Fifteen years or more ago, I began to consider I might try my hand at writing a contemporary murder mystery. In reading Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven Per-cent Solution, Freud explained to Holmes, “I’m a detective of the mind.” That summary explanation rang a bell for me. That’s what I do. That’s what any good forensic psychologist does: he or she tries to use scientific methods to “detect” and explain, as accurately and reliably as possible, why people do what they do.
The stories underlying the cases in which I have been privileged to be involved often reinforce the oft-cited view that the truth is stranger than fiction. Human beings do some very strange, odd, cruel, and seemingly inexplicable things to and with one another. I decided to write some fictional accounts of the themes and types of cases I have encountered.
In today’s world, there exists what has been referred to as the “CSI Effect.” When the average person hears I am a forensic psychologist, he or she assumes I somehow deal with dead bodies. I seek to write an entertaining, exciting story, but one that also provides the reader with a fuller understanding of what a forensic psychologist really does.
When I am retained in a criminal case, it is often by the attorney whose client has been charged with murder. Thus, there is a dead body in the case, but the story I pursue is to understand and help the attorney, the court, the prosecution, and the jury perhaps comprehend the murderer’s state of mind at the time of the crime. What psychological explanation might there be to understand why a man might bludgeon his grandfather to death with a claw hammer? What might be the psychopathological underpinnings of a relationship that leads a mother to poison or drown her child?
When I am appointed by a family law judge to evaluate a high-conflict child custody case, the court may be seeking help not only about what custodial arrangement might be in the children’s best interests, but also might find it helpful to understand why parents, who once used to love one another, are now engaged in all-out-efforts to annihilate one another to such a degree their children’s welfare and emotional safety are consumed by the parents’ desire for revenge and multiple pounds of flesh?