Saturday, December 23, 2017

Forensic Facial Reconstruction

I’ve long found the process of forensic facial reconstruction to be fascinating. It is a combination of science and art. The process begins with measured data about the average depth of tissues at various key locations around the skull. The forensic artist builds up "tissues" on the skull from the unknown remains using clay or, as described in The Reconstruction, computer software. The artist then adjusts the resulting approximation of the unknown individual’s living face based on any other information available about the individual and thoughtful choices regarding eye and hair color, hairstyle, and similar details.

Lisa Bailey’s book Ask a Forensic Artist: Skulls, Suspects, and the Art of Solving Crime (Honeybee Media 2014) is an engaging read for anyone interested in learning more about this topic. That book also describes other types of work a forensic artist performs, such as creating composite sketches from eyewitness descriptions and performing age progression to approximate what an individual might look like some years after a photograph was taken.

The computer-based process I described in The Reconstruction is as accurate as I could make it, within the tolerance of literary license. To see some fascinating descriptions and videos of computer-based forensic facial reconstruction, I recommend visiting The AFRAM software I described in the novel is not real, but it’s patterned after the examples illustrated at that website.

Friday, September 22, 2017

What do you think happens to Jessica?

If you’ve read The Reconstruction all the way through, you might have been surprised by the ending. It’s a bit, shall we say, open-ended. Not everyone likes stories that end ambiguously (remember the final episode of The Sopranos?). Nearly everyone finds the ending intriguing after they think about it a bit, though.

So, what do you think happens to Jessica after the last sentence of the book? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Inverted Mystery

The Reconstruction belongs to a fiction genre called inverted mystery, also known as an inverted detective story, reverse whodunit, or “howcatchem.” In an inverted mystery, you know from the beginning who the victim is and who was involved in the crime. For the reader, the suspense comes not from trying to figure out who committed the crime, but rather from seeing what happens as people attempt to unravel the mystery and catch the bad guy. The reader might end up knowing more about the crime and the criminals than the investigators. The old television show Columbo used this technique.

For The Reconstruction, I described the crime in a prologue set five years prior to the rest of the story. This seemed appropriate because to do a forensic facial reconstruction, a forensic sculptor needs a skeleton to work on. It usually takes a while to turn a dead body into a skeleton. So you see what happens and learn a little about the victim and the perpetrators at the very beginning. Then you watch Jessica and Adam do their best to figure out the victim’s identity, learn what happened to her, and catch whoever did it.

What do you think of this approach to a mystery? Have you read other books in this genre before that you would recommend?