I’ve always said that Florida is the ideal home base for a mystery writers–there are just so many interesting ways to plan a murder.
This point was reinforced last year when I attended a fun exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History called Wicked Plants, based on the amazing book by Amy Stewart. While perusing some of Mother Nature’s nastier botanical creations, I couldn’t help notice that many of the plants could be found in my home state of Florida–a few are even in my garden.
Along with the usual suspects such as deadly nightshade and water hemlock, I discovered a wonderful new villain called the rosary pea, so-named for its beautiful, but highly toxic seeds that resemble rosary beads. Rosary peas have long been used in jewelry making, but many a careless person has died after pricking a finger while handling one of the seeds.
This immediately put my writer’s imagination in gear. Under the right circumstances, the little rosary pea would make a clever murder weapon. All a crafty killer had to do is slip a few rosary peas, which had been carefully pricked to release the toxin, into the bead box of an annoying jewelry maker. Pretty darn close to a perfect crime, don’t you think?
Inspired, I created a little video about not only the wicked plants, but all the reptiles and critters that make up the darker side of the Sunshine State, the place I call Wicked Florida.
Some of the creatures/poison plants are Florida natives, but many–like the rosary pea–are invasive, hitchhikers from all over the globe who’ve made their home in Florida and now thrive. So far I’ve used three of the wicked species from the video in my novels, though I’ve not yet been able to work a snake into one of my murderous plots, which is regrettable because snakes are such a vital part of the wild Florida that I love.
Although I’d come with several scenarios–one involving a pet python–none quite passed the credibility test. Sure, there’s a suspension of disbelief in fiction, but there’s a limit as to how far it will stretch before breaking.So imagine my surprise when last month one of my discarded plot points became reality when a deadly cobra escaped its cage in a quiet Florida neighborhood.
So the next time a seemingly impossible plot occurs to me, I’m going with it.
After all, I live in Wicked Florida!