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Wednesday, October 25, 2023


Bestselling author Amy M. Reade writes cozy, historical, and Gothic mysteries. Learn more about her and her books at her website.  

Research:  It’s all Fun & Games Until the FBI Comes Knocking 

When I meet a new reader, one question I’m often asked is how much research I have to conduct to write a book.


The answer is always the same. It depends. 


It depends on the book, the series, the complexity of the subject matter, and the amount of time I’m able to spend on it. 


Before I go any further, you should know something about me: I am a research addict. I would research random stuff all day long if I thought I could get paid for it. And though I don’t want to go so far as to say it’s my favorite part of writing, it’s pretty high on the list. 


Because I’m almost ready to delve into laying the groundwork for my next two books, I’ve got research on my mind. I thought I’d share with you some of the off-the-wall, I’m-probably-on-a-watch-list stuff I’ve had to study while writing my books. 


Some of you will know that I write mysteries. Even the most bare-bones mystery writing lends itself to a lot of questions about bodies, murder weapons, motives for committing crimes, etc. 


For example, once a mystery writer settles on a murder weapon, there’s often a good amount of research that must be done before the first murder scene can be written. Does it matter if the weapon wielder is right-handed or left-handed? Is that weapon something that could realistically be obtained by the person committing the murder? How much does it weigh? What does it look like? Could it cause injury to the murderer, too? Can it be used without leaving a trace of DNA behind? Does it require any special ability to use?


Likewise with bodies. What are the stages of decomposition? Can you smell a body that’s been dead less than twenty-four hours? 


I could go on, but I don’t want to gross you out completely. You get the idea. Even for contemporary mysteries that seem to involve straightforward murders (if there is such a thing), you can bet a lot of reading and studying went into writing about it. 


So without further ado, here is my list of the ten most memorable things I’ve had to research in pursuit of a good story:


1. How much blood has to leak from a body to turn the water pink in a 25,000-gallon swimming pool? (Alas, this particular bit of research also required some math.)


2. What organs is a knife likely to nick in a stabbing of one’s lower torso?

3. What are the symptoms of poisoning by a particular radioactive isotope?


4. How much money do good strippers make?


5. How long does it take someone to drown?


6. Would one’s skin smell if he or she were hit with a hot fireplace iron?


7. How likely is it that a broken rib will puncture a lung?


8. If a wolf eats a person, do they leave any bits behind?


9. What happens if you poke a shark in the eye?


10. How long does it take for a decomposing body to begin to emit foul odors in a hot, humid environment?


As always when I start working on a new book, I look forward to adding more items to this list!


What about you? What things have you read about or written that might make the feds come knocking?


St. Patrick’s Fray

A Juniper Junction Cozy Holiday Mystery, Book 7


Lilly could use a little luck o’ the Irish...


When a business tycoon winds up dead shortly after unleashing a scathing and humiliating criticism of Lilly and her jewelry designs, Lilly finds herself under suspicion of committing murder. And though she has an alibi, the only person who can confirm it is a two-month-old baby.


To make matters worse, Lilly’s shop is the target of a shocking St. Patrick’s Day smash-and-grab robbery by an unlikely and frightful assailant. The real horror, though, comes after the robbery, when Lilly and her husband become the targets of an extortionist who’s willing to go to frightening lengths to get what he wants.


Can Lilly turn her luck around before the killer strikes again and she loses the people most dear to her?


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Amy M. Reade said...

Thank you for hosting me here today, Lois! I had fun with this post and I hope your readers enjoy it.

Rosalie Spielman said...

Those are some awesome research searches and now I have so many questions...