Xanthe Mallett, Britain's most famous forensic anthropologist, moved to Australia almost unnoticed last year. She'd been working at the centre for anatomy and human identification at the University of Dundee, Scotland, where she'd specialised in helping police identify paedophiles.
She'd also presented two successful TV shows - History Cold Case and The Decrypters - which traded off what she calls "the CSI effect", the explosion of interest in forensics generated by the frantic, vertiginous US show, CSI : Crime Scene Investigation, and its spinoffs, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY and CSI: Armidale.
OK, so there's actually no such series as CSI: Armidale, but Mallett came here to take up a lectureship at the University of New England, from which she is on "a kind of sabbatical" to shoot a new Network Ten show, Wanted.
In Britain, she worked on cases of men who'd distributed images of abused children, typically across the internet or via mobile phones. Their pictures generally showed somebody attacking a child, but only the criminal's hand might be visible. When police retrieved the pictures, it was up to Mallett to help determine whether the adult in the images was actually the owner of the phone.
In some cases, she says, when there were several suspects, she would try to "discount any of them by looking at surface features of the hand. It may be their vein pattern, it may be the knuckle creases, it may be scars, freckles … Whatever is shown in that image, you can compare between offender and suspect.''
Her testimony in one of these cases helped crack one of the largest paedophile rings in Scotland, she says.
Her television career began when a production company arrived in Dundee and approached her manager with the idea of History Cold Case, and he suggested Mallett to front the show. History Cold Case investigated archaeological remains - that is, the skeletal remnants of people long dead.
Even if they were murdered, their killers would be dead now too.
"But the thing I find most compelling is actually being able to help somebody who's still alive," she says, "or help somebody be returned to their family.
"Sometimes you can simply say, 'The person who is represented in that image is not the offender in that image.' And that's as important as somebody going to prison: being able to help somebody who's innocent."
Mallett came to Australia for good after two British seasons of History Cold Case, and one series of a US version of the show filmed for National Geographic. She'd been working at the Dundee centre ever since she'd qualified as a forensic anthropologist, and felt as though she'd always be "the kid" no matter how long she stayed. So she joined the University of New England for a new start and was quickly offered local TV work.
Wanted is like Australia's Most Wanted, she says, "but updated. So it has a lot more live interaction and social media. It's really about solving crimes, cold cases, some going back to the '70s, some this week or last week.''
I choose to take Xanthe to lunch at Xanthi, the Greek restaurant in Westfield Sydney, because I thought it'd be kind of funny. But if somebody took me out to Marque, I guess it wouldn't seem like much of a joke. And she's not even Greek. Her parents just "liked the name".
Mallett is a striking-looking woman, curvy and slim with high cheekbones and bleached hair. She has a dancer's posture and poise. This, it turns out, is because she used to be a dancer.
Unlike most - or probably any - other forensic anthropologists, Mallett went to what she calls a "dancing school", the Arts Educational School in Tring, Hertfordshire, a private school where the curriculum is divided between dancing, acting and singing, and academic work.
"It was pretty old-fashioned when I first went there," she said. "You had to curtsy to teachers. You had to have your socks pulled up to go into the dining room, and you had to have your hairband on. I loved being there. I loved all the different subjects. I've always been … really boring."
Her mother had been a dancer, and her father was an engineer. Mallett danced until she was 18. She loved all sports and was particularly good at tennis, and at first planned to take a sports degree, with the aim of working with disabled children.
But an accident ended all of that. She was in car that was hit by "a two-ton van with a ton's worth of equipment in it, and bullbars".
"I did quite a lot of damage to my knee," she says. "I've had 10 operations on it. It was never going to recover."
After the accident, she came to Australia for the first time, to stay with an uncle and rethink her future.
"I didn't really know what I wanted to do," she says. "I wanted to do sport, and my whole social life was wrapped around sport as well. Everything kind of changed."
She decided to study archaeological science at the University of Bradford, where she continued to be relentlessly boring.
