Sue is a dear friend of mine, and she has a new book out. She’s popped over to tell us about it, and she’s offering a super pre-release deal on it too. I already have my copy.
Thanks for having me today, Craig! I’m so excited to talk about the research behind Marred, my new psychological thriller.
I had to do a ton of research beforehand. When I was planning the story I wanted Sheriff Niko Quintano to be a father figure to his deputies, teaching them the ropes the way he was taught. But in order for me to do that I needed to know what I was talking about. The first thing I tackled was blood spatter analysis. Recently a friend of mine, an ex-cop/ex-coroner, published a post that would have saved me days. Figures, right?
But I didn’t have that post then. I was on my own.
Sleeves rolled up, I dug in to find out how to tell one blood drop from another at a crime scene. Then, how to distinguish medium-velocity spatter from low-velocity spatter. In Marred, the victims weren’t shot, so high-velocity spatter didn’t come into play, though I learned it anyway. It’ll come in handy in a future book, I’m sure.
Here’s a short excerpt from the scene…
Niko gestured to Ben to follow him to the back of the barn. Beneath a second floor loft, he pointed at blood splattered across the barn-board flooring. “This is low-force velocity, low-velocity spatter. Each drop is at least four millimeters long. That tells us this blood is from the vic’s wounds dripping and not from blunt force trauma or stabbing. See the irregular edges? That’s because the wood floor is rough. It has no finish. So when the blood falls, it leaves a jagged edge. If these were sanded and polished like most floors today, I’d expect to see smooth edges.” He paused. “Any questions so far?”
Ben’s forehead rippled, the creases almost as sharp as his pants. “Without the ME’s report, how’d you know it’s from dripping and not something else?”
“A stabbing, say, would result in medium-velocity spatter. Depending on the force of the blow, it causes the blood to break into smaller-sized splatter. The velocity is determined by how hard the killer strikes the victim and not how fast the blood falls.”
With deep nods, Ben scribbled notes in his notepad.
“I’ll tell you how I was taught. Look closely at the blood drops. Don’t they look like little tadpoles?”
Ben shrugged one shoulder. “I guess.” He leaned closer. “Okay. I see it now.”
“Great. So, let me ask you—” Niko paused, waiting for Ben to look up. “Knowing the droplets are four millimeters long—”
“How’d you know that?”
“Trust me. I’ve been doing this awhile.” Nothing irked him more than being interrupted. He let it go. The eager deputy was hungry to learn, and that was a good thing. Shame he couldn’t say the same for Frankie. “How do you think I got that figure?”
“Think of it this way. These are tadpoles, right? Slice off their tails like you would a fish and then measure. Cut once, measure twice, as in woodworking.”
The nodding started again, a wide grin blooming on Ben’s full lips. “Now you’re speaking my language.”
“I thought that might work.” Inside, he chuckled. Ben was a smart kid. A bit green, but with direction and encouragement he could make a fine sheriff one day. “Moving on.” Three strides forward and he pointed at a second blood pattern. “This is medium-velocity spatter.”
To review his notes, Ben flipped back a few pages in his notebook. “Medium is from blunt force trauma or stabbing.”
“Correct. In this case, the medium-velocity happened when he slammed her over the head, knocking her out. I’m guessing he used the butt of a gun or something equivalent. We now know the tails show directionality. Meaning, from which way the blood fell. Right?”
A groan escaped from Ben’s awkward smile. “Uh-ha.”
Niko motioned as if he was stabbing his six-foot-two deputy in the gut. “If I stabbed you like this, then the tails of the tadpoles would face which way?”
“That a question?”
Ben checked his notes. “Toward me.”
“Very good.” He enjoyed teaching. During the early years of his marriage, he’d dreamed of the day he could teach his son how to ride a bike and throw a baseball. Sadly, that day would never come…without another miracle. “You’re the source of the blood so the tails would face you. Now, look at the way the tails are pointing here. Where was the mutt standing when he struck the vic?”
Panic taking hold, Ben’s head shook like a metronome on speed. Niko wanted to help, tell him to breathe and calm him down, but he couldn’t. If he didn’t allow him to process things his own way, he’d never learn.
“I can’t tell anymore. There’s so much blood. I’m not even sure where the medium-velocity is compared to the rest.” Defeated, his shoulders dropped. “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.”
As the story progresses Niko wants to arm his petite wife, Sage, to keep her safe from the serial killer, slaughtering women in their rural New Hampshire town, and one who’s threatening to make Sage his next target. Sage had never fired a handgun before. For the record, neither have I. So I had to research not only which weapons would fit the scene but how to instruct someone on how to properly use a firearm. That was easier than the blood spatter, but I still had to watch endless hours of YouTube videos to get the right shooter’s stance, learn the different sayings, etc.
Okay, maybe not hours, but it felt like it.
Any guesses as to which weapon I chose for Sage? Tell me in the comments.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the pre-release sale price for Marred. From now till 11/11/15 you can pick up a copy for only .99 cents. Available at all online retailers. Print versions will become available after the first of the year.
Thanks again for having me, Craig!
Tirgearr Publishing: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Coletta_Sue.index.htm
Edit: find the purchase links here.