Languages for All
Short Courses
Your basket
Your account

Forensic Science and Classic Crime Fiction

Course Times & Enrolment

Wednesdays from 4th October 2023 (Code SN114-103) Wednesdays from
4th October 2023 2:10pm - 5:00pm • (5 classes)
G38 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Laura Sinfield HND, BA, MSc, PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

This course uses three classic British crime authors to explore how forensic fiction of the past compares with forensic fact; it will look at the development of British forensic medicine and forensic science, with examples from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge of forensic science necessary but a general familiarity with the crime fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie is desirable.

Content of Course

This course looks at the ways in which crime fiction comes into existence in the mid-19th century and is fully established by the mid-20th century. Both forensic medicine and forensic science come into existence and are fully established in the same timeframe. It will look at the parallels and the crossovers between fact and fiction, and try to place each into the appropriate background, mostly focusing on Edinburgh's fascinating forensic history.

Teaching method(s)

Each class is structured around two lecture-sessions, which will include general discussion with a group-work session in the middle with activities that are specific to each class's period or topic. 

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course will be able to:

  • Relate the development of forensic work to the development of forensic fiction, and vice versa;

  • Discuss the ways in which authors did or did not use recent developments;

  • Recognise how changes in the science and medicine affected the fiction and discuss whether the fiction influenced the criminal casework.


Core Readings


There is no compulsory reading, although a familiarity with the three authors' crime fiction will be helpful.


Some of the main works of the three authors mentioned above, in any paperback edition:

  • Christie, A., 2007. The Mysterious Affair At Styles. London: HarperCollins

  • Conan D., 2001. A Study in Scarlet. London: Penguin Classics

  • Sayers, D., 1963. Whose Body? UK: Hodder & Stoughton


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.