Book Review: Howdunit

Vision 66

Book Review: Howdunit Edited by John Boertlein


Maria Gianakos

Copyright © 2012, Maria Gianakos, All Rights Reserved



The back cover of Howdunit reads:


For over ten years and through fourteen volumes, the classic Howdunit writer's reference series has cast a bright light on the deep shadows where criminals hide, exposing truth about everything from homicide and detective work to confidence schemes and autopsies. The series stood without equal in providing detailed information teat was too difficult -- or dangerous -- too acquire on your own . . . until now.


Howdunit, the all-in-one writer's crime reference, compiles twenty classic chapters from the original series with nine all-new offerings that illuminate the dark side of human nature and the methods used to confront it. . . .


While clearly not as complete as any of the single Howdunit volumes, this trade paperback does provide excellent tidbits of information on a variety of different subjects and may prove to be a better resource for anyone who needs only a glossing of information rather than anything in depth. In other words, someone who has a murder as part of a story, but is not writing a murder mystery, may find the information in these chapters


This book may also be helpful for people who aren't certain what they need to know to write their mystery story. Someone new to mystery writing may want to use the books as a short course in modern crime, though many of the items could be adapted to earlier time frames or used in science fiction. Chapters cover various types of murder (mass, serial, bizarre) plus information on how the body is handled and the autopsy. However, a mystery may involve more than murder, or may not have a murder at all. Larceny, Burglary, Robbery, Assault and Cons are also covered.


Material is presented on both the criminal side and on the investigative side of the equation. Crime Scene Searches, Interviews and Interrogations, Forensic Psychology and Profiling the Criminal are a few more of the chapters covered.


The section titled Particular Problems may be of special use to people who are not writing a mystery per say. This section includes street gangs, hate groups, terrorists, vice enforcement, prostitution, sexual predators and more. These are elements found in many modern day books and all areas of society, so you might have use for these chapters.


Because these chapters come from various books (and each chapter lists the book of origin, making it easier to find more information) and different authors, they are written in slightly different styles which can be disconcerting when reading through. This is not as obvious when scanning for specific information, however.


Howdunit is a good introduction to the working side of crime and mystery providing the necessary clues to help set up the crime and to solve it as well. This information can help you get the basics right.


Howdonit: How crimes are Solved Edited by John Boertlein

ISBN: 1-58297-015-7