Monday, April 29, 2013

Poison as a Murder Weapon is Dying a Slow Death

I've always had a special place in my heart for murder by poison. But in the past couple of decades, poison seems to have fallen out of favor (except as a weapon of bioterrorism, involving mass deaths of hundreds or thousands).

I'm thinking more along the lines of the traditional mystery favored by writers like Agatha Christie where the victim was often a rich relative who had outlived their usefulness. The Golden Age of Poison seems to have peaked between the Victorian Era in the 1880's up to the 1930's. Many of the top mystery writers in this period were British, and their material often came from exotic locales that remained part of the British Empire. Colonial sources like Africa, India and South America provided a rich vein for mysterious toxins; fast acting, undetectable and useful for bumping off the rich relative or the inconvenient spouse.

Assisting in this pattern was the fact that forensic science was still in its infancy. Poisons were easy to obtain and hard to uncover in an autopsy. Anyone could walk into a local apothecary and purchase strychnine, arsenic or the popular poison of the month, without ID.

Today, forensic science has entered a golden age, and readers expect that CSI type investigators will be able to decifer not only the DNA in the blood of a murder victim, but the presence of any unusual poisons or substances. Dangerous chemicals are tracked by Homeland Security or corporations who maintain a database. You can't even rent a video without some form of ID, let alone 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate.

Now comes word that scientists may be able to create an anditote to a wide range of poisons.  Nanosponges may be able to soak up a wide range of toxins, according to an article by Daniel Akst. Scientists at the University of California are working on this latest discovery.

It's enough to make a crime writer cry? What's next? Cameras at intersections to record cars who speed through red lights? Oh, wait...that's been done.

Seems we'll have to get more creative when we sit down at the computer and ponder that age old mystery as we write our next story.

How do I kill someone, and get away with it?

Friday, April 26, 2013


In the animal kingdom, lions, tigers and bears seek out easy prey...the young, the old, and the weak. They do this in part by studying movement. In our world, criminals act much the same way, looking for victims who are easy prey. They choose their victims based on the way they walk. You can protect yourself on the street in part by walking with confidence. Seems like common sense, but this may be the first scientific study to look at how criminals pick their victims. Read more at by clicking here: I Like The Way You Walk

More Resources For Crime Victims
In recognition of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, check out the following resources. If you've ever been the victim of a crime, you can find useful information below.
National Center For Victims of Crime:
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
DOD Safe Helpline:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving:
Parents of Murdered Children:
National Crime Prevention Council:
National Domestic Violence Hotline:

Monday, April 22, 2013

National Crime Victim's Rights Week Starts, and a Tip For Protecting Your ATM Card from Clever Thieves

This week marks the start of national Crime Victims' Rights Week, a time to recall those who have suffered from real crime. Those who have suffered from criminals who prey on the weak, the timid, the young or the naive, deserve our support. Check your local community bulletin board and local library for programs and events. You can also check out this link at the Justice Department: National Crime Victims' Rights Week. It had a resource guide available for download with tons of useful information and programs.
Think your PIN is safe because you didn't write it down? Think again. Criminals have ingenious ways of guessing your pin number, based on common habits and mistakes we all make when choosing our pin. Check out this article for practical tips: Protect yourself from Pin theft.