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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Fast-acting poison (old topic revisited) (Page 3)

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Author Topic: Fast-acting poison (old topic revisited)
trousercuit
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Survivor said:

quote:
As...an antidote?

... to... life?

[This message has been edited by trousercuit (edited July 07, 2006).]


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Bob12
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I read somewhere that if someone is poisoned with potassium chloride
(thru injection into the bloodstream truw the mouth its not effective)
someone can get away with it because it is undetecteble during autopsy.
Does any of you guys know if this is true?

In the story, the guy didn't inject it into a vain or something but under
the nail of the big toe so they wouldn't discover any "injection-holes"
during autopsy.
Now is it true the coronor doesn't look for holes under the (toe)nails?
In the story the poisening was successful but i wonder in real life
would the potassium chloride be effective at all if injected under a
nail instead of directly into the bloodstream using a vain?

If you look at "forensic detectives" and other programs like that, they
always show casses where easily traceble poisons are used like Arsenic,
cyanide,nicotine and Caffeine.
But never with potassium chloride.
In my opinion this could mean it is very hard to trace and they don't want to show
it to the public.

Someone knows this stuff?

O and i just want to add i'm a "make love not war" kind of guy, but i find poisen
really intreging to talk about.


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pantros
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KCL is a poison if injected, they use it as the killing agent in lethal injection executions.

It is certainly detectable in the blood.

However, when writing a murder mystery, you can make almost anything true by having someone with authority make the statement.

I can't count the number of myths/legends make it into crime dramas as facts. Heck, for any given myth you could probably find that half of the investigators believe it to be fact.


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Bob12
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The book said that it can be found in the blood, but that post mortem the level of potassium chloride in the body varies a lot from one person to another.
Therefor it is not detecteble as a cause of death.

Is that also a myth than?

ps. potassium chloride is called KCl and not KCL i believe.

[This message has been edited by Bob12 (edited August 17, 2006).]


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pantros
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K - Potassium
CL - Chlorine

Okay, so that L should be lowercase.


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Bob12
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But is the "post-mortem" story correct or also legend?
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pantros
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Depends on the M.E.

A good one would notice the high Potassium Chloride in the blood and investigate - looking everywhere for needlemarks, inlcuding under the nails.

Another might just shrug off high Potassium Chloride levels in the blood as a fluke unless there were hypothetical reasons to suspect foul play.

And what if the victim were the kind of person to have naturally high levels and the extra 100mg would throw them off the chart? If they were the kind of person to have extremely low Potassium chloride levels, it might not show up at all. -- I don't know the natural range of it, but I suspect that 100mg, even in the whole bloodstream, is high. (The natural salt in the blood is mostly NaCl but is still only in trace quantities.)

Its believable in any case, but it's not completely true.


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pantros
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About jabbing a needle in and pumping in poison.

Not everywhere in the body will be a good place to stick a needle and inject poison. Without hitting a vein, you risk putting the poison into a pocket where it is absorbed into the blood slowly - possibly so slowly that the body can process it harmlessly.

Under a toenail/fingernail sounds like a very difficult place to get it into the bloodstream effectively.


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Bob12
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Pantros.....You mythbuster

I have another one for u.

A few weeks ago i was watching "dr G medical examiner" on the Discovery channel.
She was working on a really sad case where two young children were murdered.
At first she could't find any clues at all but later she discovered that the oldest child had imprints of his teeth on the inside of his upper lip.
This ment that the child had been suffocated with a pillow or something.
The youngest child didn't have any teeth yet so dr G said that there was no proof of the younest being suffocated but because the older one was proven to be mudered, it was safe to say the young child also was suffocated, and so the killer got convicted.

But the whole story made me wonder, if it wasn't for the teethmarks, dr G said, she wouldn't have been able to solve the case.
Would this than mean that if you would knock someone out and put a plastic bag over his head and seal it of somehow, this would leave now trace of murder?
Perhaps leaving enough air in the bag so there won't be any over/under pressure and the victim can breeth normaly and dies when the oxygen runs out.

Could this be a "perfect crime" then?




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Survivor
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You can detect suffocation by a number of physical symptoms, since the carbon dioxide saturation causes blood to act slightly differently. However, children commonly suffocate in their sleep, though it would be very suspicious for two children to suffocate at the same time. So with an adult, if you can show that they suffocated, you have a good case for murder. With an infant, you can't say they were killed just because they happened to suffocate.
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Bob12
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Perhaps this makes a perfect murder story and make it look like natural cause.

