A is for Alkaloids

Hooray, it is that time of the year when you open up your bookcases (does anyone have bookcases with doors anymore?) and search madly for books and authors that start with A. Yup, it is Crime Fiction Alphabet time. For those not in the know, the Crime Fiction Alphabet is administered (hey I used A) by the wonderful Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise, so head on there and sign up, or click on some links and read what others have to say.

This time around, I’m moving away from books and going to try and write about topics related to crime. This week’s highlight is Alkaloids!

To quote Wikipedia, Alkaloids are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms.” Well Peter, that’s all good you say, but it’s not really crime material. Ah, but wait, there is more! Most alkaloids are poisonous in large enough amount but some are deadly in minute doses. And that is why authors love em!

Take Strychnine for example. It really doesn’t have any other use except as a pesticide. Small amounts (less than half a gram) is enough to kill a human. Death by Strychnine is extremely painful and results in muscle convulsions and asphyxia.

Strychnine not your cup of tea (har har)? Don’t worry, there is morphine, hemlock, belladonna (talk about a misnomer), mescaline, coniine, and on, and on. And there are a variety of ways that detective novels find to deliver this impressive variety of poisons – from the ubiquitous cup of tea, to fish sandwiches, eye drops, berries, nicotine patches, coated straws and many more. The moral, if you are not the detective in a mystery story, is to not touch, smell, eat, or drink anything. To be on the safe side, you should probably not look at anything as well.

P. S. – I considered for a moment that I could use poisons for the entire alphabet but that would be too easy (I’m looking at you Xanthium and Zantedeschia).

P. P. S. – I will now clear my browsing history and really really hope no one in my immediate circle of family and friends gets poisoned.


6 responses »

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Peter – I know just what you mean about browsing history. As a crime fiction writer as well as a crime fiction blogger, I often wonder how many ‘watch list’ moderators are interested in my searches..

    • 🙂 There is probably someone at NSA going “Darn these mystery writers and their searches!” every time a false alarm goes off.

  2. Great post for “A”….Yes, those of us interested in crime fiction (and writing it) could face some awkward questions if anyone keeps an eye on our browsing habits.

  3. Peter: Excellent post. Poison seems out of favour in the 21st Century. In the 19th Century it was the fictional weapon of choice. I guess guns are easier to use in mysteries though the subtleties of poison can be intriguing.

    • Bill, I completely agree. Rare is the case where a gunshot wound is mistaken for something else. Poisoning can often be missed especially if the victim was sick to begin with.


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