A Bee in my Bonnet by Paty Jager

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While figuring out the means of death in my latest Shandra Higheagle mystery, Toxic Trigger-point, I had to come up with something quiet, easy, and could be done while a woman was face down on a massage table.

I wanted the scene when the body is found to look as if the woman is on the table waiting for a massage, but then they realize she is dead.

The scene had to look serene-normal.

I came up with an allergy to bees. After reading up on it, I discovered people who are deathly allergic to bees can die within minutes of contact with bee venom. Further research, I discovered there are some facial creams that have bee venom in them. Enough to cause anaphylaxis shock and death.

To tell you any more about how it all happened would give the story away. ;)_

However, each time I tried to come up with a way for Shandra and Ryan to get a confirmation it was from a bee sting or venom from forensics, I was shot down by Judy Melinek, MD and forensic pathologist.

Each time I’d come up with something, like, how about finding the enzymes for bee venom in stomach contents, she’d shut me down. Bee venom can not be tested for because of it’s chemical break down. Hmmm….

She told me the discovery would have to come from the investigation. Discovering the woman’s allergy and working from there. So that’s what I did. With the help of information from the victim’s family and, of course, Shandra’s dreams, she and Ryan solve the murder.

This is what I enjoy about writing mysteries. While I might have a great idea in mind for a murder, I have to dig and research to discover the best, and sometimes the only way, to disclose or discover how the victim was killed.

Have you read any mystery books with an unusual way the victim was killed?

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Researching a Mystery by Paty Jager

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I’m not a forensic coroner or a lawyer or even a law enforcer. I’m the wife of a rancher and I write murder mystery.

As I write this next book in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series I’ve come across questions that have required answers by professionals. When I start a book I know how the victim will die and where. But I ultimately need to know what their injuries would look like say if they fall off a cliff or are stabbed with a blunt object or shot at close range with a small caliber gun.

These are all things coroners have seen and can tell me. But how do I get a coroner on speed-dial or in my case speed e-mail? I’m part of a yahoo loop that is filled with every kind of occupation a mystery or murder writer might need expertise about. The yahoo loop is crimescenewriter@yahoogroups.com

That’s how I connected with a coroner who not only answered my question I put on the loop but also emailed back and forth with me as I asked more questions and what-if’s. She has lots of knowledge and being a budding writer is willing to help out fellow writers.

Writing the opening and how the victim is killed and what is discovered went well, knowing I had the correct information and knowledge. Then I brought in some secondary characters and a sub-plot. For the sub-plot I needed some legal information. I turned to my niece who is a para-legal and what she couldn’t answer she knew where to send me to find the information. After my niece and I discussed the issue I wanted brought up in my book and how I wanted it dealt with, she suggested I contact a law enforcement officer.  I happen to have one in the family. 😉

I sent off an email explaining what I wanted to do, how would it be handled, and after some back and forth ,that element of the sub-plot was worked out.

Writing mystery books is my favorite writing experience. Not only do I have to puzzle out a mystery that will keep the reader thinking, I have to make sure the forensics and laws will work in the story and enhance the overall realness of the crime and the killer.

Have you read books where you could tell the writer hadn’t researched the laws or forensics? Did it bother you while reading the book or is that something that doesn’t bother you?

~*~

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. All Paty’s work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.

You can learn more about Paty at:

her blog; Writing into the Sunset

her website; http://www.patyjager.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spatter by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)When I started my first mystery novel, Double Duplicity: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery, I had a “novel” way for the victim to be stabbed. While writing the story I had to write the scene when my main character the amateur sleuth, who in the first book hadn’t had any mystery/murder events in her life to that point.

The first thing I did was connect online with a forensic coroner who explained different types of stabbing with me. I asked if my murder weapon (not a knife but I won’t say what it is in case you haven’t read the book ;)) would cause spatter. Would the person who used the weapon have blood on them?

This is what the specialist said:

1) The “spatter” will depend on what the blade hits and the overlay of clothing.

2) Each rib has an artery that runs on the bottom side, in a groove (the intercostal artery). Hitting one of these, or tearing it by breaking the rib, will cause more bleeding—most of which will be internal—into the chest cavity.

3) There’s not likely to be any spatter until the weapon is pulled out; most of the external bleeding comes from removing the weapon.

4) If the weapon hits the heart, a lot more bleeding will happen—again, mostly internal, but some external. The right side of the heart is closest to the chest wall; this is the lower pressure side of the heart.

5) After the weapon is removed, blood leakage will be a pulsatile ooze, but not shoot across the room.

6) If the lung is hit, the biggest risk is air leakage in the chest (pneumothorax) and
bleeding in the chest cavity (hemothorax) or both (hemopneumothorax). The blood leakage from the chest is a frothy red/pink, as it’s full of air.

7) Clothing is going to make spatter much less likely, except for removing the weapon.

Here’s an article the specialist suggested:
http://medicalscenewriter.blogspot.com/2012/09/stab-wound-to-chest.html

Double Duplicity (652x1024)Here is the scene where Shandra finds the gallery owner. 

“Paula?” A light shone around the edges of the partially open office door. Shandra pushed the door open. “Why aren’t you answer—”

Paula’s arms hung splayed away from her body that was cradled in her leather office chair. A large red patch spread across her body and lifeless eyes stared up at the ceiling.

Shandra backed out of the room. She couldn’t swallow for the lump of fear and vileness she’d just witnessed.

“Think… Call the police.” She punched in 9 as sirens shrieked and grew louder. “Maybe they’re coming here.” They had to be coming here. This town is too small for there to be two incidents where the cops are needed at the same time.

And this is what the seasoned detective thought when he walked into the same room.

He slipped his pack off his shoulder and extracted booties and latex gloves from the outside pockets before swinging it back onto his shoulder. He pulled the booties over his cowboy boots and wrestled his hands into the latex gloves.

The metallic tang of blood assaulted his nostrils as he stepped into the room. The scent stopped his feet and sent his mind spinning back in time to the gang fight he’d walked into in Chicago. There were many who left the alley in body bags. The scent of blood had permeated the whole alley where the two gangs had used every weapon they could get their hands on to annihilate the other.

His month long hospital stay, six months of grueling rehab, and then facing the leaders of the gangs as he testified at their trials was one horrendous bad dream. As soon as his part in the trials was over, his resignation hit the commander’s desk and he came home.

Ryan shook his head clearing it of the past and stared at the woman sprawled in the chair, staring at the ceiling. His gaze immediately landed on the large dark spot covering her chest. From lack of blood on the floor, if it was a bullet, it didn’t exit the back. Making it a small caliber and less likely anyone heard the shot. He peered closer. The large amount of blood and ripped clothing around the wound dismissed his thoughts of it being a bullet that caused the wound.

He slipped a hand into the outside pocket of the backpack and pulled out his digital camera. The click of photos one by one capturing the scene from all angles, triggered his detective mode. He forgot all else, moving in a circle, closing in on the body. Standing over the body, he looked straight down at her chest. The torn clothing at the entry sight and the gaping hole with pink foam…this wasn’t caused by a clean stab of a knife, it was viciously twisted to cause maximum damage.

Depending on the person and their knowledge it makes a difference in how the research is used.

Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series Books

Double Duplicity

Tarnished Remains

Deadly Aim

Murderous Secrets – coming the end of September

Paty Jager

Writing into the Sunset