The CSI Effect: Kate Bendelow talks about forensics and how you can join the next Crime Fiction Masterclass

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Today Kate Bendelow, who is a servicing CSI and teaches the sections on forensics and pathology in the hugely popular Crime Fiction Masterclass, is taking the reins here at the CTG blog to talk about the CSI effect…

“As a serving crime scene investigator of 16 years, I have experienced a lot of issues brought on by the CSI effect. When I first started with the police I was employed as a SOCO (scenes of crime officer) and still refer to myself as such. The unfortunate introduction of ‘that’ awful American programme, led instrumentally to us being rebranded as CSIs as this became the acronym the public began to recognise. As a result, I have been asked at scenes why I am using the wrong torch, (it wasn’t like the ones the actors use on the telly) and why I wasn’t considering searching for traces of fibre at a burglary scene (useless without a suspect’s clothing to compare to and the cost implication of comparison would not be in the public’s interest). Whist frustrating enough in the day-to-day, its worrying that such misconceptions may influence a jury.

By providing writers of page and screen with advice on procedure and highlighting the most popular misconceptions, it gives them the opportunity to write with accuracy and authenticity. In turn, I hope this addresses the misconceptions brought on by the CSI effect and stops people like me throwing things at the television when I see things like detectives trampling through a crimes scene without so much as a pair of nitrile gloves on. I also like sharing anecdotes and talking about office culture to give people an insight into what my job is really like. From the tedious and mundane to the shocking, disturbing and downright hilarious.”

Want to learn more? Here’s how…

The acclaimed Crime Fiction Masterclass is coming to Cambridge! Whether you are a crime writer or just a fan, this is for you.

After a number of successful stints for The Guardian, as well as events in Manchester, Brighton, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Morecambe & Vice and the Harrogate International Crime Fiction Festival, four experts in their fields bring their unrivalled knowledge and experience to Cambridge.

Featuring bestselling author and tutor Erin Kelly, ex-senior detective, bestselling author and adviser to Peter James, Graham Bartlett, serving CSI and author of The Real CSI, Kate Bendelow, and bestselling author and practising criminal lawyer Neil White, the day-long masterclass will give you the inside track on how murders are really solved to vastly improve your crime writing.

The masterclass will inform, entertain and inspire you. Book direct at https://crimefictionmasterclasscambridge.eventbrite.co.uk

 

#MyLittlePodcast is out – listen to episodes one and two now! #MyLittleEye

 

Fancy finding out more about the facts behind the fiction?

In the run up to my latest book – MY LITTLE EYE – being released in paperback I’m hosting a podcast series (as my alter ego Stephanie Marland) talking to police, social media, and crime fiction experts. The first two episodes are live over on SoundCloud now.

In episode one I talk to specialist firearms officer Rob about true crime, policing, and what it’s like to work in a specialist team.

In episode two I’m talking to Dr Christopher J Carter an Associate Professor who specialises in social media ethics and online behaviour. You can listen to us chatting about social media behaviour, online identity, graphic novels, and the rise of deep fakes.

Click the link to go to SoundCloud and listen to Episode 1 and 2, plus a bonus feature – an extract of the My Little Eye audiobook! ->

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Submit your questions for #MyLittlePodcast and you could #win a copy of my new book @TrapezeBooks

 

True Crime Addict?

Aspiring crime writer?

Love reading crime fiction?

In a few weeks I’ll be hosting a series of podcasts talking all things crime fiction and looking into the facts behind the fiction with a bunch of experts including online behaviour specialist academic Dr Chris Carter, former MET police officer, Rob, the best selling crime writer Angela Clarke and fabulous blogger and reviewer Emma Mitchell.

We’re almost ready to go – but first we need YOUR questions!

So fill out the form using the link below, and if your question is picked you’ll be in with a chance to win a copy of my new book MY LITTLE EYE.

