Forensics have become the mainstay of TV detective dramas

Many people now think forensics are the first essential of crime investigation. Of course they are important, but are they always paramount, in real-life or fiction?

When were forensics invented?

I write historical fiction under a pseudonym and was discussing a forthcoming novel which I set in prehistoric times. Someone said that was ridiculous, because they didn’t know about fingerprints back then. Well, the police began using fingerprints only in the late 19th century. However, people had been using physical evidence before that. Read the Brother Cadfael stories by Ellis Peters, which she set in the 12th century, or the Matthew Bartholomew stories, by Susanna Gregory, who set it in the 14th century. Of course, as science generally has progressed, so forensic science has moved on too.

How can you solve a crime without forensics?

A lot of good detectives, in real life and fiction, have relied on questioning suspects and analysing the answers. They catch people out in lies or other contradictions. They apply psychology. (That’s been around since long before Dr Freud). They listened to witnesses.

Do my heroes use forensics?

In my historical novels, my heroes observe physical details as well as using the other means of detection which I mentioned above. In my modern novels, the Accounting for Murder series, my hero, Frank Hill, is an accountant, and uses his investigative skills, which he learnt in unravelling financial matters, when he is solving murders. Of course, the police are also there and provide the bulk of the forensic evidence, but they form wrong opinions about who-dun-it and Frank has to step in to prevent a miscarriage of justice.

I hope you will enjoy following Frank as he follows the trail, tortuous as it usually is, to the solution.

By the way, do you have any thoughts about the cover? I mentioned it in a previous blog.