The Joy of Knives

If you’re writing a murder mystery, you’d better know something about your murder weapon, or your book won’t be believable. I’m knee-deep in a series based on the book Murder one: A Writer’s Guide to Homicide by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino. I’m in chapter 2, which covers the weapons of murder. My last post covered firearms (kind of). Today’s is all about knives.

The most common knife used to commit homicide is the standard kitchen knife. It’s handy, it’s easy to use, and everybody has one. Don’t be swayed by the glamor of a switchblade–a simple steak knife will do the job admirably.

Just like firearms, it’s important to know the names/terms of the parts of a knife because there’s more to a knife than the blade and the handle. For instance, the place where the handle meets the blade is called the hilt. “If a person is stabbed with the hilt pressing up against the skin, there is a distinct discoloration of the skin, proving that the person who did the attacking was not simply defending himself but purposely pushing the knife blade in as far as it could go in an attempt to kill someone.” Also, it’s highly probable that the person wielding the knife will accidentally cut himself, so he could leave blood/DNA on the knife. Even if he washes the knife, liquids like blood tend to run into the hilt and get caught under the handle. We’ve seen this on CSI, where the crime tech takes the knife apart and swabs for DNA. It happens in real life, too.

Double-edged knifes have a blade on two sides, so it’s double-deadly, but are usually only used by professionals or contract murderers. Your average housewife doesn’t have access to this one, so if you give her one, make sure it’s believable. And again, the wielder might end up cutting himself, so the whole blood/DNA thing is also in effect for this knife.

A ninja knife has a small curved blade, about three or four inches long. It’s held in a closed fist, with the blade protruding between a couple of fingers. Punching a victim with this knife in hand will leave nasty wounds. Again, this knife isn’t readily available to housewives, but if you’ve got gang members or rebellious teens or wanna-be ninja’s, this could be a great knife for your story.

The book doesn’t go into other bladed objects, like scissors, ice picks, metal combs, pitchforks, or fireplace pokers, but you can use your imagination to come up with some believable scenarios involving these pokey items. In my next post, I’ll cover some other unusual weapons the authors decided to include in their book.


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