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Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing, and Downright Odd Questions from Crime Writers
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Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing, and Downright Odd Questions from Crime Writers

by D. P. Lyle
 

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How long can someone survive in a cold, damp cave without food or water? How was diphtheria treated in 1886? Can Botox kill? Can DNA be found on a knife years later? How are mummified corpses identified? How long does it take blood to clot when spilled on a tile floor? What happens in death from electrocution?

As a consultant to many novelists around the world

Overview

How long can someone survive in a cold, damp cave without food or water? How was diphtheria treated in 1886? Can Botox kill? Can DNA be found on a knife years later? How are mummified corpses identified? How long does it take blood to clot when spilled on a tile floor? What happens in death from electrocution?

As a consultant to many novelists around the world and to the writers of such popular TV shows as Monk, Law & Order, House, and CSI: Miami, D. P. Lyle, M.D., has answered many cool, clever, and oddball questions over the years. Forensics and Fiction: Clever, Intriguing, and Downright Odd Questions from Crime Writers is a collection of the best of these questions. The answers are provided in a concise and entertaining fashion that will keep you wide awake so you can read "just one more."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Indispensable . . . Don't even think of writing a medical mystery without the wise counsel of Dr. D. P. Lyle."

- Lee Goldberg, author of the Diagnosis Murder and Monk novels

"A terrific resource for crime writers and anyone interested in forensics . . . will jump-start your imagination about all kinds of ingenious crimes, crime-solving techniques, and plot twists."

- Matt Witten, supervising producer of the Fox TV show House

"Every crime-fiction author's best friend . . . as essential to my library as my Strunk and White."

- Hallie Ephron, author of Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel

"There's damn good reason why Dr. Doug Lyle's e-mail is in every crime writer's address book and why his reference books belong on every aspiring writer's book shelf: His advice comes from the head of a medical expert but also from the heart and imagination of a writer. Whenever I paint myself into a forensic corner, Dr. Doug is always there to rescue me."

- P. J. Parrish, author of An Unquiet Grave

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312365516
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
08/21/2007
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 8.74(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

Forensics and Fiction

Part I

Traumatic Injuries, Illnesses, Doctors, and Hospitals

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Bleeding to Death?

Q: What would be the symptoms and visible signs of being bled to death? The situation in my story is a man being bled to death by way of blood transfusion tubes.

Marion Arnott Paisley, Scotland Author of Sleepwalkers

A: Blood is a liquid filled with various cell types, one type being the red blood cells (RBCs). These contain hemoglobin, a molecule that carries oxygen (O2) from the lungs to the tissues and removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the tissues and transports it to the lungs, where it is exhaled with each breath. Bleeding, depending upon how rapid it is, leads to two basic derangements. One is a drop in blood pressure (BP), resulting in shock, and the other is the development of anemia, which is a low level of RBCs in the blood. The former is due to a rapid drop in the volume of the blood (think bleeding air from a tire—as you do, the pressure within the tire falls) and the latter is due to a loss of the blood cells that carry oxygen.

In your scenario, if the blood is removed rapidly, the volume of blood in the victim's body falls, which causes a drop in BP, and results in shock and, if not treated appropriately and quickly, death. This is what happens when someone exsanguinates (bleeds to death) after an auto accident, a gunshot wound (GSW), or a rapidly bleeding ulcer. Depending upon the size of the person, the body contains from 8 to 12 pints of blood. The rapid loss of 3 or 4 pints would lead to shock in most people. So, if the blood were removed from your victim rapidly, his BP would fall and he would begin to show signs of shock.These signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness, chills, thirst, and as it progresses, confusion, disorientation, sleepiness, coma, and death. This could happen over a few minutes or an hour or so, depending upon how rapidly the blood was removed.

If the bleeding is slow (your villain removing a little blood each day) the person will become progressively anemic. In anemia the RBC count is low, so the ability of the blood to transport O2 to the body is reduced. Why? Less RBCs per ounce of blood means that each ounce of blood pumped by the heart carries less O2. This means the tissues receive less O2 and the symptoms of anemia reflect this reduction. They include shortness of breath (particularly with activity), fatigue, weakness, lethargy, headache, pallor (pale appearance), and chills. If your perpetrator bled your victim to death slowly, by removing blood little by little, these symptoms and signs would develop and progress as the anemia worsened. This could occur over many hours, days, or weeks.

FORENSICS AND FICTION. Copyright © 2007 by D. P. Lyle, M.D. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Meet the Author

D. P. Lyle, M.D., is the Macavity Award–winning and Edgar Award–nominated author of the nonfiction books Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers, a compilation of the most interesting questions he has received over the years, and Forensics for Dummies, an in-depth look into the world of forensic science.

            Dr. Lyle is a practicing cardiologist in Orange County, California, and has worked as a story and technical consultant with many published authors and with the writers and producers of several popular television shows, including Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Cold Case, Peacemakers, House, Medium, and 1-800-Missing.

            Through the Writer’s Medical and Forensics Lab (www.dplylemd.com), Dr. Lyle works with writers and readers to enrich the authenticity of stories they write and read.

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