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The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by…
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The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death (2004)

by Corinne May Botz

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Showing 5 of 5
I'd love to give this book four stars - it was enthralling and I spent an afternoon marveling at it - but honestly the photographs were not what I wanted. If the text is going to draw attention to particular points in the models, it would be nice if the photographs showed those points. Which they frequently do not.

I normally don't read the introductions to photography books, but in this case I'm glad I did. Lee was a fascinating woman, well worth a full biography (which I'd love to read if it exists) and there was just enough analysis of the models as art to fulfill my curiosity, but not too much. They weren't conceptualized as art, after all, even if they were executed as such. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 30, 2013 |
A big disappointment. It's photographs of meticulous miniature scenes, made by a woman who was a forensics professor to train detectives. So the very idea of that is rather cool, but that's about it. They took a quirky interesting thing and attempted to spin it into something dep and profound. The photos show the level of detail but are more artsy than revealing. They don't give any sense of scale and many things mentioned in the text aren't shown.

Then, there's the text which reads like a gender studies book from the 70s, about how the closed window may represent the female victim's circumscribed life, stuff like that. The descriptions of the rooms throw in quotes from all over the place that sound hip but don't seem to actually have anything to do with the scene. There are also a lot of editing errors, like referring to a location as "the premise" instead of "the premises". In one of the crime scenes there's a picture of an elk over the fireplace, and the text goes on about how there's a picture of a moose and what is the significance of a picture of the largest mammal in North America? Well, NONE, because it isn't a moose, it's an elk.

Most annoying of all, since most the rooms are still being used to train detectives, the solutions to the problems aren't included. It's like reading a mystery with the last chapter torn out. ( )
  piemouth | May 28, 2010 |
This book is amazing. Though the content is likely a bit morbid for most to consider it a coffee table book, had I coffee table, it would definitely be prominently displayed on mine. The book discusses the career of Frances Glessner Lee, a woman Corinne May Botz describes as:

“…brilliant, witty , and, by some accounts, impossible woman. She gave you what she thought you should have, rather than what you might actually want. She had a wonderful sense of humor about everything and everyone, excluding herself. The police adored and regarded her as their “patron saint,” her family was more reticent about applauding her and her hired help was “scared to death of her.”

Raised in an ultra-traditional, very wealthy family, Lee spent a good majority of her young life thwarted, though she was exposed to home decorating skills that would stand her in good stead when she began making the Nutshell Studies. Unable to attend college as she wanted, once her parents died, Lee started to come into her own, both metaphorically and literally, as she then had plenty of wealth to support her interests. She met a man by the name of George Magrath, a medical examiner who testified in criminal cases in New England. Magrath enthralled the young Lee, and it was through Magrath and his knowledge that Lee began to see what would become her life work.

Read the rest of the review here: http://ireadoddbooks.com/?p=147 ( )
  oddbooks | Apr 23, 2009 |
Wish there was a little more in the way of explanation of the probable 'solution' to the crimes, but the book mentions that the dollhouses are still being used to train police, so they can't give solutions to all of them.

The dissection of the crime scene that follows the photography of the models is nice, although some of the commentary and interpretation - ranging from crime scene investigators to quotes from Simone deBeauvior - are a bit overwrought at times. The commentator is clearly a David Lynch fan, as references are made to both "Blue Velvet" and "Twin Peaks"...

Sometimes I wasn't sure that the photography was done in the best way possible - the commentary called attention to certain details that were obscured by the photographs presented, which made me feel a little cheated at times.

But overall, I thought this was a well-produced book that highlighted the subject matter. The material on the production of the dollhouses helped me to be even more impressed by them than I was at first glance! Imagine knitting a pair of doll-sized stockings with two straight pins! ( )
1 vote fannyprice | Dec 24, 2007 |
The essays and photographs were neat, but not what I was expected. I was initially very disappointed that the scenes did not have a solution. A few scenes did have a proposed solution at the very end, but even for those, the information required to solve the story was not visible in the photographs.

So, an interesting story of a woman's life's work, and attention to detail. But not a set of solvable mysteries.

I am glad I read this, but glad that I did not buy it! ( )
1 vote francescadefreitas | Feb 13, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
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To my parents, Jim and Leslie Botz, who have always encouraged me to be and do exactly what I want.
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Frances Glessner Lee was a brilliant, witty, shy, intimidating, and by some accounts, impossible woman.
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