Wednesday, August 28, 2019



Time to talk about suspending your disbelief when it comes to mystery novels. This is especially the case when reading (or writing) cozy mysteries. After all, how many murders would you believe an amateur sleuth would experience in their lifetime? One? Maybe two? C’mon, your average baker, knitter, zookeeper, chef, novelist, midwife, nun, shopkeeper, hotel owner, postmistress, etc., etc. would never stumble over body after body after body in real life.

For instance, Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote fame has solved a boatload of murders. I wouldn’t want to be a resident of Cabot Cove—your odds of being a murder victim is off the charts! Later in the series, the setting moved to different locations to spare the whole town’s population from being wiped out. At that point, I wouldn’t want to be one of Jessica’s relatives—you’re more than likely gonna be accused of murder and hope Jessica comes to the rescue. If you put all that aside, it’s a fun show (and books).

Which brings us to Castle. Not exactly a cozy (the hero is a crime writer who rides along with the police detectives), but it definitely fits in this category. My friend, Lee Lofland (the driving force behind the Writers’ Police Academy) reviewed the show each week on his Graveyard Shift blog. The reviews are in two parts—fan versus expert. Melanie Atkins (she reviews the romance aspect of the show) gives her review from a fan’s perspective. She enjoys the show and talks about all the fun parts she enjoyed.

Then Lee Lofland (he reviews the police procedure) gives his review on the same show from an expert’s view (he’s a retired cop). He’s not enamored of the show’s evidentiary and procedural aspects. Lee will bash the coroner’s diagnosis (for instance-she couldn’t know at the scene that the victim was killed by three 9mm hollow-point rounds). He hates the nonsensical babble that spurts forth from the coroner’s mouth which he allows is the writers’ fault, not the actress’s. And he will point out inconsistencies and errors in the scripts (for instance, that one phone call you get is not a constitutional right. You’ll get to make it at the officer’s convenience).

As Lee says “believable make believe is the key to great fiction…”

The point is that a reader needs to believe these situations could happen and just go with it to fully enjoy the mysteries (novels or shows). However, writers should do their due diligence to be as accurate as they can.

Friday, August 23, 2019


Buried Alive

Taphophobia - The fear of being being buried alive. (More on phobias when we get to "P")

This is not a new fear by any means, indeed, it seems to go way back to Biblical times. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it was common for dead bodies to be wrapped up and buried in caves. Days later, someone would go to check to see if they were alive (and occasionally they were).

Back through history, the way of determining if a person was dead or alive was not very precise. Diseases like typhoid which caused the pulse to be very weak led to some premature burials.

In Ancient Rome, mourners waited eight days to bury the body to give ample chance for the corpse to wake up. Bodies were laid out at home and not buried immediately so the family could see if the body decayed.

In 19th century Germany, there were ‘waiting mortuaries’ where corpses were incubated until they were putrid which was a sure sign of really being dead.
Grave protectors and alarms have been patented since the 1800’s.

The security coffin (1868 patent) which included a rope, ladder and bell.

Device for indicating Life in Buried Persons (1887 patent) An air pipe that could be opened for an emergency airway if movement was detected in the coffin.

The easy-opener (1907 patent) so the presumed dead wouldn’t struggle trying to lift a heavy coffin lid.

 The fear of being buried alive might have diminished, but designs for coffins and instruments that claim to prevent premature burial have been submitted to the patent office as recently as 2013.

At the rate technology is advancing, it’s simply a matter of time before ‘smart caskets’ are invented. “Hey Google, get me out of this coffin.”

Sunday, August 18, 2019



According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ‘Alibi’ is ‘the plea of having been at the time of the commission of an act elsewhere than at the place of commission’.

Alibis are getting easier to prove or disprove due to the influx of security cameras. It seems like privacy is going the way of the dodo bird. (My grandkids are no doubt asking ‘what’s a dodo bird’?)

Nowadays, the term alibi is synonymous with an excuse. Defense teams are using it as their defendant’s excuse for doing something wrong. (It was a full moon, I had PMS, I ate Twinkies…)

As a mystery writer, I try to use the term properly in my books. But you have to be careful because it appears that Big Brother is always watching you. An alibi can be broken or upheld with all the world’s technology. Cell phone towers, security footage, dated receipts, Facebook posts all go towards proving or disproving you were (or weren’t) at a particular place on a particular date. Of course, the prosecutor has the burden of proof.