DNA and fingerprints don’t lie

One of the phrases that you hear most often in TV series that deal with forensic science is that evidence, unlike people, doesn’t lie. A variation of this statement is that the dead (their bodies), unlike the living, don’t lie. The gist of it is always the same: physical evidence includes the answer to find the author of a crime (Mac Taylor from “CSI: NY” seems to have so many of them available in the photo), you just have to find them and interpret them correctly.
In reality, however, most of the physical evidence that is found at the scene of a crime doesn’t allow to uniquely identify a person, is subject to the problem of contamination, and therefore can at most serve as supporting evidence to prosecution, but isn’t sufficient to send someone to jail.

The identification of a person (who is guilty or otherwise involved in a crime) can be successfully accomplished, in the absence of witnesses (which, however, can lie!), only if it involves some items found on the scene that belong exclusively to that person, actually, that are part of that person.
These are the biometric identifiers. There are two categories of them. The first includes physiological characteristics, such as fingerprints, DNA, facial, iris or retina recognition. The second relates to behavioural characteristics, such as gait, voice or handwriting.
These identifiers are typical of a specific person, but some of them are even unique and stable throughout life, and may be left at the scene of a crime.
I’m obviously talking about fingerprints and DNA.

In reality finding this type of physical evidence that can be used to identify the culprit is quite difficult. Fingerprints, in particular, are everywhere at a crime scene and are often so incomplete and numerous that they cannot be used, unless they are found on the murder weapon. DNA is even rarer to spot. For both of them you must still do a comparison to determine their origin (for example, taking a sample of cells from the mouth of a suspect, like Greg Sanders from “CSI” is doing in the photo, next to a character played by Justin Bieber), but there are also databases (however, a still limited number of countries has a DNA database), therefore from a fingerprint or a blood trace found on the scene of a crime you can, at least in theory, trace back to a person, although this person has not yet been connected to the case.

This is a rare case where fiction resembles reality.
Even in fiction it’s unlikely that the culprit leaves behind fingerprints and DNA that can be used, but the reason is that, if they did, the case would be solved too quickly and there would be no story to tell!
This doesn’t mean that this kind of evidence doesn’t appear in TV series, films, and books. Far from it.
In fiction, fingerprints and DNA are almost always found during the investigation, but they belong to someone who is not directly guilty, which, possibly, tends to send off-road criminologists and investigators and to distract the reader/viewer.
But once again fiction highlights the absolute value of this type of evidence (well, it does so even with fibres and paint!), without considering some issues that affect them.

For example, while watching a typical episode of “CSI” you will have the impression that if you enter a fingerprint found on the scene in the computer you just need a short time to get a single finding: the one of the fingerprint’s owner.
It isn’t so at all. Apart from the fact that the time isn’t short at all but depends on the size of the database, you should also consider that the computer could deliver much more than one probable finding and none of them will be a 100% match. This is the moment when the expert intervenes and makes a visual comparison between the footprint available and the one in the database, to determine if they actually match and perhaps exclude some results, if not all. It’s a human being the one who makes this decision and, as such, may make mistakes.
Yet both in fiction and in reality (in this regard I will present some outrageous mistakes in the next article of this series) the fingerprint is considered an overwhelming proof, since there aren’t two people in the world with the same, identical fingerprints.

DNA is even more overwhelming. Here too it depends on its uniqueness (except for monozygotic twins), but not everyone knows that the DNA analysis doesn’t give an absolute result. In this case, the human factor isn’t involved, because the analysis speaks for itself, but its results are statistical in nature, since obviously you don’t analyse the whole available gene pool, but only a certain number of loci. It is likewise true that the probability that samples of two different people (not twins) returns the same profile is as low as to be considered zero.
So yes, DNA is a proof that doesn’t leave room to doubt, whether it is reality or fiction, except that in the latter its detection and its analysis is simplified and they often take place in a ridiculously short time.
At the end, the criminologist is all smiles with a sheet (or a tablet) in his hands and goes to his boss to show them the result, after making the analysis and the comparison to the database within a half-hour. But then you have to hurry, because the case should be closed within the day and this proof will be only one of the many which will make the characters come closer to the solution, though without being the solution itself.

Even in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy I used fingerprints and DNA. In “The Mentor” I talk about a case of tampering of fingerprints, which the protagonist uses to push a suspect to confess. In “Syndrome”, however, the fingerprints on a murder weapon will be an important element in the identification of the culprit. I cannot go into details, you must read the book to learn more (it isn’t available yet in English, sorry!), but I can say that I explained how the fingerprints were collected and that there are different ways to do that according to when they were created.