Submit your questions for the  podcast now at:

MLE FINAL

Guest Post: Mike Thomas talks the 10 phrases every cop hears in their career

Ash and Bones

Today I’m delighted to be handing the controls of CTG HQ over to Mike Thomas. Mike’s novel ASH AND BONES is out now and, having served in the police he’s just the right person to talk about the ten phrases every cop will hear during their career. So, over to Mike …

Thirty years is a long old time to be a copper. What makes that length of service feel even longer are the stock phrases you hear day in, day out. Some of them come from your ‘customers’ (or criminals, in old money). Some will drift from the mouths of your colleagues. And a few will be heard from normal MOPs (Members of the Public) who you interact with at incidents and general patrol – if you’re not sitting in the parade room filling in interminable forms for six hours, that is – during a shift. All of them are guaranteed to make you roll your eyes and curse inwardly, and wonder why on earth you ever signed up to be a plod.

  1. What’s your number, I’m going to have your badge

An old favourite of villains. Usually spouted by one of them after the police have had the temerity to arrest him for violently assaulting his girlfriend, his mother, and then several MOPs who intervened, before headbutting, kicking and spitting at the arresting officer, who was forced to wrestle him to the ground and handcuff him, all the while trying not to go overboard (reasonable force, y’see) or hurt him at all. This, of course, is police brutality in his tiny little mind, and now the man wants the arresting officer’s force number so that he can have them sacked and their warrant card –‘badge’ – taken away.

  1. Of course I loves him/her, I f*** him don’t I?

You go to a Domestic Dispute, and find the male and female have spent the day drinking litres of Spar super strength cider in their garden – it’s not raining that much, so of course it’s okay to sit in deck chairs amongst the weeds and those rusted car wheels – before deciding to spend the evening punching one another in the face really, really hard, while calling each other some rather choice names which people living three streets away could hear. Neither party wishes to make a complaint, arguing that they love each other, and when you question this that phrase above comes out. So you attempt to arrest the male, just to get him away from the house so the fighting stops and everyone within a two mile radius can get some sleep. Then, of course, they turn on you, and start punching you in the face really, really hard.

  1. If you weren’t in that uniform I’d fight you right here, right now

A strange one, this. Criminals or angry drunks seem to think that if you were to quickly change into a tee shirt and jeans it would a) suddenly make you weaker than if you were in uniform and b) mean you were no longer a police officer, just because you are out of ‘the cloth’. After a few years it had got to the point that I’d offer to strip naked to see if people still wanted to carry out their threat. Oddly, not one of them did.

  1. I’ve just got a quick call for you, it’s on the way back to the station

Ah, the control room. Sometimes called Ops Room, or if you’re feeling fancy, The Public Service Centre. Woo. Anyway, typically a windowless hive of workstations, staffed primarily by female civvy (civilian) controllers, who spend twelve hours a day/night handling endless calls from the public, liaising with other emergency services, and dishing out incidents to police officers via the radio system. Working there is a thankless, stressful nightmare, and they all deserve a medal. But this is the one phrase that gets those cop eyes rolling – thanks to GPS and other tech gubbins, the controllers know exactly where you are, all the time. And that incident they have on their list, the one that’s been hanging around for hours because nobody wants to do it, because it’s absolute rubbish? They’re now giving it to you, because it’s at a house on your route back to the station at the end of a tour of duty. Just a quick call. Just to pop in and see if elderly Mrs. Jones is okay. Just to clear that pesky incident from the computer screen. So you go, and you find Mrs. Jones dead, and she’s been dead for a month, and your first finish on time for two weeks goes south because now you’re the OIC (Officer in the Case) for a Sudden Death which sees you dealing with grieving relatives and mountains of paperwork and a trip to the mortuary and handling the putrid remains of a human being. Oh, and working an extra six hours on top of the ten you’ve already done. But hey, at least you’re still sucking air.

  1. There we are then

You’ve just heard that phrase from Number 4. You don’t want to do that ‘quick call’: you have seventeen incidents to update on the Niche computer system, your notebook to write up, the sergeant to liaise with, and it’s your daughter’s fifth birthday and you are not – under any circumstances – going to a call that has been sitting on a computer terminal in Ops Room since yesterday. You are going home on time for the first time in an age, dammit. So you touch the transmit button on your personal radio and explain, a tad grumpily, and ask them to pass it on to the next shift. The terse reply: ‘There we are then.’ And you sigh, and do you know why? Take a look at the first letter of each word she just transmitted across the airwaves. See what they spell? That’s what she’s just called you.

