Skip to main content

Book Review: Scene of the Crime - a Writer's Guide to Crime-scene Investigations

I bought Scene of the Crime, a writer's guide to crime-scene investigations by Anne Wingate, Ph.D. at the same time as I bought Modus Operandi so the information, whilst still relevant, much is more relevant to pre 1996 crime scene investigations. That said, this is an excellent companion to that book. Where as Modus Operandi gives you an overview of types of criminals, Scene of the Crime goes into the specifics of how police work a crime scene.



Anne Wingate is a retired detective and author of crime novels. Much of this book is based on her personal experience of crime scenes and not only includes anecdotes from her professional career but also includes a specific, real case as a framework for the step by step process of investigating a crime.

It is a fascinating read covering everything, from what happens when a crime is first reported, how a crime scene is recorded, how evidence is collected, what evidence can be found, how evidence is processed and what can be concluded from the results.

If the crime involves a body it covers what happens to the body, what evidence can be obtained from a body, how a body decomposes and the progressive difficulties of what a body can reveal the more it has decomposed.

There's extensive chapters on fingerprinting including the administrative issues that went along with matching fingerprints to perpetrators before such things as computer databases. It's quite surprising to learn that cases that collect finger print evidence, prior to computerization, weren't guaranteed to be matched even if the guilty person's fingerprints were on file simply because of the logistics of searching physical card records.

You'll also find a good overview of firearms and the evidence that can be collected from them. How autopsies work and how crime labs work.

Along the way you'll get some idea of how long evidence takes to be processed and discover some of the administrative issues that can slow down an investigation. Anne even points out procedural issues that could be exploited in your own crime writing.

The final chapter covers unofficial investigators (a popular focus for fiction). Unfortunately, in the real world things look pretty bleak for their ability to function as they don't have any authority or access to crime scenes once the police step in. That said, the author notes there are ways around this but generally it's not easy to present a realistic portrayal without giving them a few lucky breaks.

Every chapter includes a table summary of the topic you've just read making this an excellent reference book to go back to and find what you need to brush up on fairly easily. Included in the Appendix is sample reports from people who worked the crime scene and reports from the crime lab of what was found in the evidence processed.

There is enough information in this book to write a fairly convincing crime story but the author does warn that crime scene investigation is a constantly evolving field. For example this book was written around 1992 when DNA sampling was a relatively new field. Twenty plus years on I'm pretty sure you're going to need updated information if you want to make that a convincing part of your story. Anne gives you some suggestion on who to call in your local police force if you want to get updated information on most areas of evidence analysis.

If you're writing a crime story that needs to be fairly convincing then this book will mostly have you covered. Unless your crime hangs on a specific area of evidence analysis where you need to be extremely factual you probably won't need to do too much further research. I know I've watched many high profile crime shows that don't get anywhere near as detailed as this book with their crime scene investigations.

I highly recommend this book, even for modern stories, as so much is still very relevant to today's police work.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Featured Animator: Christian Haynes - 'Zack In Time' An Original, Independent, Animated Series on the Rise

Christian Haynes - Zack In Time.  If you've ever wanted to create an animated TV series staring your own original characters and stories then Los Angeles based writer, director, and animator, Christian Haynes is taking those next steps of putting together a team, developing a pitch/trailer for their series, Zack In Time. Featuring professional studio quality animation, they hope the show will get picked up by an animation studio for an official series. The path he and his team are taking is one you could easily follow as they deal with real life commitments, and building a following on Instagram and Tik-Tok showcasing their work behind the scenes. TET: Tell me a little about yourself. Who you are, and why you started animating? My name is Christian Haynes and I've loved animation ever since I was a kid. I would constantly be drawing cartoon characters from TV shows and movies and making my own little homemade comic strips.  As I got older, I became a lot more interested in st

Make Disney/Pixar Style Characters with Reallusion's Character Creator and Toon Figure Bases

The Extraordinary Tourist Classic Coat outfit created using Reallusion's Toon Designer for CC3. I've talked before how I've wanted to get into 3D Disney/Pixar style character animation since I first saw the animated cutscenes for the very first Tomb Raider game back in 1996. It's why I initially bought Reallusion's iClone 3D studio app as soon as I could afford a computer that would run it. But then Reallusion released their 3D Character Creator (CC) for iClone and I wanted to create my characters with that (and I did try with Bat Storm ). But the focus of CC was realism, even with ToKoMotion's stylised body morphs . Now with Reallusion's Cartoon Designer bundle for CC3 which features two packs, Toon Figures , and Toon Hair , designing Disney/Pixar style 3D characters just got a whole lot quicker. The two packs are the bare essentials for creating Toon style characters. Five body morphs (2 male, 2 female, and one adolescent body morph that w

