EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the October 10, 2005, issue of National Review.
If one examines the murders which have given the greatest amount of pleasure to the British public . . .–George Orwell, “Decline of the English Murder” (1946)
The conviction of Nancy Kissel, the “milkshake murderess,” was briefly noticed in National Review (“The Week,” Sept. 26). Mrs. Kissel was the wife of a senior Merrill Lynch executive stationed in Hong Kong. She did the deed by feeding her husband a strawberry milkshake fortified with a date-rape drug, then, when he was unconscious, bludgeoning him to death with an art object made of lead. She proceeded to roll up Mr. Kissel in a carpet that she secured with tape and had taken away to a storage room. The Chinese workmen who carried the carpet complained that it smelled of salted fish. (I imagine they were thinking of the mo-yu, or inkfish, a South Chinese delicacy which does indeed have a powerfully putrid smell.) Mrs. Kissel claimed at trial that her husband had spied on her, threatened her with a baseball bat, patronized gay-porn websites, and demanded unorthodox sexual favors. All these allegations were declared by Mr. Kissel’s relatives, acquaintances, and colleagues to be grossly out of character for the man they had known.
It emerged that while taking refuge at the family home in Vermont during the 2003 SARS epidemic, Mrs. Kissel had fallen into an affair with a cable repairman who lived in a nearby trailer park. Passionate letters were exchanged after her return to the Far East. The fact that her husband’s demise would bring her several million dollars was discussed. Her husband found out about the affair, was furious, and threatened divorce. Money! Sex! Class! “Hearts filled with passion, / Jealousy and hate”! This was one of your good old-fashioned domestic murders, perfect newspaper copy. I wish Mrs. Kissel had exercised a bit more ingenuity in disposing of the corpse. Hong Kong, however, is a very crowded place, and a human body is a difficult thing to hide even in more spacious surroundings. Mrs. Kissel did her best, I am sure.
Everybody loves a good murder story. We have been short of them recently, though. None of the big stories of the past few years has fitted the classic mold . . .
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