The first, which is also the most common one in fiction, is when you brush a dark powder on a surface to reveal any latent fingerprints (like in the photo above with Eric Delko from “CSI: Miami”).
In reality (and also in my books) this powder is called silver-grey and is actually used for this purpose to highlight the papillary lines, those that have been imprinted on smooth surfaces mostly due to the presence of sebaceous material on the fingertips (in “Syndrome” I took yet another small licence, indicating a surface on which it is generally not easy to detect fingerprints, but I was deliberately vague, suggesting that it was really smooth or assuming that criminologists, as usual, were lucky). This method is used only if the prints are relatively recent, but, if they date back to more than two or three days, they may have dried up, so it is necessary to use a chemical called ninhydrin, which reacts with the amino acids present in the sweat, generating a visible colouring.

Also DNA makes its appearance in my series (on blood stains in “Syndrome”) and again, in the best tradition of fiction, it is used mostly for reshuffling the cards and complicating the job of the protagonists.

But, if nothing else, I can say I gave a touch of realism by showing that they had to wait at least a few days before getting the result of its analysis.

The Bourne Ultimatum - Robert Ludlum

***** The showdown of Bourne

Sumptuous finale of the trilogy. Although intricate, the plot is less difficult to follow than the ones of the first and second book. Maybe this aspect may be considered a flaw, according to my personal tastes (I prefer having to struggle a bit to follow the plot of a book), but it’s compensated by the abundance of events and the unpredictability of the story.
I believe that the best among the three books is the second, but they are all top-notch. And most importantly, they are addictive. I regretted having to slow down the reading for lack of time and this prevented me from fully enjoy the novel.
Here Ludlum uses all his inventive, multiplying the places and the action scenes. The final battle with the Jackal and especially the place where it happens are epic.
Too bad that the character of Marie appears only in the central part of the book and that she isn’t involved in the scene representing the climax of the novel, only to reappear in the epilogue.
The latter is a bit melancholic. Although I know that there are more books about Bourne, I also know that they aren’t really written by Ludlum, who had decided to end his story here.
Again I noticed that Ludlum never uses vulgar terms, but in return swear words abound. All the characters invoke God and Jesus in various ways. This would represent a sort of defect, as it reduces the characterization of the characters themselves (as they all have the same way of swearing), but at the same time it’s his trademark, as well as the continuous use of exclamations like “folly!” or “madness!” (I’m not sure whether he used these exact words in English, because I read his books translated into Italian).
I recommend reading this book (and the whole trilogy) when you can dedicate at least one hour a day to it, so that you don’t lose the rhythm.

The Holcroft Covenant - Robert Ludlum

***** A cursed heritage

Although this is the umpteenth story of a Nazi conspiracy set decades after the end of Nazism, this novel by Ludlum knows how to be original and intriguing. The protagonist, Noel Holcroft, caught me immediately. It’s easy to feel connected to him and worry about him while realising how he is putting himself in trouble. The author, in fact, shows the unfolding of the story from different points of view and the reader is always one step ahead of the characters, both good and bad ones.
This novel shows again the winning scheme, already seen in the Bourne trilogy, of a male protagonist, who is physically strong but in difficulty, and a female one who helps him (and eventually they fall in love).
The only downside I found is the presence of the usual cliché of super-evil and crazy Nazis, who do the worst atrocities without the slightest remorse, and who also have followers willing to kill themselves for the cause. In developing this concept it escapes to me what’s the cause they are pursuing, apart from their folly. Is it possible that they are all crazy? There must be some crazy one, but at least someone should have other motives, such as survival (at least) or self-serving. Brainwashing as the sole engine of actions hopelessly flattens the negative characters, thus belittling the positive ones.
Fortunately, the novel ends with an absolutely unpredictable open ending that makes you forget all the clichés.

