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Scene of the Crime: A Writer's Guide to Crime Scene Investigation (Howdunit Series) Paperback – September 15, 1992

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest Books; 1st edition (September 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898795184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898795189
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA-- A readable, informative guide to aspects of police/law enforcement as they relate to the crime scene. The chapters are thorough and seem to be technically accurate and up-to-date. Wingate uses examples from her career and others to illustrate the various procedures, such as determining cause of death, identifying fingerprints, autopsies, etc. Sure to be enjoyed by suspense fans, and highly recommended for libraries with a demand for mysteries or for creative writing materials.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Anyone who is trying to write a mystery will find these to be useful books, and readers of mysteries will find them equally interesting. Wilson, who is both a medical doctor and a writer, describes various causes of death, detailing both the appearance of the body and the official response to unexpected deaths. Scattered throughout the text are examples from literary works illuminating the use of medical and forensic details to strengthen the writing. Chapters deal with subjects such as time of death, autopsies, determination of murder vs. suicide, and various causes of death. Apt use is made of statistics regarding the frequency of varying causes of death. A glossary and bibliography round out the work. Wingate spent more than six years as a criminal investigator. In this book, she gives detailed descriptions of the crime scene search, methods of firearms investigation, fingerprint identification, identification of human remains, autopsies, and crime labs. The information is peppered with descriptions of cases on which Wingate has worked as a criminal investigator. The information is well presented, and the writing style is personal and energetic. Many books on criminal investigation are available, notably Colin Wilson's Written in Blood (Warner, 1991) and B.A. Fisher's Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation (Elsevier, 1986. 4th ed.). Nevertheless, owing to the moderate price and clear presentation of these books, both are recommended for public libraries and for academic libraries where creative writing programs are supported.
- Denise Johnson, Bradley Univ. Lib., Peoria, Ill.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

I am (Martha) Anne Guice (Webb) Wingate. I am married, with three living children (we lost one seven years ago) and two stepchildren. We have seven grandchildren and anticipate more; I also have two step-grandchildren whom we have never met, and one granddog. I have been writing as long as I have known how to put words on paper, but I sold my first book at 38. You might call me a late bloomer. I write as Anne Wingate, Lee Martin, and Martha G. Webb.

I am autistic, as my father and his mother and my uncle and grand uncle on the other side were, and as my son is. My son and my late daughter also have/had schizophrenia. My husband is bipolar, though he keeps it under control as long s he remembers to take his meds on time. Unfortunately, there are no meds to take for autism, and I also have Parkinson's, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and severe arthritis. But I get as much done as I can, including making our own bread and pizza and yogurt. I used to make pickles and bottle veggies and fruit, but my husband has now ruled that out because I fall so often that I could wind up pulling a pot of boiling water over on myself (I have already broken my back falling in the kitchen, and we don't want to try for a repeat). We also distill our own water, because our water mains are eighty years old and full of mud. I have to clean mud out of the distillers after every run, and one time I found a pretty pink boiled worm in the bottom of one of the distillers. We call this "sunshining" because it involves distillers but not alcohol. Using alcohol is against our religion.

I love writing, reading, editing, book reviewing, audiobook reviewing, and just about anything to do with books. My husband and I have different tastes in videos and neither of us watches much television, so I recently bought my own DVD viewer so that I could watch my own videos in my bedroom while he is watching war videos in the living room. I just finished the first edit on Legend Quest by our friend Carl, which I hope you will soon have the privilege of reading. Carl insists that he doesn't have dyslexia; his fingers do; but his fingers have a lot of it, so his books call for a lot of editing and proofreading. I don't mind doing it, because they are very interesting books. Anybody who can get from Vlad Dracula in the first chapter to the CIA in the last four chapters, and make it work, is an amazing writer. Also, he is now a general, after coming up from buck private, and anybody who can spend thirty years in Special Forces and still be alive is a violator of the law of averages. But we're glad he violated them, because he and we have a mutual admiration society. He also jumps out of planes (with parachutes) for fun. You would have to push me out.

Because my husband and I are both semi-invalids, we don't have very many friends, but those we have really count in the rolls of "good people" in the world and out of it. They include Dan, who is a computer repairman and Web page creator; Eleanor, who is the epitome of a good Christian woman who is filled with love and compassion; Manny, who is the best handyman in the world except that he doesn't get the concept of being on time; and Julee, who is the best housecleaner in the world and is now raising some of her grandchildren. We also have many friends in the science fiction and fantasy world. Although we have six college degrees between us, we don't have any friends in academia except peripherally. There is Helge, but he is a computer tech in the school of independent studies.

I have been a cop, where I worked in CSI, fingerprints, and the sex crimes unit; an Avon saleswoman, a communications consultant, and a Volkswagen saleswoman; and a college teacher. I have a Ph.D. in English, and I strongly suspect that I am the only person who has ever been ruled a fingerprint expert in state courts in two states and in federal court, and also has a Ph.D. in English. My tastes in life are as eclectic as my tastes in reading.

