Don't even think of writing a medical mystery without the wise counsel of Dr. D.P. Lyle. You will find his books as indispensable as he is to those who use medicine for malice in our fictional worlds. Whenever I need to kill someone using medical means -- fictionally of course -- I turn to Dr. D.P. Lyle for advice on how to do it and ultimately, how to catch the culprit. If it wasn't for Dr. Lyle, the DIAGNOSIS MURDER books would be about a screenwriter solving crimes committed with pen and paper. When Dr. Lyle gets a call at 1 a.m., he knows it's not a medical emergency. It's a writer calling with a critical plot problem that needs immediate factual attention or a promising murder mystery will die on the page. Dr. Lyle is the story trauma expert, saving countless books and screenplays with his medical knowledge and keen sense of storytelling. Now you don't need to wake him in the dead of night for help -- you can open his book instead---Lee Goldberg, Author of the Diagnosis Murder and Monk novels

FORENSICS AND FICTION is a terrific resource for crime writers and anyone interested in forensics. Reading it will jumpstart your imagination about all kinds of ingenious crimes, crime-solving techniques, and plot twists---Matt Witten, supervising producer, Fox TV show HOUSE.

Whether we're trying to throttle, poison, or throw a character off a cliff, Dr. Lyle is every crime-fiction author's best friend. His advice is concise and easy to understand. Because he writes the stuff himself, he can suggest nefarious possibilities and point out the "wiggle-room" needed to conjure surprising and believable plot twists. This book is as essential to my library as my Strunk and White---Hallie Ephron - Author of Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock 'Em Dead with Style (Writers Digest Books)

Brains and guts! FORENSICS AND FICTION picks up with more hardcore information on the evil that men (and women) do. D.P. Lyle answers all the medical questions that diabolical authors can throw at him, with wit, erudition, and a unique understanding of what writers need to tell their stories. Genius---Harley Jane Kozak, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity-award winning author


Part I: Traumatic Injuries, Illnesses, Doctors, and Hospitals

What are the symptoms and signs of bleeding to death?

How long might my character survive in a cave with no food or water?

How long could a child survive in the cold waters off the coast of Maine?

What duration of exposure to high environmental temperatures would prove lethal for A pregnant woman?

How would a heart attack be treated during a commercial plane flight?

Can an automobile accident victim suffer amnesia for 10 days and then suddenly recover her memory?

Can a head injury cause the loss of memory for things that happened before the injury?

How long could a man survive in the desert after major injuries from an automobile accident?

Where can my character be shot and survive but be partially disabled?

What happens when someone is shot in the heart with an arrow?

How is a gunshot to the hand treated?

What are the symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm?

What happens during a suicide by hanging?

How does the so-called “Flesh-eating Bacteria” harm humans?

Can my character fake being blind?

How and for what purpose was the ancient practice of bloodletting performed?

How long might my comatose character survive?

Does saltwater make a good antibacterial agent?

Will a child from an incestuous pregnancy likely have a birth defect?

What was the state of American medical treatment, during Puritan times?

What are the steps involved in a “Psych Evaluation”?

What causes a person to become delusional?

Can a brain injury or psychological shock cause a temporary loss of speech and hearing?

What actions can a victim of catatonia perform?

What happens mentally to someone isolated for long periods in a completely dark room?

What causes rage in an otherwise normal person?

How was syphilis diagnosed and treated in the 1960s?

When did home pregnancy testing first become available?

What injury or illness could prevent my character from becoming pregnant?

What is the cause of death from a defibrillator shock?

How was diphtheria treated in 1886 in the American Mid-west?

Can exposure to peanuts kill someone who is allergic to them?

What problems could a physician have in 1816 that would lead to his being ostracized by the medical community and society in general?

What traumatic injury can recur and become life threatening a year later?

Could death from a pulmonary embolus follow a severe beating?

Was the term “cancer” known in 1833?

How was breast cancer treated in 1826?

What tests or examinations can be used to distinguish an adult of small stature from a child?

Could a young girl survive gangrene and a leg amputation in the Western frontier in the late 1800s?

What medical treatments for pain and injury were available in ancient Egypt?

Can the injection of air into a vein cause death?

Can a corpse be “bled” after death?

What are the physical findings and mechanism of death in a victim whose face in held beneath boiling water?

How could a serial rapist be rendered impotent by a drug or a surgical procedure in the 1960s?

What injuries occur after a fork stab to the throat?

What is the most “merciful” way to kill someone with a knife?