Thomas, Mike

  1. Can I wear your hat?

If I had a pound, et cetera. Friday night? Working the dreaded ‘After Dark’ shift, where you’re drafted into a city centre to police the thousands of revellers who have flooded into its pubs and clubs? You will hear this question every half an hour. You will, when new to the Job, let them wear your hat, even pose for photographs with smiley men and women – many of them drunker than you’ve ever been – while they laugh and giggle and try on your police helmet. Then, after a few years of it, and after that one time when a young whippersnapper ran off, laughing gleefully, with your ‘lid’, something inside you will snap. And you will refuse. You will ignore the drunk-yet-polite men and women, and come across as a right miserable old bugger. And you will walk away, ignoring their pleas for a picture while they wear your Custodian helmet, and you will find a dark, drizzly corner to stand in, and you will breathe a sigh of relief while contemplating your lot, and hope nobody ever finds you again, until five minutes later when, from beside you, you will hear: ‘Can I wear your hat?’ See also: ‘Are you the strippagram? A-hahahahahaha!’

  1. Why don’t you catch some real criminals?

Never understood this. What is a real criminal? The kingpin of a massive drugs importation gang? A murderer, or rapist? Someone who traffics children into sexual slavery? Or perhaps someone who repeatedly – and deliberately – kicks the wing mirror off their neighbour’s car due to a long-running and terribly petty dispute over parking spaces? It’s all crime. Kicking a wing mirror off is criminal damage. Hence, you are a criminal. The police are going to arrest you for it. There is no point whatsoever saying this phrase as they are placing you into the back of a prisoner van, hands cuffed to the base of your spine. It just sounds like you’re whining, so stop it. Nobody cares.

  1. What’s the problem? Is it going to take long?

See those bright yellow cones, and that fluttering police tape, and the half dozen police cars and two ambulances and a fire truck inside the cordon, plus that – look, up there! – crying man sitting on top of a twelve storey office block, legs over the ledge, face ashen and eyes on the ground all that way below as he mulls over whether to jump and end it all because he’s lost his job and his wife has left him and taken the kids and he has nothing whatsoever to live for? But anyway, we’re REALLY, REALLY SORRY for closing the road while our negotiator tries to save his life and it means you have to queue for ten minutes or – heaven forfend! – find an alternative route into work.

  1. This is harassment, bro

A close relative to number 7, and usually followed by Number 1. Frequently uttered by career criminals and recidivists, as if in astonishment that you have arrested them – again! – for burgling another house, or hitting their partner for the third time this week, or selling yet more dodgy E tabs that sent a clubber into a coma from which they will never awaken. The police are not harassing, you, for goodness’ sake. They are doing their jobs. If you don’t like getting lifted by the Old Bill, STOP DOING CRIMEY THINGS, THEN.

  1. I pay your wages

Wait, you personally go into my bank each and every month, fill out a deposit slip with my name and account details, write down the requisite amount, and hand it over to the cashier so they can give me all your money? THANK YOU SO MUCH, YOU ARE VERY KIND.

A big thank you to Mike Thomas for sharing the ten phrases every cop will hear during their career with us. As you can imagine, Mike’s novel ASH AND BONES is a truly authentic police procedural, and the beginning of a new series featuring DC Will MacReady.

Here’s the blurb: “At a squalid flat near the Cardiff docks, an early morning police raid goes catastrophically wrong when the police aren’t the only unexpected guests. A plain clothes officer is shot dead at point blank range, the original suspect is left in a coma. The killer, identity unknown, slips away. Young and inexperienced, Will MacReady starts his first day on the CID. With the city in shock and the entire force reeling, he is desperate to help – but unearths truths that lead the team down an increasingly dark path …”

You can buy ASH AND BONES from Amazon here

And be sure to check out Mike’s website www.mikethomasauthor.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @ItDaFiveOh

 

CTG Reviews: City of Dreadful Night by Peter Guttridge

cover image

cover image

What the blurb says: “July 1934. A woman’s torso is found in a trunk at Brighton railway station’s left luggage office. Her legs and feet are found in a suitcase at King’s Cross. Her head is never found, her identity never established, her killer never caught. But someone is keeping a diary. July 2009. A massacre in Milldean, Brighton’s notorious no-go area. An armed police operation gone badly wrong. As the rioting begins, highflying Chief Constable Robert Watts makes a decision that will cost him his career. Meanwhile, with the aid of newly discovered police files, ambitious young radio journalist Kate Simpson hopes to solve the notorious Brighton Trunk Murder of 1934, and enlists the help of ex-Chief Constable Robert Watts. But it’s only a matter of time before past and present collide …”

I love a good puzzle, and that’s exactly what this first book in Peter Guttridge’s Brighton series gives you. Twice over.