"My friends would be the ones falling over drunk, vomiting," she says, "and I would be the one holding their hair back and looking after them and putting them in bed: 'Stop running around with the fire extinguisher. Put it back on the wall. We could actually genuinely have a fire, and you've used all the foam.'"
The other students would send her Mothers' Day cards "to take the piss".
Mallett is actually very engaging, but she is truly the most boring eater I have ever met.
She looks at Xanthi's menu and orders the vine leaf dolmathes.
"I wouldn't even normally eat lunch," she says. "I'm not driven by food. I can not eat and not notice. I don't really get hungry. I have an Up & Go for breakfast. If I didn't have that, I wouldn't have anything."
What does she like for dinner?
"Normally yoghurt or soup or something," she says. "I eat a lot of yoghurt. If I'm only going to have that, I'll eat one those big 500-gram - or maybe 700-gram - tubs."
She does eat chocolate, however, and would have happily had lunch - or any meal - at Max Brenner.
In contrast to Mallett, I order the "famous slow braised lamb shoulder marinated in paprika, garlic & olive oil". Our food arrives within three minutes, which must be the fastest lunch at any one-hat restaurant in town.
The waiter puts my dish in the middle of the table, assuming we're going to share. I move it over to my side.
Mallett offers me one of her vine leaves, and I accept just to see how little she can eat. As she passes me the vine leaf, she elegantly picks a single piece of herb off my lamb, and transfers it to her plate.
"I like those little bits," she says. "I know they're meant to decorate it, but I quite like eating them."
Mallett's husband, Neil, thinks about food all day long, she says. He'll wake up and ask what they're going to have for dinner.
"He does all the cooking and shopping," she says. ''Otherwise he'd starve, wouldn't he? I'd be, like, 'There's some yoghurt in the fridge.'"
She met Neil when she was 16, but they didn't get together until she was 29. He's a forklift truck driver - "so he's completely normal'', she says.
Forensic anthropology - and Mallett's speciality, human remains - are fascinating topics but not what most people might choose to discuss over lunch. Although Mallett isn't eating, I guess.
Human remains are often found when people are digging the foundations for a new building, she says, although usually the workers have simply dug into an old graveyard. But when dog-walkers - "it's always dog-walkers'', she says - come upon bones, they're sometimes fragmented and they could be human.
Or they could be seals.
"When I was up in the Scotland, these kids had found a seal flipper on the beach," Mallett says.
"You'd think it would be immediately obvious that it's not a human hand, but when the thing starts to decompose and you lose the top layer of surface, a seal flipper is actually fundamentally a very similar structure to a human hand.
''These kids had taken a photo, they'd gone to the police, and the police weren't sure, from the image, went back to recover it and was gone."
Mallett's forensics team at first assumed it really had been a human hand, until it examined the image more closely and realised there were seal colonies in the area.
Mallet holds a doctorate in "facial recognition and image analysis".
"After all the work that's been done on faces," she says, "and CCTV, no matter how good we are at it, we still do not know what makes people recognise faces and we cannot teach a system to do that, because we still don't even know what the average face is.
''It's so complex, the mechanism for understanding faces, especially with expressions, etc."
Mallett has to leave the restaurant to do some filming in the afternoon. She's excited because her husband's coming down tonight and she hasn't seen him for a month.
He calls her "a cheap date", she says, but not in a bad way. Our bill for lunch for two, with drinks, at a one-hat restaurant in the central business district, is $48.
The vine leaves were "lovely", she says. "I'm not even going to need dinner."
1976 Born in Alexandria, near Glasgow, Scotland.
1985 Moved to Tring, Hertfordshire, to go to Arts Educational School.
1992 Met Neil.2007 Having gained degrees in archaeology at Bradford and anthropology at Cambridge, she attained a PhD in forensics at Sheffield University.
2008 Married Neil.
2010 Filmed History Cold Case season one for the BBC.
2011 Hosted The Decrypters, a US version of the show for National Geographic.
2012 Moved to Australia to lecture at the University of New England.
2013 Filmed Wanted for Network Ten. Starting Monday.