IN THE NAME OF RESEARCH, heh,that’s what they say Enjoy Kylie’s post & check out her book DEADLY SINS, available now.
It’s no secret that writers will go to great lengths to gain research for our novels. I once spent a day hiking through the Willamette Forest in Oregon, crawling through caves with momentary amnesia regarding my aversion to bats. I had powerful motivation: I was looking for the perfect cave for my character to dispose of seven sets of skeletal remains. Fortunately the bats stayed hidden for the day and I did discover the perfect spot. I also had an epiphany of sorts–when I walked through the dappled woods and saw a cave with a keyhole in the ceiling the entire final scene of my novel unfurled before me. It was like a gift. Which almost made up for the welt on my head earned from sitting up straight in one of the low-lying caves.
This summer I did one better. I attended an Evidence Collection Class for writers in North Carolina, the same class they use to train law enforcement personnel in crime scene investigation. A fellow writer dubbed it ‘creepy summer camp’, but for me it was the epitome of cool. My dark romantic thrillers have a police procedural/forensics slant, so this was right up my alley.
We started out working with the various techniques used to lift prints. I have to admit, after a couple hours I was getting a bit cocky. Turns out I leave light prints, meaning the ridges in my fingers aren’t raised much. (I blame typing and the endless paperwork I deal with!) At any rate, all morning long I wasn’t able to lift clear prints at all. By noon I verbally asserted my intention to turn to a life of crime. After all, no prints, no arrest, right?
Those plans were short-lived, however. After lifting prints from a mirrored surface with copper metallic powder and baking them for an hour, I examined them under the comparator (sort of a magnifier with screen). Not only were these prints visible, I’d also left most of a palm print and half of my wrist.
So ended my not-yet-started career change as a burglar.
The bloodstain section of class was my personal favorite. It was so-o-o cool to spray areas and watch the stain—naked to the human eye—luminesce. Which is not to say (we learned) that we’d found blood. All we could presume is that we’d found the presence of hemoglobin, which oddly enough is also found in rust, metals and horseradish.
It would take a writer with a far better imagination than I have to write a scene involving a dead victim lying in a puddle of horseradish.
We also spent an hour or so recovering serial numbers that had been filed off. I discovered two critical things: CSIs probably don’t wear fingernails, and sanding is hard work. I actually had to sand and add acid twice before the numbers on my piece of metal were visible.
I proved more adept at running the presumptive drug tests for meth and cocaine. That was accomplished by adding a small amount of the drug to small bags with vials in them. As we broke each vial the resulting chemical reaction initiated a color change that gave us the answer about our suspicious substance. Oh, and those movies that have a character sticking their finger in an unknown white powder and tasting it? Pure Hollywood.
The time I spent with a leading fingerprint analyst was wasted on me, however. I was a failure at comparing prints. All those loops, whorls, arches, deltas…my gaze glazed over. But I came away with more information than I could ever have gotten from books, and a thrilling experience I’ll never forget.
What about you? Are you a secret CSI junkie? What’s the most thrilling thing you’ve done lately? One lucky commenter will be entered for a drawing of Deadly Sins, the last of the Mindhunters series.
Bio: Kylie Brant is the bestselling author of over thirty romantic suspense novels. She’s hard at work now on her next romantic thriller trilogy, The Circle of Evil.