A plant dubbed the suicide tree kills many more people in Indian communities than was previously
thought. The warning comes from forensic toxicologists in India and France who have conducted a
review of deaths caused by plant-derived poisons.

Cerbera odollam, which grows across India and south-east Asia, is used by more people to commit
suicide than any other plant, the toxicologists say. But they also warn that doctors, pathologists
and coroners are failing to detect how often it is used to murder people.

A team led by Yvan Gaillard of the Laboratory of Analytical Toxicology in La Voulte-sur-Rhône,
France, documented more than 500 cases of fatal Cerbera poisoning between 1989 and 1999 in the
south-west Indian state of Kerala alone. Half of Kerala’s plant poisoning deaths, and one in 10
of all fatal poisonings, are put down to Cerbera.

But the true number of deaths due to Cerbera poisoning in Kerala could be twice that, the team
estimates, as poisonings are difficult to identify by conventional means.

Unnoticed homicides
Using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry to examine autopsy
tissues for traces of the plant, the team uncovered a number of homicides that would otherwise
have gone unnoticed. This also suggests that some cases put down to suicide may actually have
been murders, they say.

Although the kernels of the tree have a bitter taste, this can be disguised if they are crushed
and mixed with spicy food. They contain a potent heart toxin called cerberin, similar in structure
to digoxin, found in the foxglove.

Digoxin kills by blocking calcium ion channels in heart muscles, which disrupts the heartbeat.
But while foxglove poisoning is well known to western toxicologists, Gaillard says pathologists would not be able to identify Cerbera poisoning unless there is evidence the victim had eaten the plant. “It is the perfect murder,” he says.

Three-quarters of Cerbera victims are women. The team says that this may mean the plant is being
used to kill young wives who do not meet the exacting standards of some Indian families.
It is also likely that many cases of homicide using the plant go unnoticed in countries where it
does not grow naturally.

Journal reference: Journal of Ethnopharmacology (vol 95, p 123)

Does anyone know if this info is up to date, or would it be traceble nowadays?


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MollieBryn
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Since all of the good poisons have already been mentioned, there's always the old standby of rat poison or the like. (Though it is so overdone and probably difficult to conceal in a glass of champagne). Oh, and someone mentioned oleander was poisonous if you ingest it. I recently found out that people can be allergic to certain types of wood, such as oleander. The effects include swelling and slow suffocation. Obviously it wouldn't work for a slow death, but it's interesting nonetheless. Aside from the well-known oleander, some people are allergic to common wood like pine, oak, cherry, etc. If I were a murder mystery writer, I would probably play with that idea just for kicks and giggles.
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Survivor
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I think someone mentioned that Cerbera thing...or perhaps I read it somewhere else.

The real problem in that case is that suspicious deaths aren't being investigated carefully enough in India. Which is hardly surprising. The first step in getting away with murder is to avoid a homicide investigation in the first place. I'll be frank, I actually know someone who got away with homicide. Definite homicide, but the circumstances were such that there wasn't likely to be an investigation. If there had been, the homicide would have been detected easily.

I should say, I know I know at least one person who got away with homicide. I probably know more than one, but just don't know about the actual circumstances. Not having everyone know about it is most of getting away with it, right?

In any case where death isn't considered sufficiently suspicious by society at large to merit investigation, you have to live with the possibility that it was a homicide. In fact, that's what we mean by judging that a death wasn't suspicious, we mean that we don't really care even if it was a homicide. In the specific case I mention, it's a circumstance where I personally don't have any interest one way or the other. Not enough to bother going to the police about it. I don't think that it's a case where the police would care either. Of course, now you're all probably imagining some kind of unlikely circumstance with a drug-peddling pederast


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sojoyful
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Survivor, I'm led to wonder why you haven't done your moral and civic duty and turned that person in. However, this is honestly in no way a judgement, nor is it a question that requires an answer.
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Valtam2
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This is why it's never a good idea to get on the wrong side of a writer. :-)
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Survivor
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Like I said, it isn't my moral or civic duty to identify the culprit to any authorities.

This kind of situation might be less common here in the States than it is elsewhere in the world, but it does happen. Sometimes no one cares if it was homicide. Very often people do care, but it's just not worth the trouble of going to the authorities, usually because the authorities wouldn't care either.


