In Slow Time #1, 2013


“It’s an unusual one for Bamtree,” said the Coroner. “Normally speaking I get people who’ve slashed their own wrists, not ones who’ve had a little helper. These are very careful, deliberate incisions. Someone took the time to do the job properly. Of course, the aconite was a big help in this. Our victim was paralysed – probably got to see his own lifeblood draining away. Nasty, if that’s what our murderer did. Hypothesis, of course. Any idea who did it, Rufus?”

“No,” said Quinnell. “Our victim’s got form though and connections with some of the usual Bamtree lot.”

The coroner let out a whistle. “So this was done to convey a message?”

“He was holding a piece of paper with Fin written on it,” said Quinnell.

“Bloody Hell, Rufus. Our killer has a dark sense of humour,” said the coroner.

“Yeah.” Quinnell smiled.


 So why use aconite? And the focus on the veins. Was that part of the message or just a method of torture? What it did mean was that despite Mark Savage’s size, the killer did not need to be a big man. Mark Savage had been incapacitated by a herb. And then drained of blood, possibly while still conscious. Rather than narrowing down the list of suspects swarming in DI Quinnell’s head, the coroner’s report had just enlivened them.

There had been no aconite found in Savage’s nostrils. So he had not mistakenly snorted the powder. The poison had been swallowed along with a chicken and bacon sandwich, some tomato, rye bread and mozerella cheese, and several glasses of red wine.


In Slow Time is the sixth track on Peter Hammill’s 1980 album, A Black Box. With the exception of some sax and flute (courtesy Peter Jackson of Van der Graaf Generator) and synthesizer and tambourine (played by David Ferguson, co-writer of In Slow Time and member of Random Hold), all the instrumentation was performed by Hammill. Side one of the original LP is made up of seven songs, side two one: Flight (19:36). It was the first time, post Van der Graaf Generator that Hammill had recorded a complex, multi-section song. And it’s a doozy! You can see a video of  Peter Hammill dancing to In Slow Time here. I’m not putting a link in to Flight – I’m sure you can find it if you want to or, you know, go and buy the album.