The Forensics of Blood in a Paranormal World
By MSW Guest Silver James
Once upon a time, before I left the real world to hide in the worlds of my imagination—and write about them—I was a technical investigator and forensic photographer. Y’all may be more familiar with the term CSI (Crime Scene Investigator). My job was all about the crime scene and evidence—in whatever form it took. I’ve investigated bombings, plane crashes, homicides, suicides, arsons and arson deaths, drug labs—just about every crime in the book, including a kidnapping.
I admit I enjoy the occasional crime-centric TV show. Okay. I love NCIS (despite wondering how the heck they have jurisdiction!) and Longmire, among others. The CSI franchise? Not so much. While they portray the basics fairly accurately, they still get stuff wrong—mainly because things don’t happen immediately in the real world. Want a DNA test? On TV, it’s a matter of hours. In reality? It can take from two weeks to many months. Autopsies on demand? Yeah, no. Only a very high-profile case would get bumped to the front of the line. I can’t tell you the number of times I waited for hours at a crime scene waiting for the ME’s investigator to arrive.
When Allison invited me to guest blog, I considered telling some “war stories.” I have more than a few. Instead, I’ve decided to talk about how my past career meshes with the world-building I do when I’m writing. In my current series, the main character is Sade Marquis, a human FBI agent tasked with solving supernatural crimes. Since I’m stickler for authenticity in fiction, I had to create the appropriate forensics and investigative techniques in the paranormal world of the Penumbra Papers.
Today, I’m going to talk a little about how forensics work in that world–specifically, about vampires, DNA, and blood typing. From SEASON OF THE WITCH, and Sade’s POV:
If people had known about vampires back in the day, there would have been no need to develop DNA testing. A vampire’s palate can’t be fooled. Not when it comes to blood and genetic typing. Her godfather, Mathias, knew from the barest taste of her blood that his accountant, William Marquis, was her father. That her mother, Tracie, had been the mistress of King Oberon at the time of her birth didn’t help matters. Of course, the King and Queen of Glitter Land weren’t satisfied with the outcome. Oberon and Titania, the most royal of the royal Seelie Court. Faeries. Sade’s life would be so much simpler without the fae mucking about in it.
We won’t mention how Mathias came to taste Sade’s blood when she was a baby. He claims it was for her protection. I happen to know it’s because he’s a control freak. Shhh. 😉
Any time there is a shooting or homicide, one of the main sources of evidence is blood. There are whole specialties dealing with blood–blood splatter, blood typing, blood testing (for drugs and alcohol). And maybe because I’m adopted and had to bow out of those simple DNA tests in biology (there was one I still remember about determining eye color–my dad’s were brown, my mother’s green, and my brother’s green–mine are blue…hrmmmm) because I had no bloodlines to compare, I find the study of it interesting. Positive and negative. A, B. AB, O… You can follow THIS LINK for a fairly easy-to-understand overview of blood types and population clusters. And THIS LINK discusses blood donor compatibility and genetics.
For a long time, the medical community believed that type O negative blood was the universal blood donor type. Anyone—regardless of blood type—could receive a transfusion of type O negative blood without risking a bad reaction, or so they thought. Further study now indicates that even type O negative blood may have antibodies that cause serious transfusion reactions.
In addition to the four “letter” classifications of blood, it’s also classified by rhesus (Rh) factor. This refers to a specific red blood cell antigen. If your blood has the antigen, you’re Rh positive. If your blood lacks the antigen, you’re Rh negative.
Ideally, a patient receives a transfusion with donated blood that’s an exact match for type and Rh factor. Even so, samples of the recipient’s and donor’s blood are mixed—a process known as crossmatching—to check compatibility. In an emergency, though, type O negative red blood cells may be given to anyone—especially if the situation is life-threatening or the matching blood type is in short supply.
So what does this have to do with vampires in the world of Penumbra? Vampires are blood snobs. Type O positive (O+) is the beer of bloods, with O- like craft beers. The majority of humans have O+ blood pumping in their veins. Curious as to what would be the Dom Perignon of blood to a vampire? AB-. That’s the rarest blood type. And no, I wouldn’t do that to Sade. 😉 Despite her other sterling qualities, she’s plain ol’ O negative. Hey, I had to give her a bit of flavor.
By now, y’all are probably wondering how warped I must be to sit around thinking about this stuff. I confess—I come down on the dark side. The forensics behind my books might never appear in print, beyond generalizations, but to me, they make the world more real…and realistic. As a reader, I appreciate a writer who understands the intricacies of their world. As a writer, I’m more comfortable if I know the…well, for lack of a better word, the physics of the world I’ve created. Even the magical races in my books have blood types and genetic markers. Magic smells—at least to a werewolf, and like a well-trained bloodhound, a werewolf with a good nose can track down a spellcaster by scent markers left at the scene. But that’s a topic—and a paranormal crime—for another day. 😉
Thank you, Allison, for inviting me today. Murder She Writes is always a daily stop and besides you being a friend, I’m a huge fan of your books! As for the rest of you, do you have any questions about forensics—in the real world or a fantasy world?
Bio: Silver likes to walk on the dark side and coffee. Okay. She loves coffee. LOTS of coffee. Warning: Her Muse, Iffy, runs with scissors and can be quite dangerous. She’s the author of the new Urban Fantasy series, The Penumbra Papers, the award-winning Moonstruck series and other books! She’s been a military officer’s wife, mother, state appellate court marshal, airport rescue firefighter and forensic fire photographer, crime analyst, technical crimescene investigator, and writer of magic and mystery. Now retired from the “real world,” she lives in Oklahoma and spends her days at the computer with two Newfoundland dogs, the cat who rules them all, and myriad characters all clamoring for attention. She writes dark paranormal thrillers, time travel romance, and light contemporary with a kiss of suspense.