Dayworld Rebel - Philip José Farmer

**** The return of the daybreaker

I’d appreciated a lot the originality of “Dayworld” and Id had fun while reading it. Instead, this sequel and second book in the trilogy didn’t totally convinced me, at least not as much as the previous one.
As always, Farmer shows his wild imagination, and his world building is very accurate. Despite being a sequel, because of the change of environment, he had to invent again the places where the story takes place, casting the reader in a dystopian Los Angeles that goes beyond imagination.
Jeff Caird, in fact, leaves Manhattan and with a new identity, in addition to the seven former ones, escapes to the west coast. Everybody is seeking him, because one of his alter egos guards a secret that can overturn the whole system.
The story resumes right from where the first book ended, so it is absolutely necessary to read the latter so that you can understand well the former. I must say that those series in which reading the novels in order is mandatory are my favourite, so this is definitely a good thing.
The protagonist manages once again to be addictive for its fallibility and madness, and the plot is totally unpredictable. You haven’t the faintest idea what awaits the characters on the next page nor you can imagine a possible epilogue to the whole story.
But, unfortunately, I cannot give full marks to this novel, because there are some aspects that I didn’t like.
The plot is riddled with intrigue within intrigues, creating a complexity that I would define sterile. In addition, the distance needed from the structure of the first book forces the author to invent a new one that isn’t as much winning.
Finally, you feel that this is the middle book of a trilogy and therefore it suffers its being a transition story.
At this point I have to get the last one to find out how it ends!

Dayworld Rebel on Amazon.

The Good Wife: law, politics, and betrayal

I have yet to see the final season of this beautiful TV series, but for this reason I want to talk about it now that I don’t know how it will end. I remember that at the beginning I tried to avoid watching it at all costs. I told myself that I didn’t want to let myself be further involved in a TV show and extend the list of my TV commitments, but then, I don’t know how, I fell for it.

As it often happens in these cases, I have never watched the first few episodes. Being an episodic series (as typically are those aimed at general channels, like the CBS), this fault of mine didn’t affect the enjoyment of the rest of the season and subsequent ones, once the background was clarified.
The Good Wife” is a so-called juridical drama. The main character, played by the talented Julianna Margulies (whom you will certainly remember in ER in the role of the nurse that was the partner of Dr. Ross, namely George Clooney), is Alicia Florrick, the wife of the State Prosecutor, Peter Florrick (Chris Noth, already seen as Mr Big in Sex and the City) involved in a sex scandal that makes him go to prison. Alicia, being a good wife, despite the betrayal, publicly supports her husband (although in private, things are quite different) and has to take care of their family while he’s in jail. To do so, she returns to her old job as lawyer.

As you can imagine, each episode presents a legal case that must be solved.
I must say that the purely legal aspect is very entertaining. Alicia and her colleagues, even in the worst situations, pull out of the hat a stroke of genius that takes them almost always to victory.
Viewers receive a picture of the law that appears as something extremely creative, a tool that lawyers should know how to manage to make their clients win. It doesn’t matter whether they are guilty or innocent. In fact, among the many cases there is also that of an uxoricide (a recurring character in the series) who will remain unpunished, but he doesn’t appear as an entirely negative character.

Beside the legal theme is the political one, which is embodied by the talented Alan Cumming in the role of Eli Gold. Eli is Peter Florrick’s political strategist, that is, the one that manages its election campaigns and takes care of his image even during his mandates. Peter, who at first is the State Prosecutor, later in the series will be a candidate to become the Governor of Illinois and in the sixth season even Alicia finds herself running for a political office.
I won’t go into detail to avoid spoilers to those who had not yet watched this series.
However, the part relating to the political intrigue isn’t less interesting than the purely legal one, highlighting how the two areas are often connected (in the US).

Especially in this period during which, even from a distance, I watched the presidential campaign that had as protagonists Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I could only compare the articles, videos, tweets, and anything else appearing on the web with what the fiction offers in “The Good Wife”, where elections are shown as a conflict made of defamation, low blows, anonymous videos, search of the usual skeleton in the opponent’s closet, verbal confrontations in which apparently the form counts more that the content. Among all that voters are numbers in a statistics that seem to swing from one position to the other as a result of these actions, just as if they were sheep and not thinking beings able to assess the quality of the candidates.
Personally I find all this fascinating and just watching a series like “The Good Wife” (but it is certainly not the only one addressing these topics), in its own small way, provides further interpretation of what we see in reality. In other words, everything that appears in the media in relation to the candidates in an election campaign in the United States is pure strategy.
Not that the rest of the world is different (we are learning!), but I have the impression that the excessive spectacularisation in this area, as in any other, is a typically American prerogative.

