QUESTION: My victim dies on a boat and I want it to look initially like an accident. My question is about cyanide. I know it can kill quickly but I want to inject it, probably in the neck or lower part of the head, and then use something to indicate a blunt force trauma to cover the real cause of death for a while. How fast does cyanide work? Is there another one that would work faster in this scenario?
ANSWER: Cyanide certainly can do the trick, though an injection in the lower head would be tough since you’d run into the skull. It could be injected between the skull and scalp, but that might be detectable. Injected into the neck muscles (trapezius) would work. It takes many minutes to kill though, depending on dose and the subject’s blood flow to the injection site. In one case in Chicago it sounds like the victim had time to scream out the window before succumbing.
Poisons are not my specialty (you can learn much more from D.P. Lyle’s site), but there are anesthetic ways to do this as well…There is a drug called succinylcholine that would definitely do the trick. It causes all the muscles to fire chaotically, then relax. This includes the muscles of breathing, so the victim dies of suffocation. Administered in a muscle, it should take only 3-4 minutes to completely incapacitate the victim, after which he would die of suffocation.
The needle puncture would still be potentially visible of course, if someone were looking closely for it. The difference is there would be nothing in the blood stream to test for. Cyanide causes a characteristic reddening of the venous blood, and an odor that most people can smell, thus they might come up with the diagnosis. So I guess if you want them to figure it out, cyanide might be the better choice.
Sux (what cool people call it) has been around for a long time and is still used daily by anesthesiologists around the country and world. It has been the murder method of choice in real life (Michael Swango), as well as in fiction (The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer, and my own (as yet) unpublished novel, probably others). Not sure how easy it is to acquire without access to an operating room. We do a decent job of keeping these drugs locked up, though that wasn’t true ten years ago if your setting is in the past.