Do Your Clues Add Up?

Elaine VietsI sometimes take for granted what I know, at least as it relates to crime.

Don’t worry: I’m not a criminal, but I did spend more than a decade as a spokesperson for a law enforcement agency.

Now that I am writing mysteries, I sometimes forget to include the details that will make the story stronger — the very details I learned on the streets.

Fortunately, I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, and we recently heard from Elaine Viets, who has written more than 30 mysteries in four bestselling series.

Crime details she reminded me about included:

  1. A privacy screen prevents people from gawking at the body. I was always astounded at the number of individuals hanging around a crime scene.
  2. Clothing gives you an idea of lifestyle but it can’t be used for identification. Do you ever switch clothes with a sibling? Think about it.
  3. You can’t give family members all of the details of the murder. Initially, they are suspects, too.
  4. It is blood spatter, not splatter.
  5. Clues might include whether the lights are on or off or whether there is mail in the house or food in the refrigerator.
  6. Bodies can be identified many ways, including through dental records, X-rays (reveal broken bones), fingerprints, DNA, implants (which carry serial numbers) and tattoos.

I need to go back and investigate my crime scene details.