People are fascinated