With Gu Kailai and a Bo household employee now in custody for the suspected murder of U.K. businessman Neil Heywood, the many books of Pearl S. Buck are brought forward from my childhood reading. Court intrigue with subsequent poisoning of despised opponents is crouched within the pages of her dramatic novels.
I pulled _China Flight_ off my shelf this morning. (Triangle Books Edition, published February 1945). The following, is taken from pages 176-177.
"So yesterday he had sauntered down into the city to a certain pharmacy which he knew, and there he asked the old man who kept it what sort of poison could be put into the food so that it would not taste nor kill, but would nauseate the stomach and makes the bowels fluid. The pharmacists looked like one of his own dried herbs, so thin and small and brown was he, and his hansd were stained and wrinkled with his brews. He sucked in his lips over his toothless jaws and considered Ling's question carefully; then he put on his brass-rimmed spectacles and weighed out an ounce of this and a quarter of an ounce of that on his small delicate scales, sifted in some powder between his thumb and finger, wrapped it all up in thick brown paper, put a red slip on the package and gave it to Ling. 'A pinch of this in each meal three times in the same day and the one you wish ill will be busy with himself.'
....Thus it was about that for two days the old woman had struggled against her inner sickness... Yet the time came when her inwards could not be contained, and so twice during the day she had fled from the room to ease herself...."
Was it death by a traditional and ancient Chinese pharmacological art? We will never know. Mr. Heywood's body was conveniently rushed to a crematorium. From forensic evidence to ashes out a smoke stack. How utterly convenient.
April 17 update:
Yep. Cause of death is now being noted as poisoning.