I want to welcome back an old friend today. Sue Coletta writes these amazing murder mysteries, and if you haven’t discovered her you’re missing out.
Make her feel welcome, and make sure to use those sharing buttons to help with her latest release. The new book sounds wonderful, so I’ll let her tell you all about it.
It’s impossible to talk about my Mayhem Series without the mention of crows. For those who don’t know, Mr. Mayhem has three top crows: Poe, Allan, and Edgar. When I first introduced crows into the series, they were supposed to be sidekicks—someone for Mr. Mayhem to chat with during his late-night excursions—but Poe evolved into so much more. I’ve read some reviews that say he’s their favorite character. Not the humans mind you, but Poe, the lead crow of Mayhem’s murder. In I AM MAYHEM, I introduced one more “special” crow, but I can’t tell you why without ruining the surprise.
As an aside: Poe’s based on a real crow who comes when I call.
With each new book, I take another plunge into crow research. After years of studying crow behavior, one might think I’ve learned all I could about corvids, but I always find something new.
Humans often believe we are the only species to possess certain traits, behaviors, or abilities, especially with regard to cognition. Occasionally, we extend such traits to primates or other “higher” mammals—species we share fundamental brain similarities.
Few look toward the sky. Yet, crows, ravens, and other corvids are making multipart tools like hooked sticks to reach grubs, solving geometry puzzles, and one particularly kind magpie even nudged a clueless hedgehog across the highway before it became roadkill.
A crow’s brain is enormous compared to their body, and they don’t waste a morsel of it. Crows have long impressed scientists with their intelligence and creativity.
Now, crows can add one more feather to their brainiac cap: A new study unveiled in Science magazine found that crows inherently know things and can ponder the content of their own minds, a manifestation of higher intelligence and analytical thought believed only capable by humans and a few other higher mammals.
German scientists put crows through a series of puzzling tasks. During which they measured neural activity in different types of neurons, with the goal of tracking how crows sensed and reasoned through their work. They sought to study a specific kind of thinking called sensory consciousness.
Sensory consciousness isn’t as simple as the definition: awareness of the visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, and taste qualities of stimuli. Sensory consciousness arises from specific brain processes. In simpler terms, the sensory feel of an experience is not something that happens to us, but rather, it’s a skill we exercise. It also differs from other mental phenomena, like conscious thought or memory.
Consider the difference between physically feeling pain vs. imagining that you feel pain. Or rubbing the softness of fleece between your fingertips vs. envisioning how fleece might feel. We writers use our sensory consciousness all the time.
Do crows have this ability, too?
To answer that question, we first need to understand the difference between our brains and birds lies within the design. Mammals’ brains are layered like club sandwiches, while birds’ brains are arranged more like pizza. All the pieces are there but they’re not stacked like ours.
Another important note about sensory consciousness: The ability to have subjective experiences that can be explicitly accessed and thus reported arises from brain processes that emerged through evolutionary history, and dates back 320 million years ago when birds diverged from mammalian lineage.
After the crows got comfortable within the testing environment, scientists introduced a rule—a red cue for “yes, they’d seen the stimulus” or blue for “no, they hadn’t.”
The results stunned scientists, and affirmed crows do in fact possess sensory consciousness.
To reconcile sensory consciousness in birds and mammals, one scenario would postulate that birds and mammals inherited the trait of consciousness from their last-common ancestor, and crows tucked this superpower in the ol’ memory bank for at least 320 million years. Amazing, right?
As bloody, severed body parts show up on her doorstep, Shawnee Daniels must stop the serial killer who wants her dead before she becomes the next victim.
But can she solve his cryptic clues before it’s too late? Or will she be the next to die a slow, agonizing death?
With crows stalking her every move, Shawnee can barely function. Things worsen when body parts show up on her doorstep. An unstoppable serial killer wants her dead. Mr. Mayhem threatens to murder everyone she loves, sending Shawnee a piece at a time.
As Mr. Mayhem sits in judgement, his cryptic clues must be solved before the final gavel drops. The game rules are simple—win the unwinnable or submit to a slow, agonizing death.
When Shawnee tries to fight back, she discovers her very existence is based on lies. But the full impact of the truth might become the headstone on Shawnee’s grave.
Book will be delivered to your device on April 20, 2021 (release day).
You can catch up with Sue at the following places: