Murder to a Jazz Beat and tainted reeds

J.B Fletcher

J.B Fletcher

My favourite genre of fiction is crime fiction, I love murder mysteries and how the detectives solve the case. This afternoon I was watching the classic TV series Murder, She Wrote and came across an episode titled, “Murder to a Jazz Beat”. The episode was set in New Orleans, a perfect place to set a Jazz orientated mystery, however I wasn’t very satisfied with the way J.B Fletcher came to her conclusions about the killer [SPOILER ALERT]. The jazz musician was allegedly killed via a poisoned clarinet reed. Jessica came to this conclusion as upon seeing the reed after the death and it was spotless. She claimed that as the musician had drunk black coffee immediately before playing the reed should have been stained ergo the killer switched the poisoned reed with a clean one. This solution presented some trouble for me.

First of all it would be fairly easy to taint a reed but I wonder how much poison could actually be administered from something as tiny as a clarinet reed? Not much unless the poison was so strong it could kill on brief contact. It would be more plausible for example if the player had sucked on the reed first to moisten it but the clarinet, reed already attached, was handed to the player (who usually played tenor sax) whom then sipped some coffee instead. It would be smarter to taint one of his tenor sax reeds, which are much bigger and therefore need more moisture, or to poison the actual mouthpiece.

Secondly being a reed player myself I know that wind players try to avoid foods and drinks that could get into the instrument, creating sticky pads or ruining good reeds, for example. Most people just drink water before hand. However even he had drunk coffee beforehand I doubt if it would have dramatically stained the reed, not unless he actually still had liquid in his mouth, something an experience musician would not do.

Sorry Jessica but I don’t agree with you on this one.


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