Poison Study

By: Maria V. Snyder


Without the support of my husband, Rodney, this book wouldn’t exist. Thanks, dear, for all the printing, the copying, the critiquing, the willingness to be a single parent from time to time, for not complaining about conference fees, for being there when the rejections came in, and the million other things that I don’t have room to list! To my children, Luke and Jenna, for understanding (most of the time) that I’m not playing on the computer (really, I’m not). To my parents, James and Vincenza McGinnis, thank you for always believing in me. To my sister, Karen Phillips, for reading the book and for giving me the support that only a sister can give. To Chris Phillips for his good ideas, and for putting up with all of us.

And I can’t forget the babysitters: Sam and Carole Snyder, Becky and Randy Greenly, Amy Snyder, Gregory Snyder, Melissa Read and Julie Read—without you I would still be on Chapter Two.

Many thanks go to my fellow Muse and Schmooze critique group members: Shawn Downs, Laurie Edwards, Julie Good, Lisa Hess, Anne Kline, Steve Klotz, Maggie Martz, Lori Myers, Kim Stanford, Jackie Werth, Michael Wertz, Judy Wolfman and Nancy Yeager. Without your help and support this book wouldn’t have made it this far.

A heartfelt thanks to Helen French. She made the call I had been dreaming of, and her enthusiasm for this project has been wonderful. Thanks to Mary-Theresa Hussey, who has been an excellent editor. Thanks to my agents, Sally Wecksler and Joann Amparan-Close, for helping with the contract. Phil Heffernan, who did the cover art, thank you for making it perfect.

Very special thanks go to Alis Rasmussen, who took the time to read and critique my manuscript. Your advice was truly invaluable.

To my husband, Rodney, for all the support he has given,

is giving and will give. I’m spoiled rotten.

In loving memory of Frances Snyder,

Jeanette and Joseph Scirrotto.

“They would talk to you and make jokes

while they were feeding you poison.”

—Kathy Brandt on chemotherapy;

a good friend who lost the battle

About the Author

Maria V. Snyder has been writing fiction and nonfiction since 1995. She has also published numerous freelance articles in regional magazines and in local newspapers. Teaching fiction writing classes at the local college gives her the enjoyable opportunity to encourage novice writers and to keep improving her craft.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria attended 12 years of catholic school before going to Penn State University to study Meteorology. Earning a Bachelors of Science degree in Meteorology, Maria discovered, much to her chagrin, that forecasting the weather wasn't one of her skills. She found employment in the environmental field as an air quality scientist, and it was during those years that she started writing. After writing many science fiction short stories, Maria started Poison Study, her first novel about a food taster.

Her research on food tasting methods with an expert chocolate taster, her husband, turned out to be a delicious bonus while writing Poison Study. Maria has a brown belt in Issinryu Karate, and has enjoyed

“acting out” the complex fight scenes in the book. Playing volleyball and the cello are her other hobbies.

Traveling with her family is another wonderful distraction from writing. Maria loves cruising in general and the Caribbean in particular, and is planning a trip to the Southern Caribbean in January 2006. She has also been to Europe, Canada, Mexico, and spent a week in Beijing, China during the summer of 2004.

Chapter One

L ocked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.

Vivid recollections waited to ambush me whenever my mind wandered.

Encompassed by the blackness, I remembered white-hot flames stabbing at my face. Though my hands had been tied to a post that dug sharply into my back, I had recoiled from the onslaught. The fire had pulled away just before blistering my skin, but my eyebrows and eyelashes had long since been singed off.

“Put the flames out!” a man’s rough voice had ordered. I blew at the blaze through cracked lips. Dried by fire and fear, the moisture in my mouth had gone and my teeth radiated heat as if they had been baked in an oven.

“Idiot,” he cursed. “Not with your mouth. Use your mind. Put the flames out with your mind.”