In THE DEADLIEST FEVER, due for release next fall, Miriam wonders whether the sea captain died of a heart attack from his usual excesses or whether he was deliberately poisoned with black hellebore. Could his dinner companion have slipped one drop too many into his drink at the Lady Luck?
Black hellebore is a perennial evergreen flowering plant in the buttercup family (see my blog of November 29, 2016). Used in minute amounts as a sedative, black hellebore in larger doses causes a feeling of suffocation, a slowing of the pulse, and finally collapse and death from cardiac arrest.
And so, Miriam has her work cut out for her. Was the captain poisoned and, if so, by whom and why? She wrestles with the problem:
I couldn’t be sure what had killed the captain. Yes, he’d complained of shortness of breath and later he’d vomited, symptoms that could accompany a heart attack, but he didn’t mention pain or discomfort in his arms or chest. Since he’d been out with a business associate, probably another scoundrel, and may even have had a dispute with him, he could have been poisoned. Let’s see. An overdose of black hellebore dispensed as a tincture would have easily dissolved in his drink and could have mimicked the symptoms of a heart attack. And based on the timing—black hellebore brings on shortness of breath in about thirty minutes—his dinner companion could have administered it.
But who was his dinner companion?
Don’t be so sure Miriam will solve this one. After all, at the same time, she has to deal with a jewel heist in Ephesus and a peculiar defacing of the Torah mantle in the Great Synagogue.