Representations of forensic procedures saturate popular culture in both fiction and true crime. One of the most striking forensic tools used in these narratives is the chemical luminol, so named because it glows an eerie greenish-blue when it comes into contact with the tiniest drops of human blood.

Luminol is a deeply ambivalent object: it is both a tool of the police, historically abused and misappropriated, and yet it offers hope to families of victims by allowing hidden crimes to surface. Forensic enquiry can exonerate those falsely accused of crimes, and yet the rise of forensic science is synonymous with the development of the deeply racist ‘science’ of eugenics.

Luminol Theory investigates the possibility of using a tool of the state in subversive, or radical, ways. By introducing luminol as an agent of forensic inquiry, Luminol Theory approaches the exploratory stages that a crime scene investigation might take, exploring experimental literature as though these texts were ‘crime scenes’ in order to discover what this deeply strange object can tell us about crime, death, and history, to make visible violent crimes, and to offer a tangible encounter with death and finitude. At the luminol-drenched crime scene, flashes of illumination throw up words, sentences, and fragments that offer luminous, strange glimpses, bobbing up from below their polished surfaces. When luminol shines its light, it reveals, it is magical, it is prescient, and it has a nasty allure.


When human blood reacts with luminol, it lights up a ghostly blue. This reaction, most commonly used to detect whether violence has taken place at suspected crime scenes, combines the human and the chemical, it invokes violence and disposability but also transformation. THE LUMINOL REELS takes its imagery from pornography, Catholicism, and crime scene investigation to interrogate the violence done to women. It considers the ongoing brutality of the femicides in Ciudad Juarez and the institutional misogyny of the Catholic Church. Violence is intrinsically linked to location, and the shrines, quinceañera parties, holy communions, and seances of this book are all stained luminescent blue.


A fierce and deadly little fantasia that bites its way deep into your brain.' — Brian Evenson

'We were plump and pretty, our skin glowed like Chinese lanterns and he wanted our laughter for himself": In THE LUMINOL REELS, Laura Ellen Joyce finds the blue-glowing, b-movie heart of Plath’s and Ballard’s atrocity exhibitions and the parapornography of reliquaries. Joyce may write: "This one is for the sickos," but this is a book for readers who are into David Lynch, Aase Berg, Bluebeard (any version), hagiography; "splatter gurlesque" and media theory. In other words: people who want their reading to feel like drinking "luminol margaritas".'  — Johannes Göransson

'Joyce’s hand is as unflinching in its force as any of the deathly actions rendered to the bodies on any page, almost like an alarm light throwing its glow over room after room, or stations in an exhibit of twisted murder scenes. Each leg is mercifully brief, landing its blow and moving into the next.'  — Blake Butler

'It’s hard to make political work that makes you go damn. I don’t like soapbox writing. It’s pretentious. Joyce’s work dares you. It doesn’t give a fuck about its being because it’s already bleeding out in the sand. The directive serves as a hard bar to rattle rules within the world of The Luminol Reels. Each page has headings like a manual, on how to accept and rewrite your life as the dreams your mother had the day you were fired from being part of her. It tells you how to tell someone who tells you what to do what to do while overdosing.'  — Elizabeth Mikesch

Blake Butler at VICE

Gabino Iglesias at the LA Review of Books

Ronnie Peltier at New Delta Review

Elizabeth Mikesch at Tarpaulin Sky 

James R. Gapinski at Heavy Feather 

Diarmuid Hester at 3am Magazine

Natanya Ann Pulley at The Collagist

Luke Taylor at Full Stop

Ian Baran on the New York Public Library Blog


Interview at The Collagist

Research Notes at Necessary Fiction 

Playlist for The Luminol Reels at Largehearted Boy 

Excerpt at The Collagist

Excerpt at Sleepingfish

Excerpt at Black Sun Lit