by Raelene Gorlinsky
Do you write mysteries or romantic suspense? How do you do your research? So many details to consider! What type of gun was used, how many bullets does it hold and what type of wound do they make, what is the gun's accuracy and range, how loud is it, where could the murderer have obtained it? Oh, you poisoned the murderee? What poison, how long does it take to kill someone, what are the effects, is it detectable in post-mortem testing, how and where is the poison available... And then after your character is dead, there are all the police and forensic procedures, then the lawyers and courtroom.
And don't think you can fake any of this. Nowadays everyone watches Forensic Files and Court TV and Unsolved Murders and Cold Cases, and a dozen other reality shows about crime. Granted, those shows are for entertainment and aren't always completely accurate, but the ones that report on real cases and investigations are thorough and realistic. So your average person nowadays can know quite a lot about how crimes are committed and investigated. And they will spot flaws and errors in your story.
When it comes to researching all those pesky details for your story crime, a number of authors have recommended the Howdunit series of books from Writer's Digest Books. I have not read them, so I can't personally say how accurate or useful they are, or how up-to-date the information (the first book in the series is from 1990). But judging from the titles and book descriptions, they cover almost everything you'd need to know, and in considerable detail.
Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons
Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries
Cause of Death: A Writer's Guide to Death, Murder and Forensic Medicine
Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons
Missing Persons: A Writer's Guide to Finding the Lost, the Abducted and the Escaped
Murder One: A Writer's Guide to Homicide
Private Eyes: A Writer's Guide to Private Investigating
Scene of the Crime: A Writer's Guide to Crime-Scene Investigation
Howdunit Book of Poisons
Howdunit Book of Police Procedures and Investigation
Howdunit: How Crimes are Committed and Solved
And there are many similar nonfiction reference and research books available. Just search Amazon.
In fact, I find it rather worrying -- I don't mind authors reading this stuff, but how do we keep it out of the hands of the potential criminals? ;-)
So what sources (books or other) do you recommend as the most accurate for planning a murder?