“We do have something else for you,” Mark said, stealing the floor. “We did a blind static lift for shoeprints in the area around the pool ladder and the blood.”
Madison knew that meant they set a thin sheet of Mylar on the floor and zapped it with an electric charge. That magnetized the Mylar and drew dust and particles to it, outlining the pattern in which they were left. It was the perfect process for lifting prints invisible to the naked eye.
Madison perked up. “And?”
“And,” Cynthia cut in, “it was actually Mark who did this, so credit goes where credit is due. I’ll let him tell it.” She bowed out.
Mark’s cheeks flushed, and he dipped his head slightly forward in thanks. “We got a good print. A man’s size eleven. It’s a common tread, but, as you know, each print is unique.”
“Almost like fingerprints,” Madison said.
“That’s right.” Mark smiled. “Treads wear differently given how people walk. Imperfections happen. Well, these prints are from a running shoe, and there’s a definite slash through the tread near the large toe on the right shoe.”
—Excerpt from Chapter 18 from Shades of Justice
One of the most fun and challenging parts about writing a police procedural is getting the forensics right. When it came to my latest release Shades of Justice, like all of my mysteries, it required a lot of research.
To start with, in Shades of Justice, two dead bodies are pulled from an indoor swimming pool. I needed to confirm: Would they still be floating, or would they be on the bottom of the pool? Do dead bodies in pools always end up facedown or only in cases of drowning? Would the forensic investigators drain the pool in search of evidence? What would the process be to get them out of the pool? Who would take them out of the pool?
From there, one of the victims is a John Doe, and I needed to know if a sketch done based on a crime scene photo could be run through facial recognition software. And if it was able to be processed, what are the limitations of the associated databases? Does it pull from people with a criminal record only?
Other questions came up due to the size of the house where the victims were found. I needed to know how many forensic investigators would likely be assigned to process the crime scene. Also, how long would it take for them to work through a mansion. When would the house be released back to the family?
Another aspect of the book dealt with permanently deleted emails—is it possible to recover them?
I needed to obtain phone records and needed to know the process to getting them from the wireless provider and how long that would take.
What sort of damage would a .22 caliber cause if victims were shot in the head from approximately four feet away?
The questions kept coming, but thankfully the answers came too! It’s good that I have a reliable source who works in for the Toronto Police Service in Forensics Identification Services.
My contact’s been very helpful in answering my questions about procedure from the moment I met him. As fate would have it, I won an auction at Bouchercon in September 2017 that allowed myself and five others to attend a four-hour workshop with that sergeant! His enthusiasm for forensics is contagious and what was supposed to be four hours lasted for six (maybe longer) and he was willing to keep going.
He’s fascinated by the scope of forensics and its impact on solving crime, but he seems to have a particular passion for shoeprints. So, how could I not have some come up in my latest book? Now whether or not they are the link that helps Detective Knight catch a killer, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
But the fun part about being a part of this training was feeling like a forensic investigator myself! I made a cast of my shoeprint—and I’m not getting a gold star anytime soon. Still, it was fun! We placed our fingerprints on bottles and lifted them. Again, no gold star for me, but I wasn’t horrible at that. My husband, on the other hand, seemed like a seasoned pro. We also had our fingerprints taken old-school, fingertips rolled in an ink pad, then pressed to a print card. I even lifted shoeprints with Mylar like my investigator did in the excerpt above. It’s fascinating because to look at the floor, I didn’t see anything, but it lifted a distinguishable shoe tread. Anyway, truly fascinating!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at what goes into writing and publishing a credible murder mystery. Interested in knowing the answers to the questions I raised? Then I invite you to read my latest, Shades of Justice. 😊