I’ve been brushing up on my knowledge of forensic science with a second course delivered by Future Learn, a MOOC site = Massive Online Open Courses, owned by the Open University in England. The courses are all free, and so far have led me into all kinds of research activities that are a complete distraction from my writing. The forensic science courses are a great way of polishing up on some of the background I need for my latest novel and so I console myself that I’m actually usefully occupied. This is the second forensic science course I’ve subscribed to and even if the first one was excellent in that it forces the learner into thinking about a real case study and make a decision on innocent or guilt based on the evidence available, this last one, by the University of Leicester (where they analysed the DNA for Richard III) has some very interesting articles on the CIS effect: this is the notion that members of a jury may have unrealistic expectations of what forensic science can prove or what it can provide evidence for because of the impact of films, books, tv drama series etc. Very interesting.
Meanwhile, I’m reading my way through a couple of psychological thrillers and crime stories that I enjoy very much:
Val McDermid’s the Skeleton Road which is a fascinating story about love and betrayal as part of the Serbian and Croat massacres in eastern Europe when Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia to escape Serb domination. The forensic science aspect comes in when bones are discovered hidden at the top of a crumbling gothic building in Edinburg and these bones are eventually identified. In reality, forensic science only plays a minor but crucial role in this book and it’s an excellent read. Val McDermid has of course also written a book on Forensics, the Anatomy of Crime, which I’m reading at the same time. This is about the reality of forensic science, what it can and cannot do and how it is used in war zones, autopsy suites and fire scenes. In a way, it’s the easy version of the course material that I am working through.
And my own writing? Well, it’s progressing, but only very slowly as I my days are jammed full of activities that include reading (see above), practising my clarinet (first grade exam in June), gardening (must dig up some beds before the summer really starts) and other more mundane activities.
As far as my novel is concerned, the woman I thought was going to be my main character in the book has been overtaken by her daughter, who struggles with the idea of having memories that don’t match the reality of what she finds out. Mmmm. I do need some forensic science to justify what has happened.