Q: The title, Blood Lies, has both literal and figurative significance to the story, can you explain?
A: The novel’s hero, Dr. Benjamin Dafoe, becomes the prime suspect in his former fiancée’s murder when a streak of his blood is found on the wall of the gruesome crime scene. Ben goes on the run to clear his name, believing that he’s looking for his missing-and-presumed-dead identical twin brother. Along the way, he learns that blood lies—both in terms of how DNA evidence can mislead and also in the figurative sense of the secrets and lies his own blood relatives keep.
Q: I thought we learned from the media and shows like CSI that DNA evidence is undisputable. Can DNA testing really mislead?
A:I try to shed light on the science behind forensic DNA evidence. While the technique itself is incredibly accurate—despite the assertions of OJ’s defense team—there are still limitations. In the case of identical twins—like the story’s hero and his missing brother—the DNA of one sibling’s blood sample would be indistinguishable from the other on testing. Also, blood or other DNA sources could be ‘planted’ at a crime scene to point toward the wrong suspect. There are other exceptions, too, but I would give away too much of the central twist of the story by sharing them now.
Q: Like the protagonist, you are an ER doctor. Do you try to give you readers a glimpse of the “behind the curtain” world of the Emergency Room?
A: Absolutely. While I’ve never been wrongfully accused of murder and had to flee as a fugitive, my practice in Vancouver in an inner city ER is the inspiration for Ben’s practice in Seattle. In the story, I’ve envisioned a few life-and-death anecdotes that are based on my own clinical experiences. And throughout, I have tried to use my perspective as an experienced insider to convey a true sense of the ER—from the routine rhythm and grind to the unpredictable extremes and, at times, comically bizarre that is par for the course for anyone in the field.
Q: Drug addiction, and the lives it ruins, is a recurring theme in the novel. What’s your background with this issue, and how has it impacted you and your writing?
A: Fortunately, I have never been personally touched by it. However, in my ER practice I deal with a significant population of drug abusers. I’m always amazed by the diversity of their backgrounds, and I am constantly reminded that most of these people—even the ones who have hit rock bottom of hard-core intravenous heroin, crack, and or crystal meth addiction—came from ‘normal’ upbringings, careers, and families. Few, if any, set out to wind up as addicts. In the story, I have tried to capture the sense of how drug abuse can devastate lives—not just for the addict herself, but the family, too. Ben Dafoe is a ‘second-hand victim’ who has suffered greatly as the result of his brother’s and his former fiancée’s drug habits. Ben has an addiction of his own—biking—but he’s all too aware how easily he could slip into the grip of the drug or alcohol dependency that runs in his family.
Q: The hero’s flight takes him underground—literally—into a thriving world of American/Canadian cross-border drug trafficking controlled by organized crime. Does this multi-billion-dollar “B.C. Bud” drug trade really exist as you describe it?
A: It’s very real. The ultra-potent marijuana grown in British Columbia has created an entire industry of illegal ‘grow ops’. BC Bud is exported south to the USA in exchange for cash, cocaine, or weapons. As the financial stakes have risen, so have the gang rivalry and violence associated with the trade, causing headaches for law enforcement on both sides of the border. In the novel, Benjamin Dafoe escapes to Canada through a fictional tunnel that runs underneath the border. It is based on a real case—one of a number of such underground channels—that the American and Canadian authorities unearthed a few years back. That discovery became front-page news for The New York Times and other North American papers.
Q: HIV testing, and the so-called ‘lag time’ for the test to turn positive, factors into the plot. Can you explain?
A:HIV infection and testing are pivotal issues in the novel. Unfortunately, HIV is a common complication in the lives of intravenous drug users who share needles and/or have unprotected sex. One of the key plot points deals with the fact that once someone is initially infected with HIV, the blood test might not turn positive for up to six weeks following exposure. In other words, an initial blood test could potentially give false reassurance to someone who had been exposed to the virus within weeks of testing. In real life, it is the reason we do repeat or ‘serial’ testing after exposure. But in Blood Lies, the implications are even more sinister.