Searchlight: Forensics

Let’s say you’re writing a story. Perhaps it’s a mystery, or suspense, or just plain old horror, and a character is killed. It’s extremely likely that this character’s death will alert the police, or the police will be involved at some point in the near future. And let’s say, for arguments sake, that you want this piece of fiction grounded in reality to some degree. So then, it would be safe to say that the authorities are going to examine this dead body of yours. If we’re all on the same page at this point, then you’re going to need to know a little bit about forensics.

Val McDermid, Scottish author of mysteries, many of which feature her character Dr. Tony Hill, knows a thing or two about forensics. It makes a lot of sense that if you’re dealing with this kind of stuff in your fiction, then you need to be a little informed. Or a lot informed. Regardless of the degree of information you’re willing to include, it helps to have that information at your fingertips. McDermid has done just that, with a handy tome called Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime.

The thing about this book is that it gives you a decent amount of information without overloading you with a bunch of technical jargon. Based around the simple premise that “every contact leaves a trace” (Edmond Locard), the introduction of forensics changed the very face of criminal investigations forever. Sure, there’s a ton of science here, but you knew that going in. McDermid makes the science easy to digest by focusing on the history of the different divisions of forensics. She goes through the crime scene, fingerprinting, anthropology, blood splatter—all sciences that have been used in investigations for years—as well as breaking down more modern concepts such as Digital Forensics and Facial Reconstruction. She writes about how investigators work with fire scenes, and how those creepy crawly bugs and other critters factor in the crime scene in the Entomology chapter. All of this is written in an easy-to-read, very digestible format that’s just as compelling as the subject matter.

Even if you’re not a writer, the subject matter alone makes this a must-read book. McDermid uses personal stories of police officers involved in crime scenes, including investigations of the deaths of other police officers, to give the examples the gravitas they deserve. All too often, the stereotypical forensic expert we see in the films or read about in books is just another bored scientist who see dead bodies as another thing to file, a clinical dissection piece. In reality, these scientists know these dead bodies were much more than, that they were someone’s loved one, that they were people with lives and dreams, and it’s that drive to find those that did them harm and bring them to justice that makes them put on the gloves and go through all the evidence they can find. Just as “every contact leaves a trace”, there’s no way you can read this book and not be affected by the information inside.




If you enjoyed our Searchlight profile of Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid. please consider clicking through to our Amazon affiliated links. If you do you’ll keep the This is Horror ship afloat with some very welcome remuneration.


Buy Forensics by Val McDermid

Support This Is Horror Podcast on Patreon

  • For $1 you get early bird access to all our podcasts and can submit questions to guests.
  • For $3 you get access to our patrons-only podcast Story Unboxed: The Horror Podcast on the Craft of Writing.
  • For $4 you get the full interview, no two-parters.

The best way to support This Is Horror is via Patreon. How much will you pledge? Go on. Be awesome.

Visit our Patreon page and pledge to the This Is Horror Podcast today. 

This Is Horror Books

Head on over to the This Is Horror Shop to see the books we have available. We have a special offer on All Four Year One Books—JUST £10!

This Is Horror Books on Kindle Unlimited and Amazon

Subscribe, Rate and Review on iTunes!

Help the Podcast, spread the word: subscribe, rate and review on iTunes UK, iTunes US or your country’s iTunes.

Amazon Affiliates

Support us by shopping through our Amazon Affiliate links: Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Permanent link to this article:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: