Brakes, murder, and a red Ferrari convertible

I have a problem. I need to kill someone with faulty brakes.

I write the Seaside Knitters mystery

series (Penguin/NAL) and am in desperate need of good

solid information on Ferrari brakes

Here’s the setup in Moon Spinners: Sophia leaves a

party at the yacht club and as she rounds the curve on Devil’s Cove Road, she can’t slow down and her car goes over the side, crashing to the granite boulders below.

I know that not only Tom and Ray but readers of the site are

amazing experts when it comes to all things automotive (a car talk person told me that himself), so I am hopeful you

can help me with this murder.

Some questions:

? Do I have the right kind of brakes? (Brembo.?)

? How difficult is it to tamper with the brakes? Can a

woman do it? How long would it take?

? Does tampering mean puncturing the brakes so the

fluid leaks out? Is it under the hood? Under the car? Would you get grease on your clothes?

? How long would it take (in driving time–she drives

slowly) for the brakes to become ineffectual?

I am pretty desperate for expert advice. Any words of

magnificent Magliozzi wisdom and CarTalk mechanics will be deeply appreciated.

My most sincere thanks.

You would have to explain why the driver did not notice any warning lights and how you were able to disable both sides (perhaps tripple)of the brake system. There is built in redundancy. You have a lot of time after the first warnings (both by systems and by feel of the pedal) before you are left brakeless.And then you do have the “parking brake” to explain why it was of no help.

Tampering with brakes so they work normally at the outset, but then fail suddenly a while later is indeed fiction…But that’s what you are writing and 98% of your readers won’t know the difference. They can’t even open the hood let alone check the brake fluid…Your Ferrari should be a pre-1975 model which may not be equipped with a dual braking system and failure warning lights, making catastrophic failure somewhat more plausible…

If you MUST have mechanical accuracy, then you should physically inspect the exact model of car you are writing about and have its owner point out the details of its braking system…

Hi ,

If there is a way to technically and proficiently accomplish such a dastardly task ,printing out the steps thereof … might be giving out information which will assist someone in the commission of a serious offense .

I think TV crime shows take this into consideration some , when I see them include some very unlikely scenarios involving criminal schemes .

I have an idea of how someone might successfully sabotage a brake system , but hesitate to share it , fearing it may be used by someone in real life . Sorry !


Actually, dual master cylinders became required equipment on new cars sold in the US as of the 1967 model year.

I think I could explain not noticing the break light but wouldn’t have thought of that. THanks.

We really try to be accurate in these, but the JJs perspective–along with your wise observation that 99% of the readers won’t know the difference, has me rethinking this. Perhaps the best route is to be vague–not inaccurate, just not specific.

THanks all of you for your help!

You could put her in an Enzo. It seems like NOBODY can drive an Enzo without crashing it.

Stuntmen/mechanics can set this up. We just don’t want to give some warped individual any workable ideas.

This sounds like a Tom or Ray answer!

You know, you become so glib writing mysteries, especially the kind I write (kind, cozy, Agatha-Christie-like) that you forget some people actually do murder people and it’s not fun. So I am most appreciative of these reality checks.
THank you,

Some oddball scenarios that would both require advanced planning.

Remove brake fluid from reservoir and replace with an incompatible fliud like water or oil ? One would need a suction gun to not spill evidence and need to bring the replacing fluid.

Calculate the number of revolutions the axle would make to the point of mal-function, the diameter of the shaft, and the lenght of wire needed to wrap that number of revolutions. Fasten one end of a wire to a brake hose and the other end to the axle shaft. As the car drives, the wire winds around the shaft until taught, then -BAM- yanks off the brake hose.

? maybe / maybe not ?

Although the split brake systems are designed to give the vehicle half brakes in the event the other half fails, the SURPRISE the driver would encounter ( think, ‘oh crap’ panic ) when the pedal doesn’t respond as normal could easily result in loss of control under heavy cornering. ( pedal action is compromised, almost to the floor, requiring heavy pushing. )

So it’s conceivable, even with warning lights on at the time. The warning light is also a surprise as she begins to drive away ( “ooh, I’ll have to get that checked.” ) and the full ramifications of what the light means aren’t realized until…

A number of Enzos have been crashed on the roads…and that’s a huge percentage of all the Enzos out there. It seems that the car is far more capable than all but professional race drivers on closed courses. The car IMMEDIATELY does EXACTLY what the driver tells it…even if that input turns out to be a mistake. And the margin between being in full control and crashing is almost zero…there exists no understeer like a road car has, and it has the power to easily and instantly exceed its own levels of ability to adhere.

It’s been called “the million dollar supercar that nobody can drive”. I think it was an editor of Road & Track that wrote that.

Better yet, just draw out the brake fluid from the MC and leave air! There must have been a turkey baster somewhere at the yatch club.

A turkey baster with SOMEONE ELSES finger prints already on it !

…and the plot thickens.

The cook did it! Or so the evidence showed…

Yes! I think this would work, too. She doesn’t know much about cars so she would surely be surprised…

May I turn the rest of this book over to all of you? You’re doing a great job. (And the cook IS involved…but not in the way you think…)

Choose a classic red Ferrari convertible like a 275GTS or a 330GTS. Just bleed the brakes (all of them) into a graduated beaker while wearing coveralls and surgical gloves. You are trying to empty the master cylinder. If the murderer does her homework, she will know how much fluid the master cylinder holds and can gauge when it’s nearly empty by the number of milliliters in the beaker. Dispose of the coveralls, gloves and beaker in an incinerator. It will take a couple of minutes for the brakes to fail, but in that time the driver will be up to 150 MPH anyway.

P.S. What’s my cut?

P.P.S. Do you think I’ll be caught?