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Forensic mysteries: five of the best

dusttodust1There’s no denying that forensic science is fascinating in all of its incarnations, a fact made even more obvious by the popularity of television shows such as the CSI franchise, Bones, Dexter, Cold Case, Silent Witness and many others. The human body holds many secrets, and after death, it’s the forensic scientists who can find the most minute clues which will give up the killer. Crime scene investigation isn’t the only game in town, though. Sometimes all that’s left of the victim is the bones. That’s when a forensic anthropologist might be called in to identify the remains or determine a cause of death. For crime fiction loves who enjoy this approach to a mystery, there are several series out there that can feed your need for all things forensic, and they’re all available for Kindle…

DejaDead-kathy-reichsThe Tempe Brennan series by Kathy Reichs
Bones are Forever, the 15th book in Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series, came out last year. It’s the rather dark story of murder, the Canadian diamond industry and missing women in the Edmonton area. Tempe Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, and former alcoholic, who divides her time between work in North Carolina and Montreal for the Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale. When bones are found, and answers are needed, Brennan is the woman to call, and she takes every case to heart. The series does have its morbid moments, but Brennan’s personal life serves to temper the tragic nature of her job, as does her confident voice and dry wit. A s soon as I picked up the first book, Deja Dead, I was hooked. The series has since spawned a television show – appropriately entitled Bones – and also a spinoff series for young adults written with her son, Brendan Reichs. Virals features Brennan’s grandniece, Torry Brennan, and the latest is Code.
Buy now on Amazon

postmortemPatricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series
Back in 1991, Patricia Cornwell burst onto the mystery scene with Postmorten, the first book in her Kay Scarpetta series. It won the 1991 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and the 20th in the series, The Bone Bed, came out last year. Scarpetta is a medical examiner across the 20 books she’s come a long way from being the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Virginia. Her personal life is almost as fascinating as the work she does. Cornwell doesn’t shy away from the science or the dark details of the crimes covered in her books, and why should she? A former crime journalist, she worked for six years at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia and for the Richmond Police Department. Rich in forensic detail, wonderful character development, and frequently terrifying situations, this series is a must for fans of forensic suspense. You’ll want to start with Postmorten, since the backstories are a must to get the maximum amount of enjoyment from this series.
Buy now on Amazon

chemistryofdeath-180x300Simon Beckett’s Dr David Hunter series
In 2007, with Chemistry of Death, Simon Beckett introduced Dr David Hunter, a formerly high profile forensic anthropologist fresh off of a family tragedy. He attempts to leave forensics behind and heads to a quiet English village where he sets up shop as a general practitioner. Unfortunately, after the corpse of his neighbour is discovered, he has to put his old skills and knowledge back to use. In a mystery sub-genre that seems to have plenty of women in its ranks Hunter was a welcome addition, and Beckett has since added three more books to the series – Written in Bone, Whispers of the Dead and The Calling of the Grave. If you’re looking for a forensic series set in the UK, with a flawed and fascinating protagonist, this one’s for you.
Buy now on Amazon

TheSurgeonTess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series
Tess Gerritsen released her first crime thriller The Surgeon back in 2001, following several bestselling medical thrillers. It was the first book in which homicide detective Jane Rizzoli appeared, and soon she paired Rizzoli with medical examiner Dr Maura Isles. They’ve since graced the pages of nine more novels and the series also resulted in a television series entitled Rizzoli & Isles, shown on TNT in the US and Alibi in the UK. Gerritsen is a retired physician and no doubt her career is quite a help when it comes to writing forensic detail for this fun series, which is noted for its attention to detail, intricate plotting, and taut pacing. Start with The Surgeon and work your way up.
Buy now on Amazon

CarvedInBoneThe Body Farm series by Jefferson Bass
Dr William Bass was the founder of the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. In 2003, he teamed up with journalist Jon Jefferson and they released their first forensic mystery, Carved in Bone. It features Dr Bill Brockton, the fictional forensic anthropologist and founder, not surprisingly, of the University of Tennessee’s postmortem decay research lab-the Body Farm. Carved in Bone, with its East Tennessee setting – full of moonshiners, rednecks, and so on – and lots of forensic detail, is a great start to a series that now includes seven titles. It’s only £1.89 on Kindle.
Buy now on Amazon

In addition to these, be sure to check out the excellent work of Beverly Connor, both her series featuring forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon and that of forensic archaeologist Lindsay Chamberlain. There’s also Sharyn McCrumb’s Elizabeth MacPherson series, and even Jeff Lindsay’s wildly popular Dexter series. Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter analyst, after all.

Discussion

9 Responses to “Forensic mysteries: five of the best”

  1. I read the Calling Of The Grave by Simon Beckett, and must say I am fascinated by this whole area. The short-list here is very helpful and all are now on my Must Read list.

    Posted by Kenny Adamson | March 10, 2013, 8:48 pm
  2. After receiving an e-reader for Xmas I was looking for a new author and Google led me to your site and Simon Beckett. His first book “Chemistry of Death” had me hooked. It was a refreshing change to read books set in England. Within a week I’d downloaded and read all four – I wish there were more. I have just returned to your site now… Can’t decide who to choose next! Thank you for your suggestions!

    Posted by Allison Clayton | January 11, 2014, 10:01 am
  3. Great article; glad I found it. I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave a plug for my own novel “Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold” which was released in June. It features Sean McKinney, the trace evidence analyst I’ve featured in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine short stories. Also, if you’re attending the Love Is Murder gathering in Chicago next week I’ll be speaking on Forensic Science for Writers.

    Posted by Tim Chapman | January 28, 2014, 6:30 pm
  4. Wonderful blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any tips? Kudos!

    Posted by Chanda | April 11, 2014, 11:33 pm
    • WordPress seems to work for us. Antony at OneTenEleven media adapted a theme to our needs and that’s basically how our site was designed. We pay for hosting though – we don’t use WordPress for that.

      Posted by crimefictionlover | April 12, 2014, 7:17 am

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  1. [...] the medical thriller sub-genre in the 1990s, and later came up with the Rizzoli & Isles forensic crime series, has launched a fundraiser to help in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Her father died [...]

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  3. […] by Patricia Cornwell Kay Scarpetta is one of the most celebrated female leads in crime fiction. In the 20 previous books, dating back […]

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