May 12th, 2015

Dying in a fire -- or not? When could it be determined?

Books already looked at: "Body Trauma", "The Whole Death Catalog"
Search terms used: "history of forensics arson", "history of forensics smoke inhalation", "history of forensics Renaissance"

Right, I'm writing about a murder set in the equivalent of 17th Cent. Spain. Body found in a burning building, looking pretty charred. I know modern forensics could determine if there was soot in the lungs or injuries before the fire.

What I haven't been able to find out is, could science of the time period have figured anything like that out (the soot in the lungs part specifically)?

[ANON POST] Text-to-Speech Devices or Similar Technologies

Researched: portable translators, text-to-speech devices, history of smartphones

The setting is New Mexico in 2007—the date being the major stumbling block with just searching for this on Google, since I'm mostly trying to avoid anachronism here.

I have one character who is a disgraced FBI agent trying to interrogate a suspect while on the move from bigger bads (so sitting down at a computer and typing things out is not an option; they're mostly in a car making stops). The catch is that the suspect is mute. He is generally able to get by in his daily life without talking to anyone; he carries a pen and paper around for when aggressive gesturing doesn't cut it.

Since they're mainly driving, having them pass notes back and forth isn't the best way to communicate tons of information, especially since under other circumstances they're both incredibly wordy. Were it today, I'd have them use a text-to-speech app on a cellphone, but from what I remember, that wasn't a commonly available feature back then. I have vague memories of an ESL classmate who had a portable translator of some sort, but again, I don't know how common those were.

Any ideas for how to give my voiceless character (temporarily) a voice?