Before CSI: Making the Case for a Novel Portrayal of Forensic Science

By Vanda Symon, Susan Heydon, Natalie Medlicott, Jules Kieser and Jean S. Fleming.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 24, 2015 $US5.00

Forensic science has been portrayed in television, journalism, and fiction for over a century. Since the launch of the flagship television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” in 2000, much has been made of the so-called “CSI effect”. However, forensic science had been incorporated into many traditional media long before CSI. We used Ngaio Marsh’s 1935 novel, “The Nursing Home Murder,” to illustrate the influence of news media, literature, and drama on the author’s decision to use hyoscine as a poison in the work. We examine the accurate portrayal of science in written crime fiction and its dissemination to the reader. The possible use of that information in copycat crime is also discussed. Content analysis demonstrates the possible influences of written media and personal connections on Marsh when choosing hyoscine as her murder weapon, and suggests she was aware of the potential for a criminal to get "the big idea" from her work.

Keywords: Science, Communication, Popular Media

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 6, Issue 3-4, June 2015, pp.7-15. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 24, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 341.222KB)).

Vanda Symon

PhD Candidate, School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Dr. Susan Heydon

School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Natalie Medlicott

School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Jules Kieser

Director, Sir John Walsh Research Institute, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Prof. Jean S. Fleming

Professor Emerita, Science Communication, (retired), The University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand