Friday, September 27, 2019



What makes a book interesting? Individual tastes vary. What’s interesting to me might not be interesting to you. The mystery genre has a wide variety of subgenres because every reader has their own likes and dislikes. My taste runs to light-hearted, non-gory, cozy mysteries. (Though I do like a good courtroom drama, too.) Everyone’s different so it’s a blessing that in today’s market, we have quite a selection to choose from.

Cozies are heavy on character development. The murder is not gruesome, the sleuth is an amateur and there’s not a lot of violence or sex or swearing. And usually, no children or animals are hurt in the making of the book. J I read for fun and enjoyment—no heavy duty details or moral issues to be dealt with. I hesitate to say cozies are formulaic, but to a certain degree that’s exactly what they are. But I love, love, love this subgenre.

Having said all that, I participate in a few reading challenges each year. The Alphabet Challenge (read a book starting with every letter of the alphabet), The Cruisin’ Thru The Cozies Challenge (where you fill in different categories) and the Reporter’s Challenge (which I host every year on GoodReads). In order to complete these challenges, sometimes I’m ‘forced’ to read a mystery book that’s not a cozy so I can fill in all the categories. I have found many delightful books that I wouldn’t normally pick up if it weren’t for the challenges.

Here’s the things I like about a book that make it interesting to me:

 T1) The beginning grabs my interest from the get-go.

I enjoy being hooked from the start… with a good pace… never letting my interest flag.
One book I read this year was Vanished In The Dunes by Allan Retzky. Now I never would have selected this novel if it weren’t for the fact that I needed to read a book starting with a ‘V’ for the Alphabet Challenge. It was gripping and suspenseful and interesting!

 T2) The setting is fun.

If it’s a place—I adore a small town setting and a small town on the beach is even better. Or on an island. Or on a cruise. Or anywhere in Europe. Or historical.
If it’s an event—the author gives me something that I’m interested in experiencing (or have experienced). Such as the story takes place during a ghost tour, or during a writing conference, or during a vacation.
Historical mysteries are great fun, too. Murder Knocks Twice by Susanna Calkins grabbed my attention in several ways. First, it’s an interesting time period—1920’s during prohibition. Second, it’s set in a speakeasy which caught my interest. Third, it’s set in my hometown of Chicago and I was aware of the places and people she included in the story.

 3) The writing is flawless.

Some books are so well-written, the words just flow. I’ve noticed the difference—wish I could articulate what that difference is J)

(Ex: The Hat Shop Mysteries by Jenn McKinlay, The Ballroom Dance Mysteries by Ella Barrick)

 4) I’m not even interested in whodunit because I almost always finger the killer. (It’s a curse—my daughters won’t watch TV mysteries with me unless I promise to keep quiet).

Sunday, September 22, 2019



This post is going to be my own personal rant. I get to do that because it's my blog. Most cozy mysteries include a romantic aspect for the protagonist. Below are my top four 'I could do without' scenarios.

1) The Love Triangle

You've all read it...the protagonist is in love with two men. (And sometimes the two prospects are friends.) That's okay, but ten to twenty books into the series when the protagonist is still dating two guys and there's been no progression in her love life - it gets old! There are series I adore where this is happening and it tends to put a damper on my enjoyment. 

2) The Dumper

This is where the first in a series has the protagonist involved in a murder and she and the lead investigator feel an attraction. They have a date or two near the end of the book. The next book starts with the protagonist upset with the detective, wondering why he hasn't called her after those dates. Then another murder occurs that she becomes involved in and she meets up with the boyfriend again. He always has some lame excuse for not contacting her and they start the dating ritual all over. This cliche is old and overused.

3) Marriage

Another pet peeve of mine is where the protagonist's love interest suddenly has something important to tell her (usually a few books into the series). He's married...or he's separated...or the divorce isn't final... Wait, what? He didn't know he had a wife before he started dating our protagonist? There must be a way to ramp up the drama without trotting out this tired cliche.

4) Death

Then there's the one where the protagonist and her boyfriend have been together throughout the series and BAM! the boyfriend is killed off. It creates a downbeat, tension-filled story. Totally unwarranted and unacceptable. I've come across this twice and it's a definite buzzkill. I was so upset, those series were dead to me!

Personally, I find it interesting and enjoyable when the protagonist is involved in a healthy relationship, be it marriage or living together or just plain dating. It's supposed to be a murder mystery, not a docudrama...

Tuesday, September 17, 2019



 Now it's time for a little irreverent humor:

All joking aside—gravestones are a great resource for finding names for your characters.

Thursday, September 12, 2019



      Interesting facts about forensics:

The CSI effect is a real thing. Due to TV shows, jurors now have an unrealistic expectation of how a trial should be handled. They want irrefutable scientific evidence against the defendant.

Koala  bears have fingerprints that are almost indistinguishable from humans.

You leave a trail behind you everywhere you go, be it skin cells, hair, body fluids...

If you enter a crime scene after a shooting, you could be covered with more gunshot residue than the shooter who runs away immediately.

