Blood Poison by D.H. Dublin

Guest Reviewer Wendy Runyon

Blood Poison by D.H. Dublin is the second book in the C.S.U. Investigation series set in Philadelphia. Crime Scene Investigator Madison Cross has been on the job for three months and she already has a reputation stirring up trouble. Madison is stranded at the home of the deceased, Derek Grant, his body splayed out on the kitchen floor, as she waits for the medical examiner's office to retrieve the body. The cause of death appears to be natural, perhaps a heart attack.

Before their arrival, however, the dead man's father arrives home, after having checked himself out of an assisted living home after only a week's stay, and Madison must break the news to him. Madison cannot help but feel for the grieving father, who seems to have no one else in the world. When the routine toxicology panel comes back with questionable results, Madison's job becomes even harder. Did Derek Grant commit suicide or could it be something more sinister?

Meanwhile, Madison is pulled into what appears to be a more complicated investigation when, another body has the entire Philadelphia Crime Scene Unit stumped. They have little to work on besides bones, hair and nail tips. A forensic anthropologist is called in to help with the identification. The woman was obviously murdered, but exactly who she was and why someone would kill her remains unknown. Things are not always what they appear to be and if anyone is bound to uncover the truth, Madison knows just where to look. The closer she gets to uncovering the truth, the more dangerous the situation becomes for her.

Madison is easy to like. She is smart and caring, although perhaps a little naive. She gave up a promising medical career to work with the Crime Scene Unit along side her uncle, Lieutenant David Cross, and is trying to settle into her new life. She is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters who are talented and supportive.

Author D.H. Dublin has written a suspense filled novel. He takes the reader into the center of a crime scene unit and lets the reader walk through the paces of what it might take to solve a crime, weaving the investigation naturally into this entertaining crime fiction novel. I will definitely be keeping a look out for further books by D.H. Dublin.

Questions for the author:

How did the character of Madison come to be? Did you have a favorite character that you especially enjoyed writing about?

Madison came about through conversations with my editor at Berkley, Katie Day. We both had some specific ideas about Madison, about who she was and where she came from, and it started there. Madison has had some tragedies in her past, and as a writer, I think it's always interesting to look at how these events of the past impact a character. One of the great things about writing a series is that you get to continue to explore how events change a person over a longer term than the arc of a single book. Madison is definitely the character with whom I've grown the most attached. I've spent a lot of time occupying her point of view and thinking about her motivation and her world. But while there is a lot of me in Madison, we're obviously very different people, so also I enjoy writing for characters that give me an outlet for my more smart-alecky tendencies, like Tommy Parker and Spoons.

What kind of research do you need to put into writing a crime scene investigation series? Do you have a background in the field or is it just something you are interested in writing about?

I do not have a professional background in forensics. I had long been fascinated by it and had done a lot of reading before starting the Madison Cross series, but I had to do a lot of research. It was tremendously enjoyable, but it was a huge amount of work. I started out with a few books and a few experts who would help me, but most of the research started with Google. After the internet phase, I would find studies and articles to read, and then, of course, the people who had written them. There were some instances where people did not want to talk to me, or I could not track them down, but I was continually impressed by the generosity of the experts in the field, most of whom were very gracious about sharing their expertise. You can learn a lot by reading, about how things work and the science and the ideas behind certain procedures and technologies, but when you want to know how to depict something being used, you need to speak to a human being. A book or an article won't tell you if you have time to get a cup of coffee in the middle of a procedure. There are different stages of research throughout the writing process. I'll do preliminary research that gives me a broad understanding of the forensic techniques I plan on using in a book. That research will often spark ideas for different directions a book can take. Once I have determined which techniques or procedures I plan on featuring in a book, I'll research those particular applications more deeply. But the research is also part of the writing process, and I'll often have to stop and research questions that pop up, even into the final draft. I have always been fascinated by the writing process of my favorite authors.

Describe your writing process. Do you outline and plan everything ahead of time, knowing exactly how the story is going to end up, or do you take things as they come, start wring and see where the characters and story take you?

I'm a bit of a plot junkie, which means I have an outline dependency as well. For me, any project starts out with a central idea, a nugget or hook at the middle of everything. Since I write thrillers and crime novels, my central idea often has something to do with the crime at the center of the book. I'm one of those people whose brain is rarely idle, so if the idea captures my imagination, I immediately -- and involuntarily -- move on to the next phase, the free-flowing idea/brainstorming phase, just thinking and writing down every idea that comes to me. This is one of my favorites parts of the process, because everything's possible and there are no rules. After that, I start to outline, figuring out what works, what doesn't, and how. For the CSU books, where so many plot points rest on technical or procedural elements, I need to know exactly where I'm going, so I'll write a 30 – 50 page outline. I know plenty of writers don't outline, but for me, any mystery/crime/thriller has a lot do with the revelation of information about the central mystery, so for me it is important to know how you are going to reveal each bit of information, both to the characters and to the reader. Once I start writing the first draft, I usually have to go back and revise the outline periodically, but I'm still a big fan of having the outline there. It's great when characters let you know how they would act, but if you have a good understanding of a character in the first place, you will have resolved most of those conflicts in the outline phase. Sometimes you need characters to do things that don't on the face hem reconcile with who the characters are, but I usually look at those instances as opportunities to look deeper into characters and figure out what would motivate them to act the way I need for them to act. I find I get a lot of insight into my characters and interesting little subplots by pursuing those little eddies of character and plot.

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