The controversial aspects both in the legal and political scope treated in this series are accompanied by those relating to the personal scope of the characters. Friendships that become (extramarital) sexual relations, which then become rivalry, characters who use other people’s feelings for personal purposes, teenagers who hide pregnancies, lawyers who pretend to be dumb to deceive adversaries (like the hilarious character of Elsbeth Tascioni, performed by Carrie Preston), others who use their children to pity the judges, lawyers who do the same with their own disability (in this regard I must mention the treacherous character of Louis Canning, performed by Michael J. Fox, who even manages to cheat Alicia from the bed of a hospital!) are just some examples of human material offered by the series, which, unfortunately, also includes death.

In short, there’s something, for all tastes and all these elements contribute to create strong storylines that unfold throughout the series, from season to season. And they become increasingly important, so much that the case treated in the single episode ends up overshadowed.
It’s no wonder that such a TV show tends to be addictive. Therefore, if you haven’t watched it but intend to do so, remember that you won’t have peace until you get to the last episode, if not of the whole series, at least of the individual seasons.
So, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

The Adventures of SweetPea - Amy Gabel

***** Funny, thought-provoking story

Sometimes I find it so relaxing to read a book for kids. This kind of books, in their apparent simplicity, is able to make you laugh, but it also urges you to think.
This short story by Amy Gabel is a typical example of what I just said. As you discover the incredible adventures of this little being called SweetPea, soon you realise that the context in which they occur is nothing but conventional.
The children in the story are three siblings with different ethnicity and religion, who were adopted and live together in harmony. But this isn’t the only peculiarity of their family. Unlike what you would see in the traditional family, we find out the mother is the one who works; she makes long shifts and hasn’t too much time to dedicate to her children. Instead the father is a househusband: he takes care of the household and children, which isn’t always so easy for him. He’s always so busy and tired.
Such an image isn’t so distant from reality as far as it concerns me, because I know more than a family in which the traditional roles are inverted and people aren’t so surprised of that (though the normality to me is to see both parents working), but I can understand that in certain social and geographical contexts it isn’t so at all.
My compliments to the author for the way she’s able to put this kind of themes with simplicity inside a story for kids, who by nature have a more open mentality than adults and are ready to accept any diversity without a problem; actually they don’t see any difference in genders, colours of the skin or personal spirituality. It would be great that they never lose such ability.

The Adventures of SweetPea on Amazon.

Eaters of the Dead - Michael Crichton

***** Another trick of the master

Sometimes Crichton had fun by writing his books in a way that they seemed true stories of which he was doing a pure narrative. The attention he puts in fake introductions or prefaces is such that, at a first reading, you don’t realise that they are the beginning of the novel.
This is what happens in “Eaters of the Dead”, in which the author pretends he is translating the manuscript of the protagonist, Ibn Fadlan. His attempt is a complete success. The text seems really written by this historical figure, which probably never existed, both thanks to its style and the missing parts, which are explained as if indeed the book was the result of putting together real pieces of a manuscript. It is actually a work of fiction partly inspired by the story of Beowulf and partly by actual documents.
Despite the deliberately dated style, the plot is compelling and opens a gap of knowledge on the civilisation of the Normans, seen from a more civilised Arabian from Baghdad. After the time necessary to adapt to this kind of narrative, I could see the scenes forming before my eyes, such was the interest aroused in me.
The author also manages to insert something scientific within the story, which makes it even more fascinating: the encounter with a hominid (maybe) still existing at that time.
The truncated final is genial and adds further credibility to Crichton’s deception; with this novel he shows once again, if proof were needed, that he is a great storyteller.
The only downside to this book is that, having read it, it has further reduced the number of works that I still have to read by this author, who left us too soon.

Eaters of the Dead on Amazon.

The Bourne Supremacy - Robert Ludlum

***** (Almost) nobody is like Jason Bourne

The second book in the original trilogy of Jason Bourne deviates a lot from the first one. Once solved the dilemma about the identity of the protagonist, Ludlum offers new scenarios, threats, and challenges to our secret super-agent.
For the reader, finding the old characters mixes up with the need to remain attentive while reading, in order to understand the tangled plot. Ludlum takes us to China in the 80s and tells us about the socio-political mechanisms of that period, of which he shows a deep understanding. Maybe we don’t catch them all, but we gain an overall picture that fascinates and worries, and that no doubt makes the happiness of any spy story fan (like me!).
In addition, there’s the timeless charm of Webb/Bourne, the damaged hero, on the brink of madness (a word that Ludlum uses very often!), crazy and fragile, not infallible, who can be cold, but also love with depth. Next to him the character of Marie (my favourite after Bourne), as well as those of Alex and Mo, are equally central in the story and engaging. And they are especially essential to call the protagonist back to the reality, so that he can put aside the Bourne that is in him and go back to being David Webb.
The only negative aspect is the presence of some passages that are a little slow and some unnecessary repetition of what happened in the first book.
A trivia about Ludlum’s writing: there isn’t any kind of foul language in his books, he prefers to use euphemisms and metaphors, and yet, strangely, there are a lot of profanities. All the characters, from first to last, at least once invoke God, or Jesus Christ (or variants), but don’t say a single f-word!

