Consulting a specialist

Novels featuring amateur detectives are usually set against specialist backgrounds reflecting areas of their authors' own expertise. Ellis Peters' medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, for example and Jonathan Gash's roguish antiques dealer Love-joy are just two such successful fictional sleuths.

In this type of novel, the fascinating backgrounds give rise to sub-plots and back stories which are as gripping to the reader as the crime being solved. If a new specialist amateur sleuth is to break into this overcrowded field of fiction, their background must be completely different from any other detective series currently on the bookshelves.

Relying on the professionals

' Police procedurals', where a professional police officer solves the crime, feature up-to-the-minute police methods and the latest advances in forensic science. Accuracy is vital and the detective needs to be a fairly colourful or eccentric character.

CASE STUDY: SUE ENJOYS A GOOD MURDER

Sue is a great fan of murder mysteries and her clerical job at the local police station has given her an excellent insight into police procedures. Drawing on the knowledge she has gained through her work, she is in the process of creating a female Detective Inspector and is currently planning a murder mystery novel featuring a back story dealing with sexual harassment within the police force.

CHOOSING A MURDER WEAPON

The choice of murder weapon should be realistic, bearing in mind that the cause of death could be any one of the following:

♦ a blow from a blunt instrument

♦ stabbing with a knife or sharp implement

♦ strangulation

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