Not So True Crime


Vivid. Believable. Atmospheric.

I see words like this — words used by readers to describe my books — and I’m blown away. I can’t express how grateful I am for these reviews. I hope that I can keep producing books that meet these standards. It’s for this reason that much of the time I spend “writing” each book in the Adam Kaminski mystery series is actually time spent researching.

IMG_2356I spent many years studying Polish history and the Polish political system. I use knowledge I gained in my years at the State Department and National Park Service. I talk with friends and colleagues who are archaeologists, to make sure my recollection of archaeology from my graduate school days is accurate. And I read. A lot.

All of this is to ensure that my stories, while completely fictional, are also realistic and believable.

Yet I hit those points occasionally where I have to stop writing and say wait, what? (I try to say this silently in my head, but I don’t always succeed). That point where I’ve written myself into a corner and I need to come up with a realistic reason why a Philadelphia cop would be sent to Poland. Or how a religious leader could help investigate a murder. Or why a statistician, archaeologist and mathematician might be collaborating. Just for example.

Sometimes there is no way. As Lisa Cron points out in this insightful article at Writers Unboxed, it’s rarely a good idea to try to create an internal logic to your story when one doesn’t exist.

On the other hand, sometimes it just clicks. Like when I open the New York Times to find a fascinating article about how statisticians, mathematicians and archaeologists collaborated to determine literacy rates in ancient Judah. Eureka!

puzzle dogI love it when all the puzzle pieces somehow fit together perfectly. (And, yes, hate it when I have to delete an entire plot thread because, in the end, it just doesn’t work.)

I actually enjoy research. Learning about other people, other places, other skills. It’s part of the joy of writing for me.

But in some ways, the fun part is when I get to make stuff up. Come up with creative and unexpected motives for murder, or alibis that seem strong but have an almost invisible loop-hole. For while the scholars studying ancient Judah may have been working together on a history-changing exercise, I’m fairly certain none of them is plotting murder.

That’s all on me.

How about you – when you read or when you write, how important is it that the storyline be believable?

Find out more about me and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at

Simple three books

6 thoughts on “Not So True Crime

  1. Good post, Jane. I do a lot of reading for my books too. Only it’s about the tribe I write about in my books. I have one of your books on my kindle. One of these days I’ll get to it… I do more reading for research than actually reading for pleasure. Sigh.


    1. Isn’t that the truth? I do try to fit in pleasure reading. I’m just not willing to lose that!


  2. I expect believability within the limits set by the sub-genre. In your books, for example, I expect 100% real-world believability, while in an amateur sleuth cozy–based on the not-very-likely premise that an amateur would repeatedly get involved in crime-solving–I expect that implausible stretch, but then internal believability. That is, the characters have to behave in a plausible way within that situation. (I hope that made sense!)

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    1. I like that idea of internal believability. Logic within the subgenre. That makes sense, and now you say it, I realize it’s what I expect, too.

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