Monday, June 20, 2016

Getting the Details Right for a Police Procedural with K.L. Murphy

Right up front, let me thank Roxanne for having me today and for letting me talk about my Detective Cancini series. I’m thrilled that both A GUILTY MIND (#1 in the series) and STAY OF EXECUTION (#2 in the series) are being published this month. The third book in the series, tentatively titled THE LAST SIN (#3), is slated to be published early next year. Woohoo!

Because the series features my favorite Washington, D.C., homicide detective, Mike Cancini, I’ve spent hours and hours researching guns and DNA and organizational charts. However, the research itself is not linear. I typically write the first draft of my novels with the focus being the story itself. The details, including specific gun or DNA details are added in later (I just mark the spots in the text I want to come back to and expand on). 

Why is it important to get the details right? First, the story needs to be believable. Obviously, you can’t write a police procedural set in modern times and not include things like DNA or fingerprint analysis. These are elements of almost any homicide investigation. Additionally, a detail that rings false will take the reader out of the story and frankly, readers deserve better. For these reasons, I’ve done my best to keep things realistic throughout the investigations in all three books, however, I make no promises on the twists I throw in!

Each of the stories in the Cancini series has required different and interesting research. One of the things I loved most about A GUILTY MIND was the dynamic between George Vandenberg and his psychiatrist, Dr. Edmund Michael. However, to solve the murder of Dr. Michael, Cancini needed to understand that relationship while not breeching doctor-patient confidentiality.  I’m fortunate to have a good friend who is a former psychologist and was willing to read the manuscript and offer advice. As many writers can tell you, this is the best way to get the details right!

A GUILTY MIND opens with a brutal stabbing and Cancini is fast on the scene in Chapter Two. So, early in the book, I had to touch on subjects such as fingerprints, position of the body, murder weapon, and details of the crime scene. Because the murder takes place in an office, I also had to consider building security (there was none), cameras (none), and other tenants (heard nothing). At the scene, Cancini is already talking about the crime scene photographer, canvassing the other building tenants, and the medical examiner. Quite a bit of this is just logical, but it helps to peruse crime-writing sites to be sure everything is reasonable. 

Because my books include death and take place in D.C. and Virginia, some of my favorite sites to use are:!blogger/adw0n - Fiona Quinn’s blog which features great interviews and specific information. – 
This site is exactly what it says it is. Although, it’s not always necessary to know how the time of death is determined, it helps to read up on the decomposition of the body. - Another site to help get the time of death right. - A link to research the D.C. Police Department - A starting point to the FBI which is featured in STAY OF EXECUTION and THE LAST SIN.

Although the murder weapon in A GUILTY MIND is a knife and not a gun, it was important that I learn a little about guns when I did use them in STAY OF EXECUTION and THE LAST SIN. Before my research, I knew absolutely nothing (and I still know next to nothing), but I felt it was important to have the guns used make sense in the story. Would a character have that type of gun? What type of ammunition did it require? Was the weight of the gun a problem for the user? These are all minor details and to someone who knows nothing about guns (like me!), any mistakes might not be noticed. Still, out of respect for those who do have knowledge of guns, I’ve tried to get it right. 

A GUILTY MIND and THE LAST SIN are set in D.C. (although portions of book #1 are in central Virginia). I worked in D.C. for many years so I have some familiarity with the area, however, I used detailed maps to get the locations just right. In THE LAST SIN, I also reference a housing project and hope I’ve accurately portrayed not just the location and the physical description, but also the feel of the place.

STAY OF EXECUTION required research into DNA analysis and a general understanding of the evolution of the process. I am not a science person (that’s why I write fiction!), so it was important for me to explain without getting too technical. While the timeline of the evolution may not be exact, the general growth in the field is as well as the use of the evidence. I also created a fictional organization that is very loosely based on The Innocence Project.

One of the wonderful things about the cyber world is not only that a writer can research from their desk, but also that they can store that information to use over and over again. In that way, mystery and thriller writers can give readers the best books possible. I genuinely hope readers will enjoy the series and love Detective Cancini as much as I do.

Thanks again for hosting me, Roxanne, and happy reading! 

A Guilty Mind
A Detective Cancini Mystery
Book One
K.L. Murphy

On-Sale 6/14/2016    

ISBN: 9780062491626

Genre: Crime Mystery, Mystery and Detective / Police Procedural

Publisher: Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins

About the Book:

Accused of murdering his psychiatrist, a broken man must face his horrific past in order to protect his future.

George Vandenberg is a drunk with a volatile temper, haunted by the memory of the young woman he once loved and tragically lost. Wrestling with his guilt and pushed by his psychiatrist to confess his role in her death, he teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown, blacking out drunk more often than not.

But when his doctor turns up dead, brutally stabbed to death in his office, George has nowhere left to turn. Stunned and confused, George emerges as the primary suspect in an investigation led by Detective Mike Cancini, a D.C. cop who knows all too well how far a man can go when he’s pushed.

To prove his innocence, George must face the police, his manipulative wife, and the shell of a man he’s become. But as much as George wants to forget his history, the past is not done with him…

Stay of Execution
A Detective Cancini Mystery
Book Two
K.L. Murphy

On-Sale 6/28/2016   

ISBN: 9780062491619

Genre: Crime Mystery, Mystery and Detective / Police Procedural

Publisher: Witness Impulse, an imprint of HarperCollins

Perfect for fans of Making a Murderer, a novel about a man exonerated of heinous crimes returning to a town that can’t let go of his bloody legacy.

Little Springs was just a small college town, the kind of place where everyone knew everyone and crime was virtually nonexistent—until a series of rapes and murders at the college shook the community to its core. Only the arrest and conviction of Leo Spradlin, the “Coed Killer,” could end the terror.

Years later, Spradlin is suddenly cleared based on unshakable DNA evidence, and no one is more surprised than Detective Mike Cancini. As new questions arise about the true identity of the murderer, Cancini struggles to accept his role in the conviction of an innocent man.

But when the attacks begin again, Cancini is not the only one who worries a mistake has been made. Cancini is drawn back to Little Springs, caught in a race against time to uncover the real “Coed Killer” before the next girl dies…

About the Author:

K.L. MURPHY was born in Key West, Florida, the eldest of four children in a military family. She has worked as a freelance writer for several regional publications in Virginia, and is the author of A Guilty Mind and Stay of Execution. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, four children, and two very large, very hairy dogs. She is currently working on her next novel, The Last Sin.

To learn more about the Detective Cancini Mystery series or future projects, visit

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Unknown said...

Thank you again for hosting me this week! Happy summer reading to all!