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hoptoad
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I once parked my car down by the river in a run-down part of town.
To cut a long story short, there was a homeless guy there who had been murdered.

( BTW I prefer the term murder to homicide -- when it's murder. )

Anyway, the police were there and they were sorting it out, more or less. I scoured the papers for days for news about what had happened.

Nothing.

Weird thing is, almost exactly the same thing happened once before, not far from there. No one cared about it that time either.

These were both clearly and visibly murders, it's just no-one cared about who got murdered.


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hoptoad
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PS: If you're ever interested in accomplished poisoners look up Exili, or Toffana and her Water of St. Nicholas.

Accomplished may not be the right word, considering we know about them. The most accomplished we probably never hear of.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited August 28, 2006).]


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Survivor
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To be fair, it was probably difficult to come up with the motive and opportunity points. Even the method angle would be pretty vague. It isn't that hard to beat/kick a homeless guy to death, the most common way they get murdered.

In the homocide I mentioned, I guess that technically it would qualify as murder. It didn't change my opinion of the perpetrator, and others might argue that it wasn't really murder. I'm content to call it homocide, myself.

The lesson is simple. Getting away with it is a matter of the technical resources of those who care enough to try and find a murderer. If the poison is undetectable to anyone likely to investigate, that's sufficiently undetectable. But no poison that actually kills will be completely undetectable if enough effort goes into finding the cause of death.


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Bob12
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"Using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry"


Is this a common used presidure now a days during autopsy?
Or is it rearly used?


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Survivor
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Almost no autopsy procedures are "commonly used" except where there is reason to suspect homocide.
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Ortrack
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QUESTION: Where would one get slow-acting poison set in realistic terms? You all have done research, but how would a common person in a story get what they need without the story being far-fetched?
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MaryRobinette
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ANSWER: It depends on the story. Who is the character? When is it set? What is the motive? What is the character's job? What is the character's income? Where is the story set? How long does the character have to act? How slow does the poison need to be?
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Ortrack
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She isn't a "rocket scientists", but very resourceful and vindictive. Motive is she suspects her husband of cheating and has strong proof (all assumptions, turns out to be false), the family is middle-class w/o outstanding resources (which is what I mean by being realistic about it all)... well, how and when she'd give him the poison really depends on if she has to disguise it by food, drink, etc - and let's say anything that will take longer than a day (two would be even better) to finish him off...


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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e.coli

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MaryRobinette
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Try botulism. Just let some stewed tomatoes spoil and be careful that none of the rest of the family eats them. Does she need to get away with it, or just kill him?
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kings_falcon
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Strychnine would work too. Although it is a pretty fast killer in the right amount.
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Inkwell
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quote:
Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:

e.coli


Mmmm...spinach.


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Inkwell (edited September 27, 2006).]


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MaryRobinette
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But Inkwell, how would a real person get real spinach in a realistic manner?
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Inkwell
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Ummm...from the Jolly Green Giant?

"Ho, ho, hooo...ugh, E. Coli!"


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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Bob12
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"Does she need to get away with it?"

Is that possible than?

I was told that nowadays all poisons could be traced during autopsy.


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Inkwell
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^^^
Ah...but traced to what, or whom? As long as they cannot trace the poison back to the assassin/killer (regardless of whether or not forensics can identify the substance...which is almost certain these days), the question of backtracking its origin is moot.

In addition to this, one must remember that not all forensics labs have a Grissom on hand.


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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Bob12
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What about that "cerbera odollam" poison (cerberin).

In the article (on this forum) it is said "But while foxglove poisoning is well known to western toxicologists, Gaillard says pathologists would not be able to identify Cerbera poisoning unless there is evidence the victim had eaten the plant"

There is talk about "western toxicologists" !!!!!
Is this info out of date or would it still aplay to autopsys nowadays?


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sholar
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There was an interesting article in Scientific American (I think) looking at forensic scientists and how overworked they are. So, if you can make it not look like it is worth the time to do the tests, you have a pretty good chance of not getting caught.
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Amberjade
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Sorry for the thread grave digging, this post interests me so i decided to put my 2 cents in. Here's some links to a chemical agent called agent 15, closely relate do bz. It basically makes people freak out and hallucinate. Just like the scarecrow's spray on batman begins. Here's the links:

http://www.emedicine.com/emerg/topic913.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_15

I wonder if there are poisons that someone could inject, but i still think murder by icicle or ham is better. One melts, one you can eat, it would be great for a story. I wonder if there are injectable sleeping aids that could knock someone out for a few minutes to a few hours?


