I’m still celebrating Audiobook Month and I hope you are, too. It’s a terrific excuse to discover new writers and narrators. I hope you’re finding some wonderful reads to wile away the time.
Lately, I’ve been very into my own genre, suspense. Right now, I’m listening to Michael Connelly’s The Crossing. (Harry Bosch teams up with Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller) On tap next is Jeffrey Deaver’s The Bone Collector (the first Lincoln Rhyme title) and then Kathleen Grissom’s follow up to The Kitchen House, Glory Over Everything.
I love to hear who’s reading what and getting recommendations for my “to be listened to” pile, so please share some of your favorites with me here or on social media.
Meanwhile, time’s running out for another Audiobook Month Grab the Evidence Bag Giveaway of audio editions for some of my books. I hope you’ll enter to win the latest “grab bag.” And, if you’d like to check it out, here’s a preview of the audiobook edition of my latest, The Shark.
Readers for Life Literacy Autographing, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
100s of Authors
Thursday, July 14
Montlake Romance Book Signing, 9:45 – 11:15 a.m
Signing The Shark
Kensington Publishing Book Signing 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Friday, July 15
Signing as Mary Ellen Taylor!
Berkley and NAL Book Signing, 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Signing The View from Prince Street
Saturday, July 15
The Secret Ingredient in a Page Turner, 9:45 – 10:45 a.m
I’ll be talking about the top-secret component that makes a romance novel pop, why mystery and suspense is the key—even in the most traditional romances—and the nuanced techniques that keep readers coming back for more.
Propofol took center stage in the news several years ago when Michael Jackson died following an injection of it from physician Conrad Murray. Murray was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Nonetheless, propofol is rarely an instrument of death, let alone murder, though several cases have been brought to trial.
Anesthesia Medications Propofol is at top.
While abuse of the drug is spreading, propofol itself is not easily accessible to the general public as its primary use is with anesthesia. A respiratory depressant, it can affect both respiration and the heart. Since an overdose can cause death, it is also a weapon.
Used without intent to kill, effects last only a short time and the last evidence of it leaves deep tissue in about six days. It’s not illegal. It’s felt by users in just seconds and is somewhat easily obtainable by many in the medical community.
Here’s a scene from THE SHARK in which Dr. Kincaid, the Medical Examiner, Joshua Shield, head of Shield Security, former FBI agent Clay Bowman and Virginia state trooper Riley Tatum look for leads in a murder—and suspect propofol as the means.
He released the button and the elevator descended, the doors opening to the cool antiseptic air of the medical examiner’s offices and Joshua Shield.
Shield was dressed in his trademark dark suit with his shock of white hair combed off his angled face. He strode straight to them, his attention riveted on Riley. Dark eyes collected and inventoried details quickly. “Trooper Tatum. I’m Joshua Shield.”
“I recognize you from your press pictures.”
Bowman noticed that most people were intimidated by Shield. They dropped gazes, shuffled feet, or fidgeted in some way. Not Riley. She glared at him as if he were a rookie intern late for his first briefing.
Shield extended his hand to her. “Nice to finally meet you,” he said. “Mr. Bowman speaks well of you.”
Clasping hard, she held his gaze.
“Solving this case is a team effort,” Shield said.
Smiling, she shook her head. “We’ll see.”
Bowman gave her props for not pulling punches.
“Consider the advantages of my expertise,” Shield said. “My company resources helped you in the past.”
“You were an uninvited guest that I could have managed without.”
He grinned as if enjoying the sparring.
Before he could respond, Dr. Kincaid appeared. She wore a lab coat and glasses that covered slightly bloodshot eyes.
“Dr. Kincaid,” Bowman said. “We appreciate you meeting us. Sorry to get you out of bed so early on a Saturday morning.”
“Mr. Bowman, Mr. Shield, you gentlemen have friends in powerful places.” Calm and unruffled, she extended her hand to both.
Shield shook her hand. “We help each other out when we can.”
Dr. Kincaid glanced at Riley. “I’m assuming Agent Sharp called you.”
“No, it was Mr. Bowman. But I contacted Agent Sharp.”
“Good,” Dr. Kincaid said. “Follow me.” She led them down the long hallway and pushed through a set of double doors. “I understand you also want to see Vicky Gilbert’s body.”
“Correct,” Shield said.
“Your timing is fortuitous. The funeral home is picking up her remains in a couple of hours. Her mother opted for cremation.”
“And you’ve done a complete exam?” Shield asked.
“I have. I’ve collected enough samples so that we can run any kind of test conceivable in the future if necessary. The Gilbert family is anxious to have a memorial service.”
“Their daughter ran away from home over a month ago and they didn’t call the police or try to find her,” Riley said. “What’s the big rush now?”
A slight shift in Riley’s tone could have made her sound bitter. But she kept her voice monotone, effectively hiding any potential anger or resentment.
Bowman reached in his breast pocket and removed a slip of paper. “Dr. Kincaid, I’d like you to test for this sedative.”
“Propofol? That’s a very powerful narcotic and I don’t see it often.”
“If we’re dealing with the man we suspect is the killer, this is likely the drug he used on his first four victims. This killer is a creature of habit. The sedative is one of his signatures.”
We’ve all heard talk about CSI Effect—people watch crime shows and movies and read mystery and suspense novels and start expecting all sorts of cutting edge forensic technology is available at crime scenes and to analyze evidence. Some think that test results can happen in hours or days, instead of weeks. When a case goes to trial, it may be that some jurors are anticipating lots more forensic evidence than is possible or they’re putting less emphasis on circumstantial evidence.
Also discussed is another element of CSI Effect—criminals knowing more than ever before about police and forensic procedure and behaving accordingly.
Vernon J. Geberth is the Former Commander of Bronx Homicide, New York City Police Department and author of Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, which is used by the FBI, homicide departments, lawyers and investigators across the country. He addresses the criminal side of C.S.I. Effect in his article for PI Magazine: Journal of Professional Investigators in which he refers to “staging” the scene of a crime.
He defines the process saying “staging a scene occurs when the perpetrator purposely alters the crime scene to mislead the authorities and/or redirect the investigation. Staging is a conscious criminal action on the part of an offender to thwart an investigation.”
He also points out the perpetrator’s side of C.S.I. Effect. “The problem is that criminals read the same books and watch the same TV shows as everybody else, so they are gaining insight into the investigative process as well as the value of trace evidence and have become more savvy. These ‘CSI Criminals’ attempt to prevent leaving evidence at crime scenes. Offenders are now ultra-careful not to leave any blood, fingerprints, body hair or anything else that may identify them in the crime scene.”
Here’s an excerpt from VULNERABLE showing just that—names and some narrative have been changed to avoid spoilers.
“He pressed his finger on the back doorbell. As bell chimes echoed in the house, he pulled a clean handkerchief from his coat pocket and wiped the doorbell button clean. Lights clicked on inside. Fast, determined footsteps approached. By the sound of it, the old man wasn’t happy about the interruption . . . the door jerked open to Jim Simmons’s frowning face. An instant passed as the old man stood and stared . . .
Ken grinned. “Mr. S. How’s it going?”
Mr. Simmons blinked. The anger that always buzzed behind his gaze softened. “Ken. What are you doing here?”
He removed a silver flask from his pocket. “I thought we could drink a toast . . .”
They moved down a carpeted hallway into the brightly lit kitchen . . . “Can I get you something to eat? . . . Let me make you a sandwich.”
“I’d like that.”
Ken took another drink from the flask, replaced the cap, and stuck it back in his pocket. He settled on a bar stool . . . Mr. Simmons carefully made the sandwich, set it on a plate, and pushed it toward him before turning back to the refrigerator to dig out a couple of beers . . .
The old man twisted the top off his beer and carefully set the top on the counter . . . “You spent time in Texas, didn’t you?”
“Sure.” Ken balled up his napkin and tossed it on his plate.
“The cops showed me a picture of a guy in Austin. I didn’t recognize him at first.”
Simmons looked at him, his gaze hardening as if pieces of a puzzle clicked into place.
Ken smiled and reached in his pocket for latex gloves . . . He tugged on the gloves . . . “She told me what you made her do . . . if the cops find out what you did . . . you’ll be ruined.”
“You wouldn’t do that.”
“I can crush you without breaking a sweat, kid. Don’t ever think you can threaten me.”
Ken shifted his grip around the neck of the beer bottle as if it were a club. Moving with swiftness he’d learned on the football field, he raised the bottle and lunged across the kitchen island, cracking the glass against the side of the old man’s skull . . .
Ken’s brain morphed from thinking to primal as he moved fast, scrambling around the island and landing hard blows with the bottle on the old man’s face. Simmons staggered and fell back to the floor. A look of panic and disbelief swept over the old man’s gray eyes.
Ken reached in his pocket and pulled out a clear plastic bag. With a snap he opened it and straddled Mr. Simmons. He pulled it over the man’s head and twisted the ends shut, cutting off his air flow. Ken settled his weight on Simmons’s chest and held the bag in place as his victim struggled for air. Several minutes passed until finally, Simmons’s eyes rolled back in his head and Ken was certain he was dead.
Ken removed the bag and checked for a pulse. There was none. Satisfied, he poured out the remaining beer in the sink. He dumped both bottles in his plastic bag as well as the remains of the sandwich. He turned on the hot water tap and when steam rose from the now hot water, he washed the plate and dried it with a paper towel, which he used to wipe down the counter.
As he backed away, his heart still thundered in his chest.