Wednesday, 13 October 2010


We had wolfsbane - or monkshood as we called it - growing in our garden in Norfolk, it's beautiful deep blue flowers glowing from the shade of a tangle of willow and hazel and lilac. It grew alongside foxgloves - which, like the monkshood, are, of course, poisonous.

The Crime Writer's Handbook could also be called the Murderer's Handbook as it lists methods of killing people with a points rating based on detectability and effectiveness and so on. You certainly would not want it to be found on your bookshelves in the event of a suspicious death.

The comforting thing is that it appears to be quite hard to poison someone. Either the smell or taste of the poison is too obvious or you have to administer too much of it (or both). The victim is likely to vomit in reaction to a poison, lessening its effect and alerting the victim and those nearby to what is going on.

The roots and leaves of wolfsbane contain an alkaloid called aconitine, which is very poisonous. It gets 8/10 for effectiveness and 6/10 for detectability and has a long history. It was popular in Roman times for getting rid of unwanted relatives, apparently.

Wolfsbane is one of the darkest stories in the Tales of Terror series. And perhaps the saddest.

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