Motives for murder have not changed over the millennium, the three common ones being the pursuit of money, sex or power. Methods, however, are a different matter. The modern crime writer has at his/her disposal a trove of new ways to kill off characters.
The first that may spring to mind is Covid, but I’m in the camp of authors who believe people are not going to want to read about people dying this way—even if it’s fictional—even if the death from Covid has been staged. With so many dead and suffering from the disease, such a murder would cut too close to home. People are looking for an escape.
Fortunately, there are many other new possibilities. How about the dangerous selfie? Or, in the case of fiction, making the murder look like the victim was seeking one. These modern deaths have become shockingly common. According to the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, from 2011-2017 there were 259 deaths from attempted selfies. The dangerous pursuit has prompted a sign in the West Japan Railroad Company that says: Danger! No Selfie Sticks on the platform.
I’ve always been of the mind that the best way to kill a person is a quick shove from a fatal height. The promise of an amazing selfie seems like just the ticket to a lure a certain type of individual to the precipice.
How about death by driverless car? Imagine if the killer had the wherewithal to fiddle with an autonomous driving system. He could aim an empty car right at a person waiting for his ride. Or maybe the victim is driving the car, using the autopilot system. An “accident” wouldn’t necessarily raise a red flag. There have already been a couple of fatal crashes when autopilot systems were engaged.
Or, instead of altering the electronics, the killer could simply plant a stationary object in the non-driver’s path as the radar of such systems tend to discard things that are not moving. After all, the makers don’t want the cars screeching to a halt at every low-rise gantry or every emptied garbage can left too near a traffic lane.
Consider the possibilities in this age when any knucklehead can walk into Best Buy and purchase a drone capable of bringing down a plane. There are hoverboards that burst into flames and electric skateboards that make it possible for the rider not to look up from his phone. A 38-year-old who worked at a firm which designs electric skateboards died while riding one! He hit a parked car. Or, at least that is what the news reports. What if . . . .
Can you think of other perfectly modern ways to dispatch a victim or villain?