This excerpt is from the book entitled The Frisby Waterless Murders, an English Murrder Mystery book set in the countryside, starring two policemen who have been working together for a few years and get along really well. There’s lots of dialogue and banter with some humour thrown in amongst the murders and suspects.
“Curare causes paralysis in the muscles in the body, rendering the victim unable to move. It does not kill the victim outright. So assuming it takes a minute for the poison to take full effect, it will then take however long the victim can survive without breathing to render them unconscious. Then however long the brain can last without oxygen to kill them. Because all the muscles in the body are paralyzed the victim essentially suffocates to death, My guess is it varies from person to person but I believe the brain can survive for maybe 30 minutes at the most.” Barnes was quite surprised that so much of the article on the poison had stuck in his mind.
“We are assuming are we not that the hand wound was caused when he was being moved to his new seat, but perhaps that’s not the case, perhaps it was administered around 9:50 a.m. when someone was distracting him for another reason.”
“Such as serving him some coffee, twenty minutes into the journey?”
“Oh yes, that could be the case,” replied Knowles, “does anyone say anything about the time the stewards came through the carriage?”
“I am sure they must, perhaps we could move on to Seats 5 and 6 and bear that in mind?”
“Sounds like a plan, Sergeant Barnes,” said Knowles mimicking one of his Sergeant’s favourite sayings.
“Excuse me, can I just say something?” asked PC Smythe.
Knowles nodded his head, “Go on, Linda.”
“Well, if the curare had taken effect then the Major wouldn’t be breathing and so he wouldn’t have been affected by the smoke coming into the carriage, so he wouldn’t have been coughing and spluttering like everyone else presumably was. Was he coughing?”
“Great observation, Linda, do sit down. I don’t think we’ve interviewed his wife yet, so she probably knows better than anyone else. I would like you two to go and interview her tomorrow; take Sue from social services with you if you want. As regards the coughing, if he had already stopped breathing then he wouldn’t notice the dart in the neck would he?” Knowles furrowed his brow as though thinking deeply.
Barnes countered “He must have been breathing because I am sure he stayed where he was when the smoke came in and his wife would surely have checked he was OK when she came back afterwards. If he’d not been breathing, wouldn’t she have raised the alarm then rather than ten minutes later?”