Can a condom be used to save the life of someone suffering severe lacerations from shattered glass?

What type of injury could cause temporary paralysis after which the victim would be normal?

What Happens in a “hysterical pregnancy”?

How was mental illness treated in 1870?

Was Polio present in the 1890s?

How fast could an aerosolized virus incapacitate a person?

What injuries from a gunshot or a stabbing render a woman unable to bear children?

Was the technology available in the 1980s to keep a “vegetative” pregnant woman alive long enough to deliver her child?

How would a bear bite be treated in a wilderness area?

Can an overly aggressive chiropractic “adjustment” lead to death?

What early 1900s folk remedies were effective for controlling bleeding?

Was toxemia a recognized medical condition in the 1890s?

When did physician hand washing before delivering babies begin?

How would a small pox outbreak on a sailing ship psychologically impact the crew?

What happens when someone is exposed to the vacuum of space?


Part II: Poisons, Toxins, Medications, and Drugs

Is there a drug that will cause amnesia?

Can a single drink of alcohol harm or kill and non-drinker?

Can the type of alcohol a victim has consumed be determined at autopsy?

Will an injected anticoagulant make someone bleed more severely from knife wounds?

What toxin can be administered over time and cause death with symptoms that would mimic a stroke?

Is there a drug that paralyzes yet leaves the victim fully awake?

How much aspirin, taken over several days, would cause significant side effects?

What toxic gas could be used to kill a roomful of people?

When was Mad Hatter’s Disease first described?

Would an old bottle of chloroform still be potent enough to render a person unconscious?

What happens to a person who attempts suicide by drinking a chlorine bleach product?

Can injecting drain cleaner into my victim cause death?

What was the treatment for a heroin overdose in the 1980s?

How long can a balloon filled with heroin remain intact within a “mule’s” stomach?

Can a death row inmate be saved after receiving a lethal injection?

What drug or drugs might be given to someone to cause depression and suicide?

What drug would render an inmate work crew guard unconscious?

How does “truth serum” work?

Can tampering with an elderly woman’s medications cause her death?

What drug available in the 1960s would cause severe intoxication in my character?

What drugs were available during the Medieval period that could render a character unconscious?

How quickly could a combination of Xanax and alcohol kill my character?

What are the initial symptoms and long-term problems associated with a rattlesnake bite?

Would a rattlesnake bite to the carotid artery kill quickly?

Does Aconite (Monkshood) make and effective poison and can it be found by the ME an autopsy?

Can antifreeze ingestion kill an alcoholic?

What drug could my character use to make someone violently ill but not kill them?

Can outdated or altered allergy medications result is the death of a severely allergic person?

Can an injection of potassium quickly kill a hospitalized patient?

Could my character use cyanide added to a contact lens solution to kill another character?

What chemical could make a cigarette toxic?

How does “sewer gas” kill?

What substance added to a massage lotion could cause the death of an athlete?

If my killer uses Abrin as his poison of choice, will the ME be able to find it?

Could my religious terrorist group make genetically-altered toxic corn?

What veterinary medicine could be used to kill one of my characters?

Can Botox be used as a weapon for murder?

What toxin could be used in a “frozen bullet” and bring about the sudden death of my victim?

Can death from an injection of methylene chloride be disguised to look like a death from carbon monoxide inhalation?

How does the toxin of the poisonous California Newt bring about death?

What substance can my soft-hearted thief use to sedate the dogs that guard the estates he robs?

What happens when someone is slowly poisoned with selenium?

Can the abortive herb Tansy cause death?


Part III: The Police, the Crime Scene, and the Crime Lab

When can the police move a corpse at a crime scene?

How long does it take blood to clot when spilled on a tile floor?

How exactly does a corpse decay and what makes a body float when disposed of in a body of water?

How long will evidence survive on a corpse or a murder weapon that is in water?

Can the fingerprint of a perpetrator be lifted from the victim’s severed finger?

Can fingerprints be obtained from a plastic bag?

How long will a corpse bleed after death?

How would the police examine the car of a man that has disappeared?

Can illegally manufactured drugs be traced to a common source?

If a field containing several corpses is discovered, how would the bodies be removed for examination?

Can stored blood be used to “stage” a murder?

Was DNA testing available in the early 1990s?

Can blood and DNA be found on a knife years later?

Can Mitochondrial DNA be used to trace the ancestry of a man?

Will toxicological testing reveal that the victim was a chronic drug user?

Can a murder weapon be identified from the bullet found at the crime scene?

How could a crime scene bullet be altered to render it unusable as evidence?

