Researching the modus operandi

I’ve spent a lovely couple of hours this morning researching how one may have killed someone with poison in 1921. I now know far more about arsenic than is reasonably healthy. At some point, with all this procrastination, someone may actually get murdered in this draft!

I’m also struggling to get my head around how to write about a murder in a way that isn’t too shocking for younger readers. I know that authors such as Robin Stevens have had huge success with murder mysteries, so there is certainly a way of doing this, but I think that it’s going to be tricky to pull it off with both conviction and a duty of care for the reader.

It turns out that giving my novel a historical setting is not the only thing that’s going to cause an issue for me. Fortunately, I’m enjoying the research, and in writing about something that I find interesting, I’m hoping that other readers will too. It’s going to be a minefield though!

So… can any writers, especially those of kidlit offer any advice? Should I be targeting a slightly older reader, perhaps?

Equally, if you’ve ever poisoned anyone and would like to share your experiences, be my guest!

Photo by Davide Baraldi on

4 thoughts on “Researching the modus operandi

  1. I think young readers, 8 to 12, are OK with some violence, especially poison which isn´t gruesome. As long as the death isn´t graphic. Just think of the nursery stories, Grimm´s Tales for instance. They are very gruesome, and kids love them. I haven´t poisoned anyone, yet, so I can´t help you there. Good luck.


  2. Thanks for your comments, Darlene. My daughter is quite insistent that children her age like murders in their books – it’s me that’s concerned!


  3. Murder in MG is certainly becoming more common. I like reading mysteries and, honestly, don’t know anyone who doesn’t, so good for you for trying your hand at it. You might want to erase your internet history, though, just in case…


    1. Oh, I know! I can only imagine how many crime writers get their laptops seized every year – you should see some of the search terms I’ve typed into Google today!


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