A GOOD DEATH was inspired by ideas around honour killings (regularly in the news in Birmingham) and mercy killing (or assisted dying), which is a subject of recurring national debate, and the fact that these terms have become more palatable euphemisms for what is, after all, unlawful killing or murder.
On a walking holiday, in the old eastern Germany last summer, we came across a number of burnt out houses – at least one in every town we passed through – a hazard of the trend for timbered houses. Although far from being a fool-proof method of killing someone, a house fire can be, nonetheless, a way of disguising a more serious crime.
I then became interested in how the professionals – fire and police services – would go about investigating an unexplained house fire, to prove arson and murder. I’ve had a police contact for a number of years, but to research A Good Death I also got in touch with our local Fire Investigation team and spent a couple of afternoons talking to (and asking lots of questions of!) the lead investigator.
Among other things, I learned (contrary to my belief) that water preserves accelerants, and that whilst the unit’s sniffer dog can pick up the tiniest traces of accelerant, his handler has no sense of smell! Much of what I learned could not be included in A Good Death, which is, after all, a crime story, not a fire investigation manual, but wherever possible I have stuck to the facts.
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Chris Collett is a university lecturer, teaching undergraduate students on subjects including special education needs, disabilities and inclusion, and equality and human rights. When she isn’t working, Chris enjoys walking, badminton, photography, reading, cinema, theatre and comedy.