Methyl Bromide – An Effective Neurotoxin!

When envisioning a chemical weapon for use in a murder plot, there are22853972-Writer-at-work-Handsome-young-writer-sitting-at-the-table-and-writing-something-in-his-sketchpad-Stock-Photo several criteria that should be considered: 1) the chemical must be lethal, of course, 2) it should be readily available to the villain in the story, 3) it must be easy to use but not easily detectable to the victim, and 4) it should be unique enough to “wow” your reader.

Methyl bromide meets all of those standards. Acute exposure to methyl bromide, usually by inhalation, causes serious neurological effects in humans and can be a lethal neurotoxin in the proper doses. Symptoms of exposure include headaches, dizziness, weakness, confusion, speech and visual impairments, as well as numbness and twitching. The chemical is irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes. It can cause itching, redness and blisters upon contact with skin.

In short, the effects are dramatic enough to create an interesting murder scene. Sudden exposure of sufficient quantities can cause muscle paralysis and convulsions that lead to death. Acute exposure might even produce a delayed effect.

The second criteria—that the poison should be readily available—is an interesting story in anhydrousitself and that ties into the final criteria of being unique and creative. Methyl bromide is a very effective fumigant and pesticide used in soil and food storage facilities (in mills, ships, freight cars and warehouses) to control fungi, nematodes, weeds, insects and rodents.

An interesting dichotomy is that methyl bromide was banned from use in the United States in 1987 because of its ozone-depleting capacity and its harmful effects on human life, yet the chemical is readily available to this day for use in the agricultural industry under controlled conditions. Applications for continued use can be submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and presently the agency is accepting applications for 2018.

Applications are approved via a “Critical Use Exemption” from the agency. The list of critical uses includes post-harvest rice milling, pet food manufacturing, as well as storage of walnuts, dried fruit and dry cured pork products. Significant users ofimages methyl bromide are the California strawberry growers and that fact provides a ready source of the poison for the creative writer. California nurseries that grow strawberry plants for later transplantation elsewhere often fumigate their soils with methyl bromide to control fungi and insect infestations.

I found it fascinating that the strawberry plants initially grown at these nurseries can later be moved to organic fields and be produced under organic certifications. That fact alone should make for a captivating side story to a murder plot.

Lastly, methyl bromide fits the criteria of not being easily detectable to the intended victim. The poison is a colorless and highly volatile gas. It’s almost odorless, producing only a faint, sweet chloroform-like smell at higher concentrations. Methyl bromide can be lethal by inhalation in a closed environment.

In March of 2015, a family of four on vacation at a resort in the US Virgin Islands became seriously ill and had to be hospitalized following inhalation exposure to methyl bromide mexico-beach-villathat was used to fumigate the vacation villa beneath theirs. The family was unaware that they were being poisoned since they detected nothing unusual until they experienced symptoms.

Methyl bromide is an appealing poison choice for a murder mystery. It’s an unusual lethal weapon that can be used in unique ways to murder and it provides the opportunity for an engaging backstory for your characters.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Murder, All About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Botanical Murder Weapons, Chemical Poisons, Chemicals Used For Murder, Designing Murder Plots, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Inhaled Neurotoxins, Interesting Murder Weapons, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Chemical Poisons, Lethal Fumigants in Agriculture, Lethal Pesticides, Methyl Bromide and Murder, Murder Weapons, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder with Neurotoxins, Neurotoxin Poisons, Neurotoxins and Murder, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, Paralytic Nerve Toxins, Paralytic Poisons and Murder, Poisons and Murder, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Undetectable Poisons, Unique Murder Weapons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Forged Prescription!

MH900406756Many years ago, while working on my advanced degree, I earned a living as a retail pharmacist on the “graveyard shift” of a 24-hour pharmacy located near a major medical center. Seven area hospitals, each with an emergency room, provided a dribble of patients needing a variety of prescriptions filled in the dead of night.