Internet tracking is one of the easiest forms of surveillance. Be careful what you Google--if you commit, it may come back to haunt you. Big Brother could be watching!

Forensic  scientists use donated cadavers in order to study decomposition. After all, bodies aren't normally found in a secured, environmentally controlled lab! The Body Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee is grateful to its donors and their families and values the scientific research that decomposing bodies provide.

Yes, you can get DNA from hair, but did you know that hair roots can also reveal gender?

There are approximately 40 different subdivisions/subfields in forensic science (such as: forensic anthropology, forensic botany, forensic accounting, forensic limnology, forensic pathology, forensic toxicology…) Well, you get the point. I’m not going to list them all here, but I did watch a show recently where a forensic plumber was called to get evidence from a toilet—gross!

Saturday, September 7, 2019



A crime scene is any location that may be associated with a committed crime. Evidence is gathered by crime scene investigators and law enforcement officials. The first step is to secure the crime scene and protect it from contamination. Roll out the crime scene tape! This measure is also important to ensure any collected evidence can be used in court.

Next comes documentation. The initial responding officer needs to write up a coherent report summarizing officers’ observations and actions at the scene and gather witness statements. Chain of custody is also crucial for courtroom use.

Once the crime scene techs arrive, they will be given a walk-through of the scene. Pictures and, sketches and/or videos are done before anything is touched or moved. After a thorough documentation takes place, evidence is carefully collected. This can be anything that looks pertinent to the investigation—cigarette butts, tire prints, footprints, fibers, bullet casings, guns, blood, fingerprints, etc.  These items are tagged, logged and packaged and then sent to a forensic lab for analysis. In turn, the lab processes all the potential evidence and sends a report to the detective in charge of the case.

Biological evidence—blood, body fluids, hair and other tissues
Biological evidence can be processed for DNA

Latent print evidence—fingerprints, palm prints, footprints
A crime tech will check out surfaces that a culprit is likely to have touched (Ex-doors and doorknobs, light switches, sink)
Visible: Seen by the naked eye (Ex-left in blood or paint)
Molded: An impression (Ex-left in a bar of soap or candle wax)
Latent: Not visible to naked eye (Ex-left by transfer of sweat and natural oils from the fingers onto a smooth surface that will hold the print)
Personal Note: I had fun at the Writers’ Police Academy using the super glue fuming technique

Footwear and tire track evidence; Tool and toolmark evidence
Three dimensional impressions. Where not possible to take the marks to the lab, crime scene techs will photograph and then cast an impression of the mark for further analysis.

Trace evidence—gunshot residue, paint residue, fibers, soil, vegetation, glass fragments, illicit drugs
(trace evidence can be found by collecting bedding, clothing, towels, etc from the scene and the lab shakes them out in a sterile environment onto a white slab covered with paper)

Digital evidence—cell phone records, Internet logs, emails

 Drug evidence
Consists of legal and illegal chemical substances

Firearm evidence
Guns are picked up by the barrel and bagged for examination at the lab.

And don’t forget the trash—a great place to search for      discarded evidence.

As you can see, there is a plethora of items to use in your stories…

Monday, September 2, 2019



Let’s take a look at some criminal defenses.

How about the accused who claimed his cat downloaded thousands of pornographic pictures onto his computer. Now I know that cats rule the internet (look at all the cute cat videos), but I don’t know of a cat that can type and download. (Though I guess it’s worth a try if I could get my cat to pitch in and help me write my books.) Now if he claimed his pet monkey did it, he might have a case…

Then there’s always the popular ‘homicidal sleepwalking’ defense. Sleepwalkers can have violent outbursts if startled. Sometimes this defense actually works as long as their defense doesn’t break down when their next actions are too complex and/or too specific for a sleepwalker to perform (such as disposing of the evidence) and goes toward showing premeditation.

Or the ‘nutmeg induced frenzy’ defense. Validity? Well, nutmeg does contain myristicin which is a psychoactive drug.

Another all-time favorite is the ‘Evil twin did it’ defense. Identical twins (from the same fertilized egg) have virtually indistinguishable DNA. The crime lab won’t be able to tell the two of them apart. (Fraternal twins do not share identical DNA.) However, fingerprints are a different kettle of fish. Even identical twins don’t have the same fingerprints, so best for the evil twin to wear gloves.

And who could forget the infamous ‘Twinkie Defense’?

Although we roll our eyes at the absurdity of some defenses, lawyers do try to do their creative best. Looking back to 1871, Thomas McGehan was on trial for the murder of Tom Myers during a barroom brawl. McGehan’s lawyer set out to prove his client innocent because he believed Myers had shot himself when he tried to draw his pistol from a kneeling position. Attempting to prove his case, the lawyer put what he thought was an unloaded gun in his pocket, kneeled down to recreate the scene, attempted to pull the pistol out of his pocket and accidently shot himself in the abdomen. The lawyer died a few days later from his injury, but his client was acquitted. (You can’t make this stuff up!)