I bought “Howdunit Forensics” from Writer’s Digest Books to use as a reference tool when writing my own mysteries. I thought it would be handy book to peruse when writing to make sure the technical aspects of my mysteries were correct. No one was more surprised than me when I wound up reading it like a novel. Why? Because it’s fascinating. The book is broken down into three large categories: The Forensics System, The Coroner and the Body, The Crime Scene and the Crime Lab. There are numerous sub-categories under each main heading and believe me, Lyle covers everything you would ever need to know when writing a mystery. Even if you’re not a writer, but merely a lover of good mysteries, you’ll enjoy this book.
Lyle writes in a style that is easy for anyone to understand and not too technical. Who else but a mystery writer would enjoy reading the steps in doing an autopsy? You can in this book, Chapter 3, The Autopsy: A look Inside the Body. Want information on trace evidence? Chapter 15: Trace Evidence: Sweating the Small Stuff. When you read the chapter about trace evidence, you’ll see how many mistakes some of the popular crime shows make. You do know I hope that most of that stuff isn’t accurate. CSI’s don’t carry guns, they do not question suspects and they’d never tell the M.E. what to look for at an autopsy! Of course, if they proceeded the way real criminalists do, the shows wouldn’t be half as exciting.
I found the last chapter in the book, Criminal Psychology: Assessing the Mind, to be especially interesting. More and more we rely on forensic psychologist to give us incites into the criminal mind. No longer are we satisfied to say that a person committed a crime because he or she was crazy. We want to know why these men, and women, commit crimes, what motivated them. I especially liked the blue-back grounded side-bars throughout the book citing real cases and telling how forensic helped solve the crime and convict the bad guys.
D.P. Lyle, M.D. is the Macavity Award winning and Edger® Award nominated author of non-fiction books, “Murder and Mayhem”, and “Forensics and Fiction” as well as the thrillers, Devils Playground and Double Blind.
He has worked as a story and technical consultant with many published authors and with writers and producers of several popular television shows, including Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Cold Case, Peacemakers, House, Medium, and 1-800 Missing.
If you write mysteries this is the one reference tool you must have on your shelf.