Create 2D Animated Characters with 3D Character Creator Tools and Artistic Filters

3D CC3 TET Character, based on my Oppa Doll Avatar, used as the base for a 2D CA4 character. One of my favorite things to do is to create characters with any type of Avatar/Character creator app. In fact the first test I usually try with these tools is, can I make an avatar of me (or at least my The Extraordinary Tourist persona). Previously I've used 2D character creators like Oppa Doll as a source of artwork for some characters I've made for Reallusion's Cartoon Animator 4 animation studio but 2D character creators are limited to... well 2D. 3D Character Creators While you may think 3D character creators have no place in creating characters for 2D animation there are quite a number of advantages including: No drawing skills required. Render characters in any style. Use an art filter or even hand trace into line art. Need to animate the character in a specific pose or angle? Render out an image of the character in the required angle and animate it in 2D. Quicker to crea

Artbreeder - Using AI created Character and Background Content in your Animations

A selection of User/AI generated images from Artbreeder. If you're looking for an endless supply of 2D character and background images for your animations then Artbreeder , an online Artificial Intelligence (AI) that generates image mash-ups you can tweak as much as you like, could be the ultimate content library. What is Artbreeder? Artbreeder is free to use though there are various paid plans, that give you additional features, such as higher resolution download images or more settings to play with. All images created on the site are Public Domain (CC0 License) and can be used in commercial projects. Using Artbreeder's online app you can generate head shot portraits, full body characters, landscapes, and other scenes simply by choosing two or more existing images to mash together then, using a series of sliders, to select which traits from each image you wish to lean toward in the final image. Photo Comparison - Top is my original uploaded photo. Bottom is Artbreeder's ap

Creating a G3-360 Head From a Single Photo in Reallusion's Cartoon Animator

Source Photo from Generated Photos . Ever since Reallusion introduced the G3-360 Character Head into Cartoon Animator 4 I've wanted to see if their 360 Head Creator tool could be used to create an animated head using a photo. Part of the reason I've never given this a shot, until now, is that I just assumed it would be difficult, and require a lot of photo editing to blend out the sprite edges. It turns out, creating a photographic G3-360 head is not that much more difficult than creating a cartoon head, and can be done using a single photographic image using my own G3-360 head rigging system . While this article isn't intended to be a full tutorial, I'll run through the basic steps of how I achieved my photographic G3-360 head, shown in the comparison below, of a Cartoon Animator Morph-based head on the left, and my G3-360 head on the right. Pros and Cons Cartoon Animator's morph-based head system is ideal for animating photographic faces. It uses a semi 3D wire me

How to Create Caricature Faces From Photos Using Krita - Tutorial by TET

I was looking around online for an app that can 'cartoonify' a photo of a person, kind of hoping for a 'one click' solution. There are a few out there but none worth highlighting. Then I came across a video tutorial by Pixivu for Cartoonifying faces in Photoshop and wondered if I could do something similar in the free, open source drawing app, Krita ? While Krita isn't quite as elegant as Photoshop it does have some comparable features that make it very easy to create cartoon caricature faces from photos that you could use as illustrations or in your animations. They're particularly useful for using as Morph Based character heads in Cartoon Animator 4 (as shown below). Example Caricature Faces use as morph character heads in Cartoon Animator 4. While the actual steps to create heads like those shown above (and, yes, that character on the right is based on a photo of me that I snapped on my webcam) is not something you're just going to stumble across yourse

The Christmas Animation Rush - Five Apps to Create Your Last Minute Animated Holiday Messages

Merry Christmas from Animation and Video Life.  It's the most wonderful time of the year... well not yet. The Nightmare Before Christmas is not just the animated Tim Burton movie, it's also the nightmare of trying to make your own animated holiday messages in the week before Christmas. Animation takes time. Why didn't you start those in November?! If this sounds like your nightmare, here are five free or low(ish) cost apps to help you back to sharing the joy of the season with animation, so it truly will be the most wonderful time of the year. Cartoon Animator 4 (or iClone7 ) Reallusion Marketplace search 'Christmas'. If you're already a power user (or even know your way around it a little bit) you'll know CA4 is one of the fastest ways to make completely custom animations. The Reallusion Marketplace has a bunch of Christmas content you can utilize, just don't be too ambitious. Drop in a background, throw in a Santa character, record a short message f