Is it possible to determine if bruises on a corpse occurred before or after death?

Was semen useful for determining blood type in 1939?

How would the condition of the corpse of someone who froze to death in a freezer differ from that of someone who froze in a remote mountain?

What would a body look like after five years in a periodically frozen swamp?

Does a buried body have an odor after 12 hours?

What would a corpse that had been buried beneath concrete for five months look like?

Can eye movements reveal if someone is lying?

What methods exist for exposing second-page writing?

Can the language used in an E Mail be used to determine authorship?

Is it possible for my sleuth to determine that hair and fiber evidence from a crime scene was planted?

In a victim of a gunshot to the head, is it possible for the coroner to determine if the body was moved an hour after death?

Will a corpse left in a house for many months mummify?

Can the type of sand found on a corpse be used to locate the location of the murder?

How is heroin detected in the body?

Can mercury be found in a murder victim’s hair a year after death?

Can the instrument used to cut a blanket be identified?

How can certificates of birth and death and DNA be used to prove parenthood?

Was it possible to match a bullet to a particular weapon in the 1980s?

Could the police or crime scene investigators distinguish murder from an accidental death caused by the laceration of an artery by a quilting tool?

What drug could cause a stabbing victim to bleed more profusely?

In death from traumatic injuries, could my killer use CPR to trick investigators into thinking the death was due to a gunshot wound?

Can my killer use a paralytic drug to disguise a murder using a gun as a suicide?

Was it possible to uncover Laudanum in a corpse in 1941?

Can toxicological testing distinguish Ativan from Restoril or Valium?

Will spraying blood products over a bloody crime scene obscure Luminol’s determination of the original blood pattern?


Part IV: The Coroner, the Body, and the Autopsy

What obscure autopsy finding could my “rookie” pathologist see that her older mentor might miss?

How long after being dumped into a river will a corpse no longer show evidence of molestation?

Is there a formula for accurately determining the time of death from the corpse’s body temperature?

In a death from electrocution, what are the autopsy findings?

How does the ME determine what weapon caused a particular stab wound?

Can the ME distinguish between an ancient skeleton and a “fresh” one?

Can the sex of a 150-year-old skeleton be determined?

How would a mummified corpse be identified?

Is it possible for the coroner to obtain DNA from a 40-year-old skeleton and if so is it useful for identifying the victim?

Do twins have the same DNA profile?

By using DNA analysis, how long does it take to determine that a rape has occurred?

In a death from beating, can the coroner distinguish injuries caused by fists from those caused by a stick?

What happens to the fetus if the pregnant mother is murdered and dumped in a lake?

In a death due to wrist slashing, can the ME distinguish murder from suicide?

Can an autopsy reveal that my character has had a major facial reconstruction?

Could a death from smothering or strangulation be made to look like a suicidal jump from a tall building?

During an autopsy, can the coroner distinguish bruises from an assault from those suffered from a fall?

What would a corpse look like after two months on a cold mountain?

Can the ME determine where a drowning took place by examining the water in the victim’s lungs?

Can the ME determine that my victim drowned in a punch bowl and not in a lake?

Can a deathblow to the head be masked by a gunshot through the same wound, thus making the death appear to be a suicide?

Is it possible for the coroner to distinguish between murder and suicide in a hanging victim?

Can the examination of the entrance wound on a murder victim show that the weapon used had a silencer?

Can a recent blood transfusion confuse DNA analysis?

What would the ME see internally at autopsy that would reveal exactly what surgical procedures the corpse had undergone?


Part V: Odds and Ends, Mostly Odds

What is the Cause of Death in a Crucifixion?

Could my character hide inside a corpse?

How long after immersion would a head found in a wooden box in the North Sea still be recognizable?

How long does it take for a laxative to take effect?

Can my character die from an imagined disease?

What happens when you get the “wind knocked out of you”?

Do zombie killers leave behind forensic evidence?

Can my ME determine that a character was killed by a boa constrictor?

Would a corpse decay on Mars?

Could the ME determine that my character had been eaten by a werewolf?

Can my villain who is shot in the head just as he is being teleported to another site survive the gunshot?

What is a picarist?

Could my bad guy be severely burned in a tanning bed?

How could my sleuth recognize a chimera?

How could Shakespeare’s Titus grind two corpses fine enough to use in a minced pie?

Would Abraham Lincoln have survived his injuries today?

Could my character choke to death on a scarf she used to fake the regurgitation of ectoplasm?

A Few Final Words


© Douglas Lyle 2015