I have been reviewing for Amazon for many years and began reviewing for other companies on July 4, 2012. I am a long-time editor and I am looking for editing work to do. I particularly like to work with textbooks for grades 5 through 12 in language arts and social studies; fiction, especially mysteries and fantasies; and nonfiction, especially archaeology and ancient history.

I would talk to you some more, but I have to go check the bread that's baking. Thank you for reading so much. I'm sorry, but I don't know how to write short.

Customer Reviews

Even if you have an amateur sleuth, this will help you a lot.
I'm working on a series of mystery novels and have read most of the books in the "Howdunit" series.
P. Lozar
A great source of information on the field of Crime Scene Investigation.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By P. Lozar on July 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'm working on a series of mystery novels and have read most of the books in the "Howdunit" series. They're all more or less helpful, but this is far and away the best. The other authors seemed to think in terms of "I'm going to tell you everything I know in 100 pages," so their books often read like criminology Cliff Notes. Ms. Wingate, on the other hand, is a practicing mystery author and has an excellent sense of what an author needs to know, so the book is not only full of useful information but well-organized and fun to read (if you're not squeamish). She's clear about her areas of expertise and non-expertise: she has years of experience in fingerprinting, so she's very explicit and thorough about that, whereas in other areas (e.g., guns) she just gives a quick overview and refers the reader to the "real" experts for the technical details.
I found the sample forms and reports very helpful as a guide to what investigators are looking for, and how information is communicated from (say) the fiber experts to the police. I've always especially enjoyed Ms. Wingate's novels because of how they depict the personal dynamics WITHIN a police department, which she well knows as an ex-officer. Her anecdotes in this book are not only memorable, and often very funny, but also contribute a great deal to the reader's "feel" for how a police department operates in real life.
In general, I feel this is the most readable and helpful volume of the series. I hope Ms. Wingate revises it periodically -- the technology is constantly changing -- but as a guide to the "feel" of how an investigation is conducted, the book is ageless.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. Laughlin on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'd been interested in the Howdunit series for some time before I finally got my hands on some of them (Scene of the Crime, Deadly Doses, Police Procedural, Malicious Intent, Private Eyes, and Missing Persons). Scene of the Crime was the first that I read, and I was pleased to find it not only informative, but also entertaining. Anne Wingate has the cockeyed sort of sense of humor that I appreciate, and her easy, conversational tone kept the book from becoming too dry--the failing of some of the other books (Deadly Doses and Police Procedural).
With regards to the person who opined that, given the errors with regards to firearms, the book could not have been very accurate, I must disagree. Ms. Wingate states upfront that she is not a firearms expert and that a writer wanting to know about firearms should read the book devoted to them, and she does not spend a lot of time in the book discussing firearms. A few errors on a topic in which the author admits to being no expert hardly constitutes a "plague of errors."
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven J. Frank on April 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
An excellent writer's resource. Densely packed with information but not densely written, this books covers more than its title suggests. Everything you ever wanted to know about forensics is here, of course, but the author takes you well beyond the crime scene. What distinguishes this book is the consistent awareness of writers' needs. Procedure and technique are considered in terms of their fictional possibilities and the real-life people who do the work. The author also includes resources valuable to any writer -- not just those who work the mystery genre.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michelle D. Mcgriff on November 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Not being a full fledge crime writer, I am always tempted to gloss over scenes that require me to do research in an unfamiluar area. That is what I depend on this series of books to do... fill me in. At three a.m...I just want to know one or two little facts that add realism to a small scene. This book was a very helpful reference guide...who comes first to the scene of a crime. Who ask the questions? Who gathers the clues? You only get so much from watching Murder She Wrote.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ve on March 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Scene of the Crime has lots of facts about fingerprints and examining possible pieces of evidence at a crime scene. I found the sections about identifying remains and what changes the body goes through after death very interesting. I learned a lot of information that will help me in my writing.
On the down side, I did have a hard time focusing on this book. It is very similar to the other books in the Howdunit series, and this is the only reason for a lower rating. However, I do believe that the entire Howdunit Series (I now call it "The Writer's Bible series") could not be complete without this book.
Scene of the Crime may be similar to other books in the series, but it DOES have a lot of knowledge that the other books missed!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book was well organized and thoroughly addressed each section. For someone who writes murder mysteries, this is a good factual tool to help someone develop an interesting story. The references are actual law enforcement sources, such as the F.B.I, actual police departments, and other sources that would know.
However, my only complaint is in the description of using chemicals, like ninhydrin, to develop fingerprints. I felt a safety warning was missing. If someone wants to use ninhydrin in their story to make developing fingerprints interesting, then there's no problem. But, I personally worry about the curious trying to experiment. The chemicals that make ninhydrin and other chemicals used by crime scene personnel can be extremely dangerous. Training and proper use is mandatory. All law enforcement people know this. Ninhydrin must be used in a well ventillated area. Plus, getting it on your skin over time, is dangerous.
So, please....all you authors who wish to help and give people information to do something to entertain....always provide your readers with caution messages. Ninhydrin is more than smelling like ripe bananas and giving you a mere headache. There are long term affects that must be considered.
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