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debhoag
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Death by ham - now there's a thought!
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Death by leg of lamb: "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl
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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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I would eat the body as well… mummm human flesh….

Rommel Fenrir Wolf II


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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sorry posted same thing 2 times..

half a bottle of Jack in me now

[This message has been edited by Rommel Fenrir Wolf II (edited October 09, 2007).]


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Pyre Dynasty
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It's odd that a thread detailing various ways to die keeps getting resurrected.
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Elan
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quote:
It's odd that a thread detailing various ways to die keeps getting resurrected.

It's a zombie thread, didn't you know?


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dreadlord
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ressurecting the thread again!

has anyone mentioned a peanut allergy? those are lethal. grind up some peanuts and put them in the champaigne. while it may taste salty, it probably wont be noticed, except perhaps by a peanut fanatic.

the question is would the victim notice, since he has rarely, if ever, tasted peanuts.

or maybe you could just kill him with a bullet in the middle of the night... I hear that lead is very toxic.

[This message has been edited by dreadlord (edited November 06, 2007).]


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serathiscaradasi
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Resurrecting this because I have some interesting information. People kept bringing up snake venom. A lot of snake's venom can be ingested safely, because the stomach destroys in before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The lining of mucus in the stomach prevents absorbtion from happening. My first thought was some sort of antihistamine ( sorry, spelling). Oddly enough, sulfites, which are commonly used in winemaking (champagne making would include the use of sulfites as well) destroys mucus. Sulfites (sulfur dioxide, the most common in winemaking) would break down the mucus membrane of the stomach. You could add a small amount of snake venom, and the SO2, and make a rather potent ingested
poison, IMHO.

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TaleSpinner
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quote:
People kept bringing up snake venom.

Eeewww!

Pat


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Just saw a blurb for a new book that might be of interest here:

THE DOSE MAKES THE POISON by Patricia Frank discusses "symptoms, mechanisms, treatments, and detection" and includes, along with offically regarded poisons, things like food additives, cosmetics, and other stuff that we are exposed to in a normal life.


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Wordcaster
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I was at a Borders going out of business sale and saw a book devoted to poisons in the writing reference section. Not sure if it was the same book. I paged through it and it was organized by poison type and had several subheadings describing the poison.

I told my wife that I found 50 books that I wanted, but put 49 back. If I had bought the poison book, I might worry that her eyes would get stuck from rolling them toward the back of her head. But it would be a fantastic writer's reference - especially for crime thrillers.


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Reziac
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On a similar note, the Physician's Desk Reference is great for researching toxicity, side effects, drug interactions, etc. You can usually get an outdated edition at half price or less. (Which edition doesn't really matter for our uses. Any you see will do.)

A fun and useful companion volume, especially for historical SF/F: The PDR for Herbal Medicines. Very thorough, and it's amazing more people don't die from these drugs (and they ARE drugs), since most have negative or even lethal side effects.... far more so than commercial pharmaceuticals.

As to the homemade lethal injection someone mentioned... 50cc of saturated solution of any metallic salt will do, including table salt or Epsom salts (commonly used for large animals for field anesthesia or euthanasia, via venous or direct cardiac injection respectively). Heart stops in seconds. Tho if you don't give 'em enough, they'll wake back up, none the worse for wear! But that needle puncture and massive salt imbalance will be flamingly obvious to a modern autopsy.


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Pyre Dynasty
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Wow. I find it hilarious that the ultimate thread that just won't stay dead is Fast-acting poison.
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Montag
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Descolada.

/thread

Seriously though. Im scared by the activity of this.


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LoreeGayle
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I found this forum when doing a search to investigate my sister's death. She was a writer and belonged to a local writer's club where she lived. She told me that her club was discussing all the ways one could poison someone that could not be detected. I know that she had talked to her husband about this in more detail. I didn't think about it too much until my sister died mysteriously a couple of months later. I talked to the Pathologist who did her autopsy and he asked me if I could help him by giving him any ideas as to what killed her. I think her husband murdered her via poison but don't know which poison and can not prove my suspicion. The Dr. told me that if we knew which one it was we could test for it. I am a beginning writer myself but am desperately looking for an answer to my sister's death right now. Can you help me?
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