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Mystery writer Archer Mayor and organic chemist Rabi Musah at the University at Albany on Tuesday, March 27

Q&A about the craft of mystery writing with Archer Mayor — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library

Conversation, “Corpses, Blow Flies, and Post-Mortem Forensics” with Archer Mayor and Rabi Musah — 7:30 p.m., D’Ambra Auditorium, Life Sciences Research Building


Albany, NY - How do flies find dead bodies so quickly? How does a mystery writer incorporate science into his writing without getting too technical? Fans of mystery novels -- and organic chemistry – are invited to "Corpses, Blow Flies, and Post-Mortem Forensics," a unique conversation with bestselling mystery author Archer Mayor and UAlbany organic chemist Rabi Musah at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, in the D'Ambra Auditorium, Life Sciences Research Building at the University at Albany uptown campus.

Archer Mayor and the cover of TraceEarlier that same day, Mayor will discuss the craft of mystery writing and hold a Q&A session at 4:15 p.m. in the Standish Room, Science Library, also on the uptown campus.

Free and open to the public, both events are sponsored by the NYS Writers Institute and the School of Criminal Justice.

Archer Mayor, praised by The New York Times as "the boss man on procedures," has published 28 novels in his Joe Gunther detective series. He has also worked as a death investigator for Vermont's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and as a detective for the Windham County Sheriff's Office. Mayor was awarded the Robert B. Parker Award, named for "the dean of mystery writers," and the Vermont Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Set partly in Albany, the most recent book in the Gunther series is Trace (2017). In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it "outstanding" and "a welcome addition to the long-running series." An Associated Press review of Tag Man (2011) praised Mayor's distinctive approach to his genre: "Mayor writes an intelligent mystery. His characters are real, the things that happen to them are logical, and the plot is believable. It's a pleasure to find a story that captures readers' attention, makes them care about the characters - and offers such dark chills."

Rabi MusahRabi Musah is UAlbany Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Musah Research Lab, where her team has developed a method of quickly identifying insect eggs at crime scenes using high resolution mass spectrometry.

In a 2017 profile published in Scientific American, Musah described the nature of decomposition of a corpse. "As soon as a person dies, decomposition begins. And the first visitors arrive. Within five to 15 minutes of death, blowflies or other insects begin to colonize the body." Different species turn up at different stages of decomposition. "Because of that, depending on what entomological evidence you find, you can learn something about when the person died in terms of the timing of the death."

Born in Chicago, Musah moved with her family when she was five to Ghana in West Africa, the homeland of her father. Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl interviewed Musah for a story published in the Albany Times Union in 2013. "As a child, she became fascinated with the practice of medicine by traditional healers. 'It was interesting to observe the difference at that time between medicine as practiced in the U.S. with pristine hospitals, a lot of technology and expensive drugs compared to the methods of traditional healers in Ghana who treated diseases with plants,' she said."

An expert in the scientific evaluation of folk medicine and medicinal plants, Musah has earned national media attention from PBS's NOVA, The Huffington Post, and New Scientist.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620.