#GuestPost from @KerenaSwan ~ What’s Your Poison? #TuesdayBookBlog @rararesources

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Kerena Swan with a guest post for my slot on the blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.


Kerena asks…What’s Your Poison?

I was walking my dog in the woods today when I met a fellow dog walker who proudly showed me her collection of mushrooms. She’d stored them in small plastic containers and said she was taking them home to identify them using the mushroom book her husband had just bought for her.

image1‘These are oyster mushrooms,’ she told me, ‘and these are funnel mushrooms. I’m pretty sure you can eat them.’ Rather you than me, I thought. I’ve been researching mushrooms recently for this blog and there are so many dangers in eating foraged fungi. Old herbalists called them poisonous damp weeds, mostly because they magically appear on dead and decaying remains. They often have a strange resemblance to body parts – ears, brains and men’s sex organs – and sinister names like Destroying Angel, Funeral Bell, Dead Man’s Fingers and Deadly Webcap.   I hope my friend doesn’t make soup with her gatherings. image2I’m reminded of Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer. He picked mushrooms on his Scottish estate and fried them in butter then fed them to his family and friends. Usually so careful, he didn’t check this time and four adults needed kidney dialysis and transplants as a result. For once, it was good that the kids were being fussy and refused to eat them because they wouldn’t have survived.

I shudder. I’ll just stick to Sainsburys chestnut mushrooms, thanks. 

From my research it seems there are many people who foolishly poison themselves. A toxicologist expert, Karen Wetterhahn, dripped a single drop image3of dimethylmercury on her left hand. As she was wearing protective gloves she thought nothing of it but five months later was admitted to hospital after bumping into things and slurring her words. After three weeks she fell into a coma and died five months later. The mercury had devoured her brain cells. In Georgian times women poisoned themselves to death with makeup, not realising lead was deadly. Children died from lead paint on their cots and people were poisoned by lead water pipes and arsenic in their wallpaper.

We are surrounded by poison in the world. Iron tablets, for example, may improve adult health but are deadly to children. Washer fluid and anti-freeze for cars can cause blindness, kidney failure and death for humans and pets. There are 1,200 poisonous marine organisms, 700 fish, 60 ticks, 75 scorpions, 200 spiders and 750 poisons in more than 1,000 plants. Scary eh? 

My husband thinks I’m weird/sick/twisted reading about this stuff but I find it fascinating. I mean, how did they discover which were poisonous? I suppose cave men watched and waited while the bravest one sampled the berries, or people were fed weird foods against their wishes. Apparently, slaves were used to test produce and were not the only people used as guinea pigs. In medieval times, wealthy people with paranoia or were targets of jealous enemies, employed official taste testers. The Borgias in Rome regularly used arsenic – colourless, tasteless, odourless and deadly – to eliminate the competition. People could say ‘I’m dining at the Borgias tonight,’ but never ‘I dined at the Borgias last night’. Races for the throne sometimes prompted an ambitious man to lace the wet-nurse’s food with arsenic so that their breast milk would poison the baby prince. In Rome, one entrepreneur set up a night school for rich women on how to poison their husbands, thus turning them into wealthy widows.

With so many poisons in this world, and ne’er-do-wells keen to administer them, it’s a wonder we survive. But! Some poisons can be used for good. Take Botox for example. In small doses (not that I’ve tried it) it can be effective and safe for reducing wrinkles, provide relief from migraines, uncross eyes and relieve spastic contractions of muscular sclerosis and cerebral palsy. image4Trainee Fugu chefs spend days preparing deadly puffer fish by skinning and shaving tissue thin sashimi that sells for £500 a plate. They have to take a twenty minute exam dissecting the fish and sorting the edible from inedible before artfully arranging it.  Recently, 900 took the exam but only 63% passed. I wonder how many diners ask to see their certificate before consuming the delicacy?

Many a crime novel features poisoning but as Brian Price, a crime science advisor says, ‘There is no such thing as an undetectable poison.’ There are classic symptoms but chronic poisoning – a slow, continual administration – is harder to detect. There would be a history of frequent trips to the doctor for weird symptoms or stomach pains. The victim would be unwell – loss of appetite, losing weight – but nothing specific and it would look like a natural disease. It can take time to make the allegation then be difficult to prove. Apart, that is, from the case of Ms. Li, who openly threatened her husband if he ever tried to leave her. On the day the divorce was final he checked into hospital with stomach pains insisting his wife had poisoned him. She sat by his bedside watching him deteriorate and knowing there was an antidote. It took eleven days to confirm that Thallium levels in his system were ‘off the scale’ but it was too late. Ms. Li is now serving a life sentence.

Well, it’s time to walk my dog in the woods again and take photos of mushrooms. I wonder if my friend ate her collection? I would ask her but I haven’t seen her lately.

Thanks so much for this, Kerena. I’m very glad mushrooms don’t appeal to me. The names are enough to put me off.


DrivenEvery mother’s worst nightmare
It was only for a couple of minutes, while dropping Noah off at nursery. Little did Melanie realise that leaving her sleeping son in the car would end up being the biggest regret of her life.
A teenage challenge turns sour
For teenager Woody, stealing cars with his new friend helps alleviate the tedium of a life of poverty and boredom. This isn’t what he wants to do with his life but for now, he feels accepted. Except on this occasion, his actions have consequences that could change his life forever. Is it too late to turn his life around?
How far would you go to save those you love?
While DI Paton is on the case of the missing child, he is quickly drawn into a web of deception that hits dangerously close to home. He soon finds himself torn in two, not knowing which way to turn: save his career or his family? Will he be able to crack the case before he himself cracks?

Purchase Links ~ Amazon UK / Amazon US


Driven Author Me with postboxWe are thrilled to be introducing DI Dave Paton and his son Tommy, the stars of the first novel in Kerena Swan’s new series, to the world. Before coming to Hobeck, Kerena had published three novels, Dying To See YouScared to Breathe and Who’s There? and has built a solid fan base around her writing career thus far. She is a juggler extraordinaire: driving forward a successful care business she runs with her husband yet finding time to write. She loves to write, here and there and everywhere when she’s not working. We don’t know how she does it but we are glad that she does! Kerena talks about her writing, her influences and how she came to Hobeck in this video.

Social Media Links ~ Website / Twitter / Facebook 



Win a paperback copy of Blood Loss by Kerena Swan (Open to UK Only)

BloodLoss_WEBTo enter please click the Rafflecopter link

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


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