“Kindred Intentions” on sale for $0.99 until 31 October

It was odd that she tried to enter the mind of a man like him. What he was, what she thought he was, would have been contrary to her most unshakable resolutions up until a few weeks earlier. Inconceivable.
How things changed. In a few weeks, in an hour, in a second.

Meet Amelia and Mike.
A killer squad is hunting them and they have one day to survive, and change their lives forever.

Now you can meet Amelia and Mike for a very special price.
“Kindred Intentions” is available on sale for $0.99 (or £0.99) on Amazon, GooglePlay, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, Scribd, Inktera, and Smashwords until 31 October 2016.

This offer applies on Amazon for US and UK residents only, but is open worldwide on the other retailers. Both Kindle and ePub editions are DRM free.

This book is also available as paperback for $9.99 on Amazon, Barnes& Noble, BAM!, and more online retailers.
The ebook edition is free for subscribers on Scribd and 24Symbols.

Here is again the book description.

It was 10 a.m. when undercover agent Amelia Jennings arrived at the law firm Goldberg & Associates for a job interview. Her mission was to investigate a series of murders involving some well-known lawyers in the City. Her target, an elusive hired killer who had been of interest to the police for months.
But her plan is doomed to fall apart before it even starts.
In less than twenty-four hours Amelia will be the prey in a man hunt and her destiny will become entwined with Mike Connor’s.
Their intentions, apparently similar, may prove to be opposite, but the affinity binding them goes beyond what they think they know about each other.

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The fibre that nailed the murderer

There is nothing like that. I am referring to the title of this article. Despite what happens in fiction, where often the resolution of a case depends on the discovery of a fibre, typically a single and isolated one, found at the scene and on the victim (it often happens to Sara Sidle from “CSI”; see photo), in reality such a fibre would serve to demonstrate just nothing at all.
It’s clear that certain materials release tiny fibres, which, if desired, can be compared, for example, with the clothes of a suspect or with some other textile object that belongs to the latter.

Let’s completely leave out the usual imaginary databases, like the one, in one of the latest episodes of “Bones” I recently watched, that linked a synthetic fibre to the mat of a luxurious car, which, as usual, was a limited series, allowing for confirmation of the suspect. However, even assuming that the database exists (I don’t believe so), I have strong doubts that a particular fibre is only used for the mat of a car model (we know they do them all in China, often in the same factory from which those for the cheapest small cars come).
Instead, let’s get back to the case where there’s already a suspect and you can make a comparison. But even if this comparison is positive, what would it demonstrate? Nothing.
Identical fibres are found in very different materials, moreover our fibre could be there because of an innocent contamination preceding the murder or because it was transferred to the victim after a previous contact with someone totally unconnected with the facts.
For this reason, fibres are only supporting evidence that therefore doesn’t add certainty.

This applies also for hair. In this case a comparison may be more useful, as it helps to narrow the field. If a long blond hair is wrapped on the murder weapon, for instance, and the suspect has long blond hair of the same colour and similar characteristics (such as size or the fact that the colour is or isn’t natural), there is a certain probability that it belongs to that person, but probability is not certainty and this makes it just supporting evidence.
The real breakthrough would be achieved if the hair in question still had the hair bulb from where you can collect and then analyse DNA. If there weren’t a good reason, independent from the murder, able to explain the presence of the hair on the weapon, the suspect would be in big trouble.

Another kind of evidence that can be found at the scene is a shoe print, maybe a bloody one. If it’s different from that of the victim, almost certainly that shoe print belongs to the killer or other person who was with him at the time of the murder.
The shoe print can allow criminologists to trace back to the shoe size and, if it shows a particular design, even the brand (especially if that famous database of shoe soles existed!). Once again it can be very useful for a comparison. The problem remains that, if it isn’t from unique handmade shoes (quite rare nowadays), this type of evidence does not give certainty, unless you find a specific correspondence concerning the wear of the sole, due to the unique way that each of us has to walk and wear out some of its areas. In this case, the time factor becomes crucial, because the wear and tear continue, if the murderer keeps on wearing those shoes. You have to make the comparison within days, at most a few weeks, otherwise you won’t find any matches.

