Between reading the controversial O.J. Simpson book (reviewed in today's Sun-Times), which brought back memories of the trial's bloody details, and recently becoming hooked on reruns of the original "CSI," today's pick practically jumped off the shelf and into my hands on its own.
Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing, and Downright Odd Questions From Crime Writers by D.P. Lyle (Thomas Dunne Books, 284 pages, $23.95) is a sequel of sorts to the author's 2003 book Murder and Mayhem. Both books are filled with questions from crime writers who want to make their stories as authentic as possible.
Aside from being a handy reference for crime writers, Forensics and Fiction is interesting reading. Here's a sampling of questions ...
What happens when someone is shot in the heart with an arrow? (A person can actually survive. Who knew?)
What problems could a physician have in 1816 that would lead to his being ostracized by the medical community and society in general? (Killing people to use their bodies for medical study, among others.)
Can an overly aggressive chiropractic adjustment lead to death? (Yes)
Can a Death Row inmate be saved after receiving a lethal injection? (Yes)
How does "truth serum" work? (Drugs such as sodium pentothal are sedatives, which cause impaired judgment, much like drunkenness, which makes people talk.)
Can the fingerprint of a perpetrator be lifted from the victim's severed finger? (Extremely unlikely.)
Could my character hide inside a corpse?
Before answering the last question, Lyle remarks, "This is an extremely clever and diabolical idea. I love it." It's actually kind of disgusting as it requires a very small hider and a very large corpse. And the small person would have to pretty much "hollow out" the corpse.
You get the picture. There is much to learn here, not just about the more gruesome side of life, but about survival as well. Remember, the author is a real doctor — he doesn't play one on TV.