight dramatic chases that unfolded around the world, from the 1930s to the present day. From an arctic manhunt on dogsled and snowshoe, to tracking the electronic trail of a cybercriminal, each of these hunts pits a very different kind of suspect against a range of pursuers."

The author begins each new section showing a case file summary with an illustrated likeness of the criminal, a world map that places the chase, and a comprehensive listing for the one being tracked. It provides name, age, crime/s, location, duration and those who were involved in that chase. She then goes on to present a story that will ensure attention and understanding. I knew four of the eight, and a good part of their stories. The other four were little known to me, if at all.

While reading about the captures, readers are certain to learn much about the history of the time being presented and shared. The stories come from around the world, and are written to be read easily by most young adults. The artwork is dramatic and compelling, adding interest and a sense of place and time. Chronological in presentation, they begin in the 1930s, assuring that readers understand the means by which each was tracked and caught. Information boxes add interest, bringing those who share it up to date with more modern techniques and explaining some of the issues presented. It  allows readers to see how the future of forensics has been shaped by some of the events of the past. It also points out that international cooperation is extremely helpful and integral to the success in closing such cases.

Opportunity for discussion results when the question 'does the end justify the means?' is asked. I would love to be a fly on the wall in a middle or high school book club that considers this well written book as subject for one of their studies. I am certain that many interested readers would have

opinions to share.

In back matter are a short inclusion that concerns work being done today to track down known criminals, a source list and an index. All add dimension to the appeal of the book as a whole.

"This complex teamwork seems a long way from the posse of local constables and volunteers in past searches. Yet the goal is still the same - to bring a criminal to justice, no matter how tough the case."

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