2. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Clues

As mystery writers, we know the importance of getting as much information as possible from the crime scene. Investigators collect blood and skin from under a victim’s fingernails. They estimate time of death by the state of rigor mortis and a body’s lividity. Police photographers take pictures and videos. Everything that is related to a murder is bagged and saved as evidence.

Detectives examine the crime scene and surrounding areas to see what else they might find to aid the investigation. For example, they may see an empty jewelry case, which could indicate robbery as the motive. Everything our detective sees or hears is important to the case.

What’s absent from this analysis is what happened before and during the commission of the crime. Surveillance cameras may have captured the scene, but what if they didn’t? This is where a software application I created in a story in my book, Murder in the Sunset Years, comes in. The murder takes place backstage during a break between the matinee and evening performance of a community playhouse production.  The actors are passing time until they must again go onstage. They use their smart phones to take photos and videos of each other and of the theater. Later in the evening, one of them is killed. (I won’t tell you how. You’ll have to read my book to find out.)

The police use standard investigation techniques, such as collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses. My amateur detectives, a college professor and his students in a Forensic Technology workshop, add a new tool for solving crimes, image meshing software. They combine pictures and footage captured on the actors’ phones, combine them, and make one 3D video that shows everyone and everything in the theater during the time between performances. They don’t see the actual murder, but they don’t have to. Our astute detectives see something innocently captured in an image that leads to unmasking the killer.

Mystery writers can use this technology whenever a murder occurs during a large gathering. At a wedding, for example, you have the snapshots and videos of the professional photographers as well as those of the guests. There are multiple cameras at sporting events, as well as TV footage of the playing field and the fans. Have your investigators collect the pictures and footage from every source. They can then find clues to solve the crime.

I’ll be interested in hearing how you use this type of software in your stories. Please let me know.

May all your murders be pleasant ones.

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