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The Girl with the Crooked Nose: A Tale of Murder, Obsession, and Forensic Artistry


The Girl with the Crooked Nose: A Tale of Murder, Obsession, and Forensic Artistry

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    Available in PDF Format | The Girl with the Crooked Nose: A Tale of Murder, Obsession, and Forensic Artistry.pdf | English
    Ted Botha(Author)
In The Girl with the Crooked Nose, Ted Botha tells the absorbing story of Frank Bender, a gifted, self-taught artist who can bring back the dead and the vanished through a unique, macabre sculpting talent. Bender has been the key to solving at least nine murders and tracking down numerous criminals. Then he is called upon to tackle the most challenging and bizarre case of his career.

Someone is killing the young women of Juarez. Since 1993, the decomposing bodies of as many as four hundred victims, known as feminicidios, have been found in the desert surrounding this gritty Mexican border town. In 2003, prodded by local political pressure and international attention, the Mexican authorities turn to the United States to help solve these horrific crimes. The man they turn to is Bender.

Through breathtakingly realistic sculptures, Bender reconstructs the faces of unknown murder victims or fugitives whose appearances are certain to have changed over years on the run. The busts are based in part on the painstaking application of forensic science to fleshless human skulls and in part on deep intuition, an uncanny ability to discern not only a missing face but also the personality behind it.

Arriving in Mexico, Bender works in secrecy, in a culture of corruption and casual violence where the line between criminals and law enforcement is blurry, braving anonymous threats and sinister coincidences to give eight skulls back their faces and, hopefully, their histories. Drawn to one skull in particular–"The Girl With the Crooked Nose"–Bender gradually comes to suspect that perhaps he is not meant to succeed, and that the true solution to the mystery of the feminicidios is far more terrible than anyone has dared to imagine.

Ted Botha brilliantly weaves Bender’s story–the cases he has solved, the intricacies of his art, the colorful characters he encounters, and the personal cost of his strange obsession–with the chilling story of the Juarez investigation. With a conclusion as shocking as its story is gripping, The Girl with the Crooked Nose will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.

“…[a] crackling account of a quirky, maverick forensics artist, Frank Bender, and his largely successful efforts in facial reconstruction of murder victims…. extraordinary is Botha's writing, with his unerring depiction of Bender's painstaking work and the eventual unraveling of the brutal crimes it solves…. the tales in this book accurately capture the dark motives and complexities of senseless murder, and even the most savvy true-crime reader will not be able to resist the author's insightful storytelling."--Publishers Weekly

Ted Botha is the author of Mongo: Adventures in Trash, Apartheid in My Rucksack, and the novel The Animal Lover. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast Traveler, and Outside. He lives in New York City." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Book details

  • PDF | 262 pages
  • Ted Botha(Author)
  • Random House (13 May 2008)
  • English
  • 7
  • Society, Politics & Philosophy
Read online or download a free book: The Girl with the Crooked Nose: A Tale of Murder, Obsession, and Forensic Artistry

