I had read Umadathan Sir's 'Oru Forensic Surgeon nte Ormakurippikal'(Memoirs of a Forensic Surgeon), a few years back which was undoubtedly one of the few authentic works pertaining to Forensic Science which had come out in Malayalam till then.The book basically was a memoir and dealt with some of the cases Umadathan sir had solved during his service. 'Kapalam'(The Skull) is it's follow up which has been brought out by D.C.Books (incidentally the book came out soon after Dr Umadethan's death in July, 2019).Unlike it's predecessor, this one is a fictionalised version of fifteen other cases which Dr Umadethan had worked on.
Forensic Surgeon Dr Unnikrishnan,his wife Mrs Mani ,Chief Chemical Examiner and Investigator Hari are the recurring characters featuring in the fifteen stories in this book. Though the book claims to be a fictionalised take on some of the cases which Dr Umadathan had worked on during his life time, it's pretty evident that most of the characters in these stories are fictional replicas of real-life personalities. Kapalam' has 15 'stories' of criminal investigation ranging from poisoning,fire-arm homicides and deliberate self harm.
The writing is quite crisp and fast paced and never lets you down.Though some might find the repetition of some basic tests(diatom,DNA ,nitrate test) and techniques in some stories irritating, it's pretty fine, considering the limited resources the investigators have at their disposal,especially in a resource limited setting.
The book covers some important aspects of forensic criminal investigations like diatom tests (traditional test, but still very effective), Haemoglobin analysis, forensic toxicology, DNA Fingerprinting and chemical analysis of viscera.The descriptions and explanations are never over-long and don't tire the reader at any point of time.
On the whole, 'kapalam' is an engaging read.