My novels always involve a murder mystery, and a couple of years ago I decided that maybe limiting my research to watching Lewis might be a bit slack. I started to trawl the web to get the answers I needed for the book I was writing then, and also for inspiration for future novels. Since then I’ve discovered even more useful resources, so here’s the updated list:
- Police procedure
- Legal matters
- Features and opinion
- Interviews with crime writers for inspiration
Crime Scene Forensics: How does it work? – A useful BBC interactive feature.
Understanding DNA Evidence: A Guide for Victim Service Providers – A whole raft of information on understanding DNA evidence, looking at its value, the dangers of contamination and interpreting the results of DNA analysis. The site – belonging to the US Department of Justice – includes case studies and information on testing methods.
Forensic Science Central – A website featuring a huge range of readable articles on the many and varied aspects of forensic science, from forensic anthropology through to toxicology and trace evidence. The section on crime scene investigation sums up the actions of police on first attending a crime scene. The site also provides case studies and a fascinating section on the history of forensics from pre-700 BC up to the present day.
Forensic Phonetics – An interesting edition of BBC Radio 4’s Frontiers, looking at new developments in crime investigation led by speech scientists – available to stream.
The Life Scientific – Jim al-Khalili’s series includes an interview with forensic entomologist Amoret Whitaker (8 January 2013) about how her knowledge of insects helps police investigations. The podcast can be downloaded from the main programme page or streamed.
Police procedure – interviewing and interacting with suspects
Common Interrogation Techniques – How Stuff Works’ article looks at the psychological tactics used by criminal investigators including the physical layout of interview rooms.
Making a Statement – Information from the AFFECT (Action for Families Enduring Criminal Trauma) website tackling the topic of giving a statement from the side of civilians caught up in a crime investigation.
Police powers – Information from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau on what the police are and are not allowed to do and the rights of civilians. It covers codes of practice relating to everything from stop and search and powers of entry, to citizens’ rights on arrest.
Crimes A-Z – A list of crimes in the UK and their definitions from FindLaw UK
Features and opinion
When the murder trail goes cold – A BBC feature including details of unsolved UK cases.
Crouching Low, Hidden Camera – Available for streaming, the BBC Radio 4 programme looks at the secret world of the private detective.
We are all Susceptible to Delusions – Psychologist Frank Tallis talks to New Scientist about why we are all susceptible, and how people can be sane in all respects except for one obsessive, and entirely unfounded, belief.
Thrill Writing – This website compiled by writer Fiona Quinn contains countless fascinating articles and interviews on everything from weapons to applied psychology. At the time of writing, Fiona is asking for Kindle Scout nominations, so each post starts with a brief blurb on how to do that. Unfortunately you can’t nominate Fiona if you’re based in the UK. (I tried, having bought Unlucky 7, which features one of her shorter stories, and was frustrated!)
Interviews with crime writers for inspiration
BBC Radio 4’s Bookclub is hosted by James Naughtie, who interviews writers of all sorts, usually about one, named book from their output. There are plenty of crime writers featured, and if you click on the individual links below, you’ll launch the streamed version of that episode. Alternatively you can click here to visit the Bookclub downloads page and access the mp3 files.
Lee Child – Killing Floor, Sun – 1 Dec 13
Donna Leon – Death At La Fenice – Sun, 7 Aug 11
Henning Mankell – Sidetracked – Sun, 4 Jul 10
Colin Dexter – The Remorseful Day – Sun, 5 Aug 07
Val McDermid – The Mermaids Singing – Sun, 4 Feb 07
Elmore Leonard – Rum Punch – Sun, 6 Aug 06
Lindsey Davis – Time to Depart (Falco 7) – Sun, 4 Jun 06
Michael Dibdin – Blood Rain – Sun, 7 Aug 05
Minette Walters – The Scold’s Bridle – Sun, 6 Jun 04
PD James – Original Sin – Sun, 4 May 03
Barbara Vine – A Dark Adapted Eye – Sun, 6 Oct 02
Ian Rankin – Knots and Crosses and The Falls – Thu, 10 Jan 02
James Ellroy – The Black Dahlia – Sun, 6 May 01
There are, of course, many excellent author interviews on YouTube too. I’ll finish the post with this one, since I find Sophie Hannah great fun to listen to, as well as loving her novels…
3 thoughts on “Online resources for mystery writers – updated”
That’a really generous and helpful post, Clare. I’m almost tempted to turn to crime… writing of course!
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Thanks so much, Chris! The more I looked, the more fascinating stuff I found. (It’s possible I got slightly side tracked, but I’m sure understanding forensics in 700 BC will be useful one day!)