Review Text

  • By fran Lewis on 14 December 2011

    The Girl with the Crooked NoseOn a lonely evening on young girl accepts a ride from a stranger. As she decides whether to get into the truck with this man who has anything but good intentions in mind, she thinks about getting home to a warm bed and a good night's sleep rather than waiting for the bus in the cold. Naïve, really not thinking about what could really happen she allows herself to be convinced to take this ride and the end result is what happens to a girl named Linda with an odd shaped crooked nose. But that is not where the story begins. It begins in 2003 with a man named Frank Bender remember a nightmare and recalling the death of a young child named Anna Duval that was murdered. Creating the face, the hair, the eyes and nose and reconstructing it was only part of what he saw in his dream.Take the journey with me back in time to learn the facts about what happened to this little girl that started an investigation that would span decades. When Detective Ellis Verb requested the help of Frank Bender he answered the call without pause or question. Viewing the remains of this precious child was heart wrenching to say the least but something Frank was hardened too and could not let his inner emotions take control of. Who in their right mind would store a child's body in a rusted steamer trunk under bridge? Why would two transportation workers pilfer the trunk before reporting that there was a body inside? After reconstructing the face and sending a sketch to the police to be released a strange thing happened that would change the outcome and the direction of the investigation. Frank had a nightmare where he envisioned the girl in a different light with an image that did not match the one he created on the photograph he sent out. Detective Verb did not question Frank's judgment or changes and a new bust was shown on the television screen hoping for a response to finding the killer of what would be called the Girl in the Steamer Trunk.So, how would this all connect twenty years later as once again he faces the demons of the meat market and is drawn into cases that will send him to Mexico to find a serial killer or killers that killed over 400 females starting in 1993. Chihuahua, Mexico is where are story really begins and the murdered victims were found. Faceless heads, decomposed bodies and angry people living in Juarez wondered why the police were dragging their feet and not doing anything to uncover what happened to so many? Threatening anyone who interfered with them Bob Ressler, famous in forensics, enlisted Frank Bender's help to find the answers. Bringing us back to the girl in the introduction called Girl in the Sewer. How does this all relate to the murders of eight women in 2002, the arrest of an Egyptian and two bus drivers? In Mexico to attend a forensic conference this would be his chance to see first hand how they handled the cases there and what his role might be.Although the first body or corpse turned up in 1993 the victim only 13 years of age, these murders span decades and the murderer or killers mutilated over 400 women. Alam Chavira Farel was her name. Who in their right mind would rape, sodomize and strangle a young child? The body count came to be known as the feminicidios. Amnesty International stepped in after estimating the death toll of victims killed in Juarez. Poor young workers working in the informal sector or maquilas plants as did her victim with the crooked nose in our introduction. These women meant nothing to the government and their deaths insignificant. This is where Frank and Bob became part of the investigation. The organization focused on find the killers and called the murders more than just intolerable. The Mexican government was chastised for doing nothing to find the killers and many other groups presented their viewpoints but to no avail. As you take the journey back in time hear the voices of the victims cry out for justice and the inner thoughts, mind, and views of the one man enlisted to find the answers, Frank Bender.Imagine being able to recreate the face of a dead person using his artistic skill to give a skull life. Imagine the families of these victims being able to bring their loved one home and find peace and closure for themselves and their loved one. Ted Botha allows the reader to enter the world of Frank Bender, forensic sculpture to help identify some of the feminicidios killed. Alternating between the past and the present the author allows the reader to understand Bender's career and love for what he does from its inception. Would you spend days in a hotel trying to decipher what is left of skulls that could fall apart in your hands with the slightest touch? A police department that would rather let sleeping skulls lie dormant like a dead volcano never breathing fire of lava again, death threats and infections from tainted water while trying to give life to the blank faces staring at him. Each victim is named for where she is found or something related to her death or a feeling he has about her when he sees the skull. Each victim will become real to the reader and haunt your dreams making you one in the same with Bender, seeing things directly through his eyes and hearing the voices of those hoping to be laid to rest. This book brings to light class discrimination, corruption of a police force and the way the poor, indigent and needy are taken advantage of. Why would the police do nothing unless they were guilty of something? Mexico is known for having drug cartels so powerful that they often have men on the force as contacts making sure shipments get across many borders. So, who did the killing and who did the rape? Just how far into the beds of the drug lords were the police? Some answers will be revealed others might never be resolved as I review this outstanding true crime novel The Girl With the Crooked Nose.Finding his way to Mexico, meeting the Attorney General and getting an invitation from the Governor to join the investigation is quite telling. However, the Attorney General did not seem pleased by the Governor's invitation or the fact he offered to allow him to take heads/skulls back home with him to reconstruct the faces. Just why would the Attorney General not really want his help and how are all the connection going to be made? The police work into this case was substandard, the governor appeared to want to find the answers and yet the Attorney General Solis, seemed to have an entirely different agenda. When Frank returns home and receives as SOS call from Governor Esparza that another woman's body has been found he needs to find a way to get down there as fast as possible. But there would be a definite snag in his travel plans until everything he needed was bought and in place. With his wife Jan's support Frank was on his way to solving the numerous cases of his career and life.Let's now go to the Beginning where his life as a forensic sculpture began, his biography and then let's meet some of his first victims as he gives them names and Anna Duval who haunted his nightmares and dreams. Will her killer ever be found? When Frank saw the face of Anna Duval even before she was identified something drew him to her and he made a concerted decision to find out who she was and created what the Philadelphia police department would recall their first forensic sculpture of a corpse. So vividly done, described and with the help of his mentor Greenwood and others, he brought Anna Duval to life thus beginning a career that would span many decades. No longer was she tag No. 5233. Next a young man burnt so badly beyond recognition. The corpses and the disembodied souls that needed a place to rest and the determination that he had to find the answers for the police but more important for the victim's family and for the victim were his trademark. As Frank came to a project and started to recreate a face his inner 6th sense and insight kicked in and the face itself took on life and meaning. The emotions emitted from the eyes, mouth and skin tone and what could still be seen from the hollowed expressions on their faces helped him in his work. But, the one factor that was the most pronounced were his nightmares that brought everything to light. The vision of the dead person in these nightmares often illuminated the face and the soul of the person as if he/she were reaching out to Frank to help him bring the person home. The faces tell their own private story and spoke to Frank through their eyes.Back to the present and his work is about to begin with his first head. So, why the secret and why did the Governor instruct him to keep it to himself? Working in a hotel room, confined to a specific space was not easy but Frank would rise to the occasion since solving murders was paramount in his mind and finding out who killed the girl from Chihuahua first and foremost since this was his first head. More heads were found others looked into it and Frank was told he could join the search. Imagine working with a U.N. Team. Things changes and the media learned of the heads, the murders and much more. Secluding himself in his room to work on each the head, Frank was determined to find the answers no one else could. Threats came by way of his email. Protection was needed.The author reverts back to the past to allow the reader to understand how Frank's career started the many cases he worked on and the way his family became involved in his career especially Jan's daughter Lisa. Frank had a wild sense of humor and the author tells how he created a head that glowed for Halloween and played many other practical jokes on his family. But, let's get back to the case at hand and how he might be of assistance to solve these murders from decades ago and the one in the present.The author presents the information in the present using a daily timeline to help set the stage for the final results. Families finding closure and others wondering just what the police in Mexico's part in this was as Frank realizes the similarities among the last few heads which included the Girl with the Crooked Nose.The author brilliantly ties up some of the loose ends in the last chapter where he explains which faces had names and which were never found. Corruption, deceit, lies, police that did not care, inept work, an evidence room that was substandard and one man who would never give up until he found the answers. Frank Bender gave life to dead and hope to those living. Murders that went unsolved, events that were bone chilling, spine tingling and graphically depicted in a biography and history of one man who made his mark as one of the greatest forensic artists and one author took the reader back in time a journey this reviewer will never forget. Look at the faces: Can hear their voices: Name Us!This review is dedicated to all those who would have been forgotten if not for Frank, Ressler, one bold Governor and so many more and one Special Girl with the Crooked Nose.Fran Lewis: reviewerThank you Ted Botha for writing this telling and compelling book and thank you to Penguin for giving me the honor of reviewing the life of a a great man.

  • By anastasia on 28 November 2015

    I saw a crime programme about Frank Bender his very interesting life and work and I was fascinated. No formal training or degree but had a truly unique and intuitive talent for looking at a skull and envisaging what they looked like in life. There are several photos that are amazing to prove the point. I was thrilled to find this book on Amazon and it's a great read. Easy reading in nice short sections. An absolute must for fans of true crime and forensics! Well done to Ted Botha for doing Frank proud.

  • By scorpion8 on 4 August 2012

    A well written book about Frank Bender and his contribution to crime solving. A fascinating book and a great tribute to him.

  • By Teresa Mercer on 20 March 2014

    I first read about Frank in The Murder Room. This is a very well written book about a thought provoking subject. I would highly recommend this book anybody.

  • By Dave Peet on 18 February 2015

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