I enjoyed the relative quiet of that shift, an ideal setting to both make money and yet have time to study and plan my clinical research. Secretly, however, I always worried about the sinister side of working such a shift. Would I be robbed at gunpoint for money, for the narcotics locked in the safe, or for both? And, more importantly, would I survive such an event or become yet another victim of a senseless shooting?

The prescription counter, as normal in a retail pharmacy, was situated at the rear of the store and elevated about a foot above the rest of the store. That provided me with a panoramic view of the retail area and anyone entering the store.

One night I observed a twenty-something white male enter. He was dressed in oversized jeans, a hoodie and a baseball cap worn backwards. He looked around, spotted the prescription counter with me behind it and shuffled toward me. I thought it odd that he looked down every aisle before approaching the pharmacy. The acid started churning in my stomach. It inched up my esophagus as I thought, “This is it. I’m about to be robbed.”

He walked up to the prescription counter, smiled and merely stood there. I looked at hisMH900321056 hands for a possible gun, or a least a note demanding the store’s cash, or worse yet, all the narcotics. Instead, he simply stood there and smiled. Then he handed me a prescription and asked, “Can I wait for this? I’m really in pain.” I looked down at the prescription. It was written on one of the local hospital prescription pads. As I walked away to process the order, I realized the prescription had been altered.

The order was written for Percocet tablets, a narcotic pain-relieving drug. What was unusual about this order was the quantity—an obvious one had been added in front of the original order of twenty. The change to one hundred and twenty tablets was subtle, but the ink was not quite a match to the remainder of the written prescription.

I was holding a forged prescription! My first thought was that I had to verify that the prescribing doctor had not had second thoughts and sloppily added to the original quantity. I called the emergency room and verified that only the twenty tablets had been ordered. I disconnected and slowly dialed 911 to report a forged prescription and requested immediate assistance from the nearest police cruiser in the area.

PrintWhat happened next goes under the heading of “you can’t make this stuff up” and “fact is stranger than fiction” but I’ll let you decide. Download my short story Cuffed for FREE to get the rest of the story and as a bonus you’ll get to read the first chapter of my new International Thriller Lethal Medicine that’s included at the end.

The rest of that night shift was reasonably quiet with only a few other patients filtering in occasionally. Needless to say, my concentration was broken and I got no studying done for the rest of that night.

I hope you enjoy the story and get a good chuckle out of it—I sure did, but not so much at the time. From that point forward, I always took a few extra minutes to study those emergency room prescriptions closer before processing them.Cuffed 07 copy

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

╚FREE DOWNLOAD of “Cuffed” ═►Click Here

(Use code UU25H to Download FREE)

Posted in A Thriller Novel, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Blog Writers, Blogging, CUFFED--A Free Short Story, Drug Misadventures, Forged Prescription Short Story, Forged Prescriptions, Lethal Medicine-The Novel, New Blog, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription For Murder Blog, Prescription Forgers, The Pharmacy Profession, The Practice of Pharmacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

MURDER – Out of Thin Air!

kylsans-chemicalsAs I blog about drugs, poisons and various chemicals that can be used as murder weapons in murder mysteries, I’m constantly looking for unique methods of murder to use in my storytelling.

One of my more popular blogs has been the one I wrote about The Perfect Drug as a Murder Weapon. Today, however, I want to introduce you to an interesting method of murder that doesn’t involve any of those substances, yet it’s a most effective lethal weapon. It’s thin air!

An air embolism, officially called a vascular air embolism or VAE, was discovered in the early nineteenth century as lethal. Since that time, fatalities have been associated with the inadvertent introduction of air into a person’s vascular system during trauma or surgery. It occurs when an air bubble or multiple air bubbles enter a vein or artery and block it.

When these air bubbles travel to the brain, heart or lungs, they can cause fatal heart attacks, stroke and respiratory failure. A large bolus of air into a vein can lead to a right ventricular air lock and be immediately fatal.

The death scene from an air embolism can be very dramatic with descriptions of crushing pain in the chest, confusion and disorientation, irregular heart rhythms and skipped heart beats, extreme shortness of breath, and convulsions as air froths through the circulatory system. Death can occur in minutes.

There is continued debate regarding how large an air bubble is fatal to an average-sizedVTS-470-2 person. I’ve seen literature state as little as 50cc can be fatal. Other literature suggests that a much larger dose, around 150 to 200ccs (about the volume of a regular coffee cup) is needed to be lethal. Fatalities are dose-related and the air must be introduced into a vein or artery to be an effective killer.

One of the more intriguing aspects of murder by air embolism is that a writer doesn’t have to consider how the villain secures a chemical murder weapon. The weapon is everywhere, readily accessible and a large syringe is much easier to obtain than a lethal substance. It’s available from any medical supply company, a pharmacy, a veterinary clinic, a supply cart in a hospital, and the like.

Detecting an air embolism as the cause of death (COD) can be tricky since the lethal effects mimic a massive heart attack or stroke. It’s not easy for a medical examiner to determine the COD unless the professional is specifically looking for that telltale evidence.

There are several ways an astute medical examiner could determine that an air embolism is the cause of death. One method is called a trans-esophageal echocardiography. This method uses sound waves to detect air bubbles in the circulatory system. Another method is to insert an arterial catheter into the artery that connects the heart to the lungs. A change in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery indicates the presence of air. The problem is that air dissipates rapidly as a device enters the pulmonary artery and evidence is lost.

I used an air embolism, via an air-filled syringe, as a murder weapon in my current novel PrintLethal Medicine because of the dramatic murder scene that could be constructed around the murder. For the method of detection, I decided that the medical examiner would X-ray the body to detect air in the circulatory system, particularly the pulmonary arteries. It was important to me that the evidence should be found specifically that way since once the body was opened and the circulatory system exposed, the evidence presumably would be lost.

Writing dramatic murder scenes takes a bit of research and imagination to come up with the perfect lethal weapon that fits into your storyline. Take the time to do that well and you’ll have a killer murder scene.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!


Read about other methods of murder that I use in my current novel Lethal Medicine3D.

Order it from Click Here!

For non-kindle devices and apps, order from Click Here!


Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, Air Embolisms Are Deadly, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scenes, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Air Embolism, Lethal Medicine-The Novel, Murder by Air Embolism, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Prescription For Murder Blog, Published Novel by James J Murray, The Science of Murder, The Writings of James J. Murray, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, VAE, Vascular Air Embolism, Writing Death Scenes, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


I don’t often shout about my successes. I tend to blog about things that help OTHER writers create THEIR successes—either through a new, interesting method of murder or suggestions for writing a better murder scene.

3DToday, however, is one of those milestones in my life—a day to remember—a day to stand from the highest point and shout, “My novel is published!”

To all who have waited patiently for this special tale of Murder, Mayhem and Medicine, you can now download Lethal Medicine for a great summer or weekend read.

Lethal Medicine is the story of a pharmacist who thinks he has life figured out, at least until a determined DEA agent and the police turn his world upside down!


Clinical pharmacist and entrepreneur Jon Masters would seem to have it all. But still haunted by his days in Special Forces, Jon’s life implodes when evidence found at a murder scene implicates him in an elaborate scheme to distribute a pharmaceutical quality street drug disguised as an experimental medication.

With the help of a trusted army confidante, Jon reenters the world of covert ops and cyber intelligence, and he embarks on a mission through China and Mexico to save his reputation and regain control over his life as he uncovers a complex international conspiracy to redefine the nation’s recreational drug culture.

PrintLethal Medicine is available TODAY!

╚═DOWNLOAD NOW═► Click here!

Posted in A Jon Masters Novel, A Thriller Novel, About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, Lethal Medicine Is Published, Lethal Medicine-The Novel, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Book Is Published, New International Thriller Release, New Novel Published, New Novel Release, New Thriller To Download, Published Novel by James J Murray, The Writings of James J. Murray | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


I have exciting news!Print

My new international thriller Lethal Medicine is now available for pre-order!

I have officially received the good news! Lethal Medicine publishes this Friday August 7th and is now ready for advanced ordering.


Friday August 7th—that’s the day Murder, Mayhem and Medicine will be in abundance for your reading pleasure.

 Lethal Medicine is the tale of a successful pharmacist who got a rocky start in life but managed to remake himself into the person he had always wanted to be—at least until a determined DEA agent and the police arrive on his doorstep to shatter his hopes and dreams.

“Clinical pharmacist and entrepreneur Jon Masters would seem to have it all. But still haunted by his days in Special Forces, Jon’s life implodes when evidence found at a murder scene implicates him in an elaborate scheme to distribute a pharmaceutical quality street drug disguised as an experimental medication. With the help of a trusted army confidante, Jon reenters the world of covert ops and cyber intelligence, and he embarks on a mission through China and Mexico to save his reputation and regain control over his life as he uncovers a complex international conspiracy to redefine the nation’s recreational drug culture.”

PrintLethal Medicine—the eBook—can be pre-ordered for delivery on August 7th ~

╚═PRE-ORDER NOW═► Click here!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, Lethal Medicine Is Published, Lethal Medicine-The Novel, New International Thriller Release, New Novel Published, New Thriller Available For Pre-Order, Published Novel by James J Murray, The Writings of James J. Murray | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Apostrophes And Their Use With Proper Nouns

This may seem like a silly subject to write about, but I must admit that I’veMH900427785 had trouble using the apostrophe appropriately in the past, especially regarding its use with proper nouns that end in “s”. I’ve written a similar blog in the past, but it’s become a personal dilemma since the main character in my debut novel is named Jon Masters and the book is going to be published soon. So I’ve spent considerable time editing and at times facing this issue.

How do I refer to Jon’s wife in my writing? Is she Jon Masters’ wife or is she Jon Masters’s wife? Well, I looked up the accepted method to depict such a possessive proper noun and my confusion worsened. The Associated Press Stylebook recommends using just an apostrophe after the name—in this case, Masters’. But other writing experts recommend adding the apostrophe PLUS an “s” after the name—as in Masters’s.

A noted e-newsletter on English grammar, called, devoted a blog to the subject and stated that the rule to be followed is this: “Forget the apostrophe until you write out the entire word. A correct possessive apostrophe can never entangle itself within any word.”

MH900299735So if I used this rule from Jane Straus’s GrammarBook newsletter, then I could be assured that “Jon Masters’s wife” would be the correct way to write that phrase! But interestingly, my computer’s spell check underlines this spelling in red—indicating that I made an error. (Sigh!)

Does this mean that The Associated Press Stylebook is correct and a noted English grammar expert is wrong? Further research findings (noted here and here) give conflicting rules. One reference states that only an apostrophe is needed after a word that ends in “s” to show the possessive, while another states that an apostrophe PLUS an “s” is needed after a word already ending in “s” when writing a possessive noun. (More Sighs!!)

As I decide which is correct, another thought comes to mind. What is the proper way to write the possessive when the proper noun is plural—for instance, when referring to both Jon Masters and his wife, Gwen?

Well, the rules are quite clear when it comes to the plural of aMH900441734 proper name ending with an “s”. The rule states that you always use an “es” after the “s”—in this case, I would refer to the married couple as the Masterses. That’s a mouthful to say the least, but it is correct.

And how would I write the possessive of that word? Would it be the Masterses’ house or the Masterses’s house? Again, when using the plural of a possessive proper noun ending in “s”, the rules are quite clear also. The rule states that one adds only an apostrophe after the existing “s” in a proper noun that is also plural and ends in “s”—in this case, Jon and Gwen’s house would be written as the Masterses’ house. Although correct, that phrasing does sound rather awkward. When all is said and done, I might circumvent this rule entirely and instead phrase it as “the house of Jon and Gwen Masters.” (Another Sigh, but this time with a Smile!)

While there are some discrepancies between The Associated Press guidelines and the Chicago Manual of Style, modern English literature seems to adhere to three specific guidelines for apostrophes with MH900443125possessive proper nouns: If the noun is singular, add an apostrophe before the “s”—as in Jon’s. If the noun is singular but ends in “s”, also add an apostrophe before the “s”—as in Jon Masters’s. If the noun is plural and ends in “s”, just add an apostrophe—as in the Masteres’ house.