The mysterious cold case of the Brighton Trunk Murderer (an actual case) is twistingly intertwined with the investigation of the modern day Milldean shooting case. And both are giving Robert Watts a headache.

An excellent investigator, Watts loses his job as Chief Constable in the political fallout from an armed police raid gone bad. With his marriage falling apart, and the job he lived for gone, he’s at a loss of what to do. So when Kate Simpson, a young radio journalist and the daughter of an old friend, asks him for his help he agrees.

But Kate’s not the only one seeking his help. When Sarah Gilchrist, a member of the ill-fated armed operation, returns to work she can’t let the unanswered questions about what really happened go unanswered any longer. As she digs deeper it seems that the bungled raid wasn’t quite the accident it first appeared. That’s when she decides to call on Watts.

As Watts gets drawn into both cases he discovers links to people he knows and implications that have affected him, and his career, without his knowledge. But someone isn’t happy that their secrets are being uncovered, and as more police officers from the raid turn up dead, and threats to Watts, Kate, Sarah and those helping them are made, it seems both the cases are anything but cold.

This isn’t your average police procedural. The quirky narrative style, fresh characters and witty observations kept me turning the pages, keen to find out where Watts, Kate and Sarah’s rather unusual and distinctly unofficial investigations would lead them.

An intriguing journey through the darker side of Brighton, and a great introduction to a new series – I’ve already bought the next book ‘The Last King of Brighton’.

Recommended.

 

[With thanks to Peter Guttridge for my copy of the book]

In the Spotlight: CHALK VALLEY by D.L. Johnstone

kindle cover CHALK VALLEY

kindle cover CHALK VALLEY

What the blurb says: “In a remote mountain valley in British Columbia, a human monster preys on innocent lives.  After teenagers discover the body of a missing girl in Chalk Valley, searchers find the remains of two more victims secreted deep in the woods.  A serial killer is at work.

Chalk Valley police detective John McCarty is picked to lead a task force to find the murderer, but inexperience, politics and McCarty’s own inner demons quickly overwhelm him and the investigation falters.

Meanwhile, on a dark, lonely highway many miles from Chalk Valley, RCMP Sergeant Dave Kreaver comes across a van crashed at the side of the road. The driver is anxious to leave the scene, but Kreaver discovers an unconscious teenaged girl in the van. Kreaver feels in his gut that the driver could be the serial killer everyone’s looking for, but his inquiries are ignored. The task force is in well over its head, buried by thousands of leads and potential suspects. His supervisors tell him to back off and let the task force do its job.

 

Kreaver finds himself in a deadly cat and mouse game with a murderous psychopath, a race against time with innocent victims in play. Operating alone and without official sanction, can he stop the Chalk Valley Killer before he claims more lives?”

This complex, multi-agency and multi-location police procedural has the big picture feel of a television show like The Wire. Told through the point of views of a range of characters involved in the case – including police officers, journalists, victims and the killer – it shows how incidents that at first seem unconnected all fit together into a web of violence and terror.

The twists and turns of the story sprint along but there’s still plenty of procedural detail to satisfy fans of the sub-genre. With the killers point of view included, readers discover their identity before the police have collaborated all of the evidence – this ups the tension for the reader as you will on the various police departments, hoping that they’ll find the connections before it’s too late.

With a dramatic finale and a poignant ending this is a story well worth checking out.

D.L. Johnstone lives in the Toronto area. He’s co-authored several medical research publications and is a semi-dedicated fitness freak with a second degree black belt in Taekwondo. CHALK VALLEY is his debut novel.

You can find out more about him and his writing at www.dljohnstonewriter.com