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Crime Writers Research

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 26, 2012

While researching my mysteries, I often need information that you can’t go around asking friends. Things like, what kind of poison will kill someone right away and is easily obtainable? How can I stage a crime scene by hanging to make it look like a suicide? What would tip off the cops that it’s foul play? Or, if a detective becomes a suspect in a murder case, is he removed from action? Often I need specific answers to help me set my scenes with as much authenticity as possible.         

Fortunately, mystery writers have a range of resources available besides your friendly cop on the local force. These are some of the sites where you can get this type of concrete information. Check out the links; they’ll lead you to more informational websites and blogs. Others are listserves you can join. Once you’re on the loop, throw out whatever question you need answered. Chances are someone will be qualified to respond.

Please share here which places you find useful in your crime scene research. And good hunting!

Crime Scene Writers at Yahoo Groups,
To subscribe:

In Reference to Murder,

Lee Lofland, veteran police investigator,

Mystery Writers of America,

The Writers Forensic Blog by D.P. Lyle, MD,

Sisters in Crime,


All commenters during my February blog tour will be entered into a drawing for signed copies of Perish by Pedicure and Killer Knots. Only three more days  to enter! Be sure to stop by:

Tuesday, February 28, Killer Characters, Topic: Hair Care Q&A with Marla Shore!

29 Responses to “Crime Writers Research”

  1. Nancy, most of your references are the same ones I use! Crimescenewriter, Dr. Lyle’s blog and Lee Loftland’s blog are invaluable. I’ll add the others to my lists. Thanks for the new resources.

  2. Wonderful. I’ve just started collecting links of useful sites for authors. I’ll add them to my list.
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. You’re very welcome. Please let me know if you find any others like these!

  4. Sally said

    Thanks for sharing, I had most of them already but it is nice to be reminded they are out there.

    I suspect some of my online research has put me at the very end of a long ‘watch list.’ I know I’ve raised an eyebrow or two in the days of the inter-library loan system.

    Sally Milk Carton People and If I Should Die

  5. In my early days of mystery research, I got a mysterious email that said the Internet police (or something similar) were watching me. Creepy.

  6. Maureen said

    You are so thoughtful to share these resources with all of us! Thank you.

  7. I’ve just discovered some of these. Why not share? I learned about them from other writers!

  8. Dottie vining said

    It always help to read tips from other authors. We can use all the help in research that we can get.
    Thanks for shaing.

  9. Yes, Dottie, that’s so true. I’ve gained so much from all the writer loops.

  10. Mary Preston said

    Thanks for the fascinating links. It’s a good thing I don’t plan on committing any dastardly murders or mischief.

  11. Mary, you never know…fiction-wise, of course! These references can be useful no matter what genre one writes.

  12. BV Lawson said

    Thanks for including “In Reference to Murder,” Nancy! I try to keep it updated, but websites out there come and go so quickly, broken links do slip by. If anyone here finds one, just send me an e-mail (

  13. BV, I know how links can become outdated. I’ve just realized that I need to overhaul that entire page on my website. Ugh. It’ll have to wait; I have other priorities. But your links for writers are appreciated.

  14. Hi Nancy. Thanks so much for including The Graveyard Shift, and a big thanks to our readers (over 2 million unique visitors to the site) who keep me on my toes..

    As always, if I can ever be of assistance please feel free to contact me. Also, I post daily cop, crime, and forensics tips and information on my Facebook page. I do hope everyone will stop by. Thanks again!

  15. I’ve relied on first-hand research via interviews for most of my previous books, but it is good to have a list of online resources. Having a site to go to is so much faster than having to set up an interview with an officer or a forensics expert. Thanks for the list.

  16. Yes, Maryann, it sure is. And some of these folks are most helpful!

  17. this is a great list, Nancy. I’ve used crimescenewriters and Lee Lofland for info in the past and had really great luck with responses. I’ve also built a reference library of poisonings, forensics, police procedure, serial killers, etc. The book that upset my husband the most was the poison book. He said “are you trying to tell me something?” I gave him a hug and said of course not, but he was hesitant about eating the next few homecooked meals after that.

  18. Haha. I have a book titled, I think, “How to Kill Your Husband” and it has all fattening Italian and Jewish recipes. Re those reference books, I may of the Writer’s Digest Howdunit series. Those are helpful.

  19. Fabulous List! I know I was trying to find out the last stages one goes through before dying from an allergy and found some good info online, but not quite enough. I needed to know things like Did he throw up? How cognitive was he? How much movement would he have? Could he get to his pen, to the phone? Not to mention how much of a physical struggle he might put up? Would he pass out at some point? I did find someone on one of my writer’s groups who had an allergy and could help me with the nasty questions that you really couldn’t ask someone who’d seen a loved one die that way. I really needed more information tho, for other parts (similar to your – what happens to the detective if he’s a suspect – no, really, what really happens…not what i think might happen. Mine has to do with children services and in-laws and such, and for a specific state/locatin where I no longer live. So, onward. Hadn’t thought to throw it out in SinC, but am new there and still learning my way around. Thanks, Nancy!

  20. The place I had used was the Facebook Group Writers Unboxed. Lee Lofland, Donald Maass, and many others are part of that, although they didn’t answer my question, Lee gave me a link to his info on something else, and someone who suffers from allergies helped me with the stages of dying question.

  21. Nancy, this is so generous of you to share this information. I can’t wait to get started on the list.
    Thank you!

  22. Diane, if someone is dying from anaphylactic shock (allergic reaction) and it’s fast, basically they asphyxiate. Their airways close down (or swell up, as the case may be).
    Re the detective, he’d be removed from the case if he is a suspect.

    Carole, thanks for stopping by.

  23. […] Crime Writers Research–This blog by Nancy Cohen, award winning mystery writer, provides tons of information to help all crime writers deliver a believable and squeamish tale […]

  24. […] Crime Writers Research–This blog by Nancy Cohen, award winning mystery writer, provides tons of information to help all crime writers deliver a believable and squeamish tale […]

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