Although I have these rules firmly in command now and will apply them in the editing of my work, I’ll leave you with one disclaimer: these rules don’t necessarily apply to my friends across the pond, over our northern border, those Down Under or writers in other nations that use the English language as their written word.

My research tells me that I can only safely say that these rules seem to apply to writers within the borders of the United States who are writing for a domestic audience.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!



My debut novel Lethal Medicine (with protagonist Jon Masters) will publish in less than two weeks. IT WILL HAVE NO POSSESSIVE NOUNS that require me to do any of the above apostrophe calisthenics regarding Jon Masters. (Sigh of Relief!)

By the way: If you’re interested in reading the first chapter of Lethal Medicine, it’s included in a FREE download of my short story Cuffed that was recently published.

Download it FREE on any of your digital devices or apps from using My Special 100% Off Promo Code!

═►Use Promo Code UU25H @

Posted in "Cuffed" by James J. Murray, A Free Short Story Offering, A New Short Story Release, About James J. Murray, About Writing, Accuracy in Editing, Accuracy in Writing, All About Writing, Apostrophe Use, Apostrophe Use with Nouns Ending in S, Apostrophe Use with Plural Nouns Ending in S, Apostrophes and Proper Nouns, Appropriate Apostrophe Use, Blog Writers, Blogging, Chicago Manual of Style and Apostrophes, Developing a Writing Career, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Writing Skills, Grammar and Punctuation, Growing As A Writer, Medical Treatments Using LSD, Obsession with Proper Usage of the English Language, Proper Punctuation in Writing, Proper Use of Apostrophes, The AP Style and Apostrophes, The Art of Writing, The Associated Press Rules for Apostrophes, The Misuse of Apostrophes, The Misuse of Apostrophes with Nouns Ending in S, Tools of Fiction Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Day to Remember and A Gift For You

Today is one of those memorable days in my life! It was busy, frustrating, exciting and ultimately thrilling. So what happened you might ask?

I’ve been writing novels and short stories for several years now. Three of my short stories have been published previously in different anthologies, but I’ve never taken that big step to publish under my own name—until today!

I just got notice from my agent that my favorite short story called Cuffed is now loaded on various book sites and is available for downloading IMMEDIATELY.

As if that wasn’t enough good news, the cover artist that did the cover for Cuffed presented me with another cover design—the cover art for my upcoming debut novel called Lethal Medicine—that is scheduled for release very soon, by mid-August to be exact.

I’m so excited about these pivotal events in my writing career that I’m offering Cuffed with a SPECIAL PROMOTION CODE (Thru Smashwords Only) for a FREE DOWNLOAD for a limited time and to include the first chapter of Lethal Medicine at the end of Cuffed.

So please don’t delay. Scoot over to your favorite eBook site and download Cuffed today and get a sneak preview of Lethal Medicine as a bonus!


Cuffed – A Short Tale of Intrigueunnamed-10

A true story with a touch of drama and suspense!

Pharmacist Sam Delaney discovers that working the graveyard shift can be deadly when a dangerous patient from a local emergency room steps into his pharmacy and presents a questionable prescription. Concern turns to panic as Sam dials the police and is told that they will be delayed because of a storm and its inevitable fender benders. Sam has to stall for time and personally deal with the impatient perpetrator while trying to protect nurse Mary and an elderly insomniac, both of whom have their own plan of attack. Ultimately, the only victim turns out to be someone you’d least expect.

DOWNLOAD FREE═► On any of your digital devices or apps from using My Special 100% Off Promo Code!

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Posted in About Writing, About James J. Murray, The Practice of Pharmacy, Blogging, Prescription Forgers, Blog Writers, "Cuffed" by James J. Murray, Growing As A Writer, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Art of Storytelling, James J. Murray Blog, A New Short Story Release, A Free Short Story Offering, A Mystery Short Story, Free Book Downloads, Forged Prescription Short Story, True Crime Short Story, Free Short Story Download | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments