Lone Star Tick Image from
“Death by misadventure,” a phrase describing manner of death catches my ear and stimulates my imagination. “Unintended consequences” does too. Both spring from the concept of “accident” but imply some sort of human intent, though not necessarily “good” intent or “well considered” intent.
The idea of someone meriting a Darwin Award by bumbling into their own death does not make for a good murder mystery, in my opinion. However, if a third party bumbles into someone’s death while that third party is involved in some nefarious activity – now I’m interested. Or if the dead person colluded in the crime. Or some other crime.
If the dead person were an innocent, and the murderer a jealous lover or crooked business partner or a crazed serial killer, the story very well may not be a mystery at all, but a news story. And those stories can and do inspire murder mystery writers.
All murder mystery writers understand that the most dangerous animal in the woods is homo sapiens sapiens – modern humans. Naturally, the fact that most murder mystery readers are modern humans makes them inordinately interested in what their confreres do or have done to them.
As to “means of murder.”
Agatha Christie was particularly fond of poison. Check out the Agatha Christie section of Torre Abbey Gardens in her hometown of Torquey, England. (May have to add Torquey to my Bucket List.) John LesCroart’s The First Law uses guns – up to and including a major shoot-out. (Maybe I should put San Francisco on the Bucket List.) Nevada Barr in Ill Wind takes advantage of a geologic peculiarity. (Definitely should put Mesa Verde on the ole Bucket List. It’s a lot closer to my house.)
My husband’s education and a lot of his professional experience is in the field of Veterinary Medicine. He says “The most dangerous animal in the woods, after man, is the tick.” Just imagine a man with a tick.
What an intriguing thought. Ticks, as described in Wikipedia, will make your blood run cold and reach for the DEET. And that’s just reading about them.
They have eight legs like their arachnid relatives, spiders and mites. They meet all their nutritional needs by sucking blood. They can carry disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Indeed, they can carry more than one pathogen at the same time making diagnosis and treatment more difficult.
In far southeast Arkansas, where we had a veterinary clinic, my husband provided blood samples from our patients with ehrlichiosis to Dr. Sidney Ewing at Oklahoma State University School of Veterinary Medicine. Ehrlichiosis is caused by members of the genus Ehrlichia, a genus of bacteria named for the German microbiologist Paul Ehrlich. One of those little beasties is Ehrlichia Ewingii, named for OSU's Dr. Ewing. (Rather a perverse honor, I think – having a disease causing agent named for you.)
Ehrlichiosis in dogs and humans has long been successfully treated with Doxycycline but some of our cases were proving to be drug resistant. And untreated or unsuccessfully treated, the disease is lethal.
The important thing in treating any tick-borne disease is beginning treatment immediately which requires early diagnosis or at least awareness that the sufferer has been exposed to a tick so treatment can be started.
Just think, if the intended victim had not been in the woods – maybe did not even live in an area known to be a tick-bite risk area . . . .
The murderer could acquire the ticks elsewhere. Overnight by UPS then give the little buggers easy access to a blood source to keep them alive – say a mouse the murderer is not particularly fond of. And then access to the victim -- say in the hair behind the ear.
The local medics wouldn’t know to ask about recent tick bites or look for ehrlichia or promptly start proper treatment. Voila – Murder by Tick.