March 11, 2015


I'm a big fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories. Just about the only mystery series (after Sherlock Holmes) I've ever really read much of.

For a long time I didn't have access to them, but when I got my Kindle it turned out that the entire canon was available for it, so I've bought and downloaded most of it, at least three quarters.

Recently I noticed something that's been bothering me -- more than it really should. In several of the stories, someone dies by being stabbed, and dies without making any sound.

That's not really possible. A stab wound can kill you fairy rapidly if it hits the heart, but you'll still scream. The classic knife-kill they teach soldiers is to get the victim from behind, to grab his head with one hand over the mouth, and to shove the knife in to hit the heart.

But that's not what happens in these stories. In at least one case the person was stabbed from the front, and she should have thrashed like a fish from the pain -- but didn't. In another case it's described as a woman walking by a man from his rear to his front, and sticking a knife in him in passing. Other people were nearby and would have heard if he'd made any kind of sound, including even falling on the floor, and they didn't.

Knifes don't act like that! Grumble...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 09:00 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 239 words, total size 1 kb.

1 There are a couple ways to do it if you need to stab someone and keep him quiet, but they basically involve either going for the throat or under an armpit and into the heart and lungs. Not a safe move either way.

Shock does take some people funny, though. So it could happen - but not every time, and surely not something you'd want to count on!

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at March 12, 2015 02:30 AM (a38fD)

2 You worry me, Avatar.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 12, 2015 11:58 AM (jGQR+)

3 Not the first time I've heard THAT one.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at March 12, 2015 01:58 PM (zJsIy)

4 I'd agree with Avatar about shock: The same injury will drop one person instantly, and the next person will keep kicking for a minute or so. The difference is more psychological than physiological. Though, in the brain, they're hard to distinguish...

Posted by: Brett Bellmore at March 12, 2015 02:12 PM (L5yWw)

5 I've seen more than one story that had stabbing someone in the kidneys from behind because supposedly it's so painful you can't even cry out, but that doesn't seem likely.  My assumption is both of these are some kind of urban legend.

Posted by: RickC at March 12, 2015 05:02 PM (0a7VZ)

6 Yeah, it can't be any worse than kidneystones, RickC... I've passed 13 of those, and believe me, you can cry out.  Also moan, whimper, groan, cry like a little baby, pray for death, and so on.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 12, 2015 08:17 PM (jGQR+)

7 Having talked shop about killing people, the theory I heard on silent knife kills is a slit throat from behind. But it can't be some neat little slice, it's got to be enough of a cut to open up the larynx and thus prevent vocalization. The killer has to be strong enough to not only make a very serious cut with one hand, the other arm has to be strong enough to hold the victim up, to prevent the body from dropping and making the kind of noise you'd expect when 150-200 lbs of meat drop to the ground.

The good news is you don't have to worry too much about shock, as they're going to die of blood loss very very quickly. But you do need to put them on the ground quietly.

And I expect everyone commenting on this post is now on an list... but then, most of us were on one already.

Posted by: Boviate at March 12, 2015 08:25 PM (iiTgy)


But that makes a mess, including on your hands. If you're trying to do this without giving anything away to the people you're about to see thirty seconds later, that's out.

That's the problem. In two of the cases in Stout's books, the murderer expects to see someone very soon, seconds, after committing the murder -- and uses a knife because it's quiet.

Oh, well; it's just a book.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 12, 2015 08:29 PM (+rSRq)

9 I suppose you could also gig somebody, severing the spinal cord high up, probably the neatest silent knife kill short of snapping the neck like Schwarzenegger did in Commando. 
Ever since that movie, I've been unable to bring myself to go to a chiropractor...

Posted by: Brett Bellmore at March 13, 2015 01:32 AM (L5yWw)

10 I think let's stop talking about this...

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 13, 2015 02:10 AM (+rSRq)

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