Like shoe prints, there are other types of characteristic signs. Let’s consider a screwdriver used to force a window. It certainly leaves a mark on the frame, which corresponds to its shape. If the screwdriver isn’t new, it’s become worn, then the mark it leaves behind is unique. As for the shoes, and for the same reason, the comparison, however, must be done in the shortest time possible.

What if the screwdriver was the murder weapon?
Certainly it left a mark on the body of the victim, maybe not as distinguishable as on the frame, unless it has affected a bone. Finding a similar weapon at the suspect’s house and detecting traces of blood on it (which, as we all know, is very difficult to remove, so much to stay there even if you don’t see it with your naked eye) could be an overwhelming proof. Even more if there are his fingerprints on it and he doesn’t have an alibi for the time of the crime. Unless someone has decided to frame him, using his screwdriver, which happens more often in fiction than in reality.

To discover the murder weapon we have often seen criminologists in the TV series get to pierce gelatine men or carcasses of animals with objects found in the house of the suspect. Usually this wasteful practice leads nowhere, except the rare case that the suspect was framed.
The real culprit, of course, gets rid of the crime weapon!
Even more expensive is the practice of raging on surrogates with random objects that the protagonists of CSI simply place on a table and try one by one. The aim is at least to understand which weapon they must look for. The possibility of catching the right one among an almost infinite number of objects that tear the meat in a similar manner is close to zero. Well, in this case, instead, immediately a strange tool comes up (what luck!) that perfectly corresponds to the shape of the wound. Usually, when it happens, it provides valuable information, since a suspect uses something like this for work or hobbies.

And then there are the famous traumas from a blunt object.
The victim was hit in the head by an object that might be a hammer, a mace, a lamp, a trophy or something. The impact caused a peri-mortem trauma (sometimes not immediately visible, but it appears in the form of haematoma after the body is kept in the freezer for a few hours) and maybe left an evident mark on the skull bones.
And so the criminologists, with great fun, put on their overalls and goggles (that outfit that they do not use at the crime scene; see photo from “CSI: NY”) and begin to hit the poor dummies, until they find the right object.
The mechanism is identical to the case of the screwdriver: if the weapon is found at the suspect’s home, someone has framed him; if it isn’t found, however, they will be able to locate it by taking chances amongst thousands of possibilities, shamelessly wasting puppets, gelatine and pig carcasses, and from there they’ll unveil the unthinkable culprit that uses the same type of tool to make some innocent do-it-yourself. Then, by analysing his toolbox, they will find a bar with the same profile, which will be bloody or recently cleaned with bleach (unlike other tools that are filthy).

I could go on like this forever telling you about all these proofs that are the daily bread of criminologists in fiction and whose discovery is, consequently, the basis of the plots of crime stories focused on forensic science.
As an author I use several of them as well, especially since I know that’s what the reader would expect. And then, let’s face it, it’s fun to use them! But I prefer to highlight how their usefulness is limited, often exploiting them as elements that support the investigation process made of intuition and imagination, or that exclude certain scenarios. This is because this evidence is often most useful to exclude than to confirm.

For instance, in “Syndrome”, an interesting element when analysing the scene of two murders is the total absence of shoe prints in a nearly immaculate flat, where a dirty corpse lies whose soles have some soil. This finding brings Detective Shaw and his team to conclude that the murderer has deleted these prints or, even better, that the victim has never walked on that floor, where he was just dumped, therefore that isn’t the primary scene of the crime.

In “The Mentor”, instead, I exploit the case of a haematoma that appears later (because it isn’t visible on the corpse immediately after death) and reveals that the victim was pushed with a shoe whose pointed profile reminds the footwear of a woman. This leads investigators to speculate that a woman is the killer (or the killer’s accomplice) and pushes Detective Leroux to ask certain questions to an eyewitness, who maybe saw someone leaving the crime scene.

The beauty of it is that I didn’t learn much of this by reading treatises on forensic science, but reading the novels by Patricia Cornwell, watching “CSI”, “Bones”, “NCIS”, “Body of Proof” and many others. All of which, taking a cue from science to create stories, in addition to entertain people (as they are entertainment tools), somehow enrich the latter, leaving them with a little more knowledge and, at the same time, with a certain curiosity to learn more.