Thursday, September 19, 2013

Writers' Police Academy 2013 — part 3

After my Saturday morning shift and a dose of firearms training, I attended the "From Crime Scene to Court" workshop on crime scene evidence. There's so much going on at Writers' Police Academy one can't catch it all. I didn't even make it to all the sessions Dave Pauly and Katherine Ramsland taught, but showed up enough to qualify as a forensics groupie.

Kathy Reichs, forensic anthropologist and bestselling author, led the afternoon special session. Her books inspired the TV show Bones. Since I don't have TV, I didn't know much about her work, but found her presentation fascinating. She bases all the forensic puzzles in her books on cases she's handled in real life.

Kathy Reichs with new fan Elizabeth Saunders
Kathy explained that a forensic anthropologist is called in when an autopsy is no longer possible because of decay, and an archaeologist when the body is too old to impact a court case, about 30 to 40 years. Her puzzles include more than murder — she's worked on disaster sites, mass graves, POW/MIA cases, and identified the bones of an 18th-century nun.

I came home and found one of her books in my bookshop, Spider Bones (no, I haven't read every book in the shop!).

I devoured it — all day Sunday and part of Monday. 

(No spoilers) One plot line involves identifying the remains of a soldier killed in Vietnam. Kathy used her work with JPAC, the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, for details in the story.

At my part-time archives job, I've been processing a collection of papers on the Vietnam War all month. I knew little about those times, and the work has been both enlightening and disturbing. I would have enjoyed Spider Bones' forensics, intertwining subplots and family drama anyway, but the collection at work gave me a fresh perspective.

Tomorrow (Sept. 20 this year) is POW/MIA Recognition Day. "Until They Are Home" — that's JPAC's motto.

In tomorrow's post, travel back in time to remember other POWs — from 150 years ago.

This post contains affiliate links. And here's a temporary link to two signed copies of Kathy Reichs books. 

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