Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Criminal - Mary Roach

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Book cover featuring a grizzly bear in front of a police line up.The book starts by referencing one of my favourite book - The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals. That book looks at the history of criminal trials of animals and gets in to the philosophy about whether a flock of geese can be considered liable for the damage they cause. It is a deeply weird, but totally enlightening book.

This book is a bit more of a roving travelogue. Roach meanders through half-a-dozen countries talking to the people who suffer from "criminal" animals, and those tasked with bringing them to "justice". What lessons can monkey-wranglers from India teach the bear-wranglers of the USA? Who is responsible for the scourge of animal attacks - when those animals are attracted by the delicious rubbish left by other humans?

If you like Roach's folksy-style, then this is a fine book. It isn't a scholarly work, nor does it pretend to be. It's very definitely "pop" science. Light on detail, high on personal anecdotes, and full of funny asides. It's a bit fluffy - but genuinely interesting and thought provoking.

I was expecting a bit more on the side of "vegetables" though. While there's some stuff about killer trees, there's nothing on how many people are "murdered" by falling coconuts, or who are "sexually assaulted" by high pollen counts.

One thing to note is that the Kindle version is really badly formatted. I've made the publisher aware, but it makes for quite a distracting reading experience as hyphens appear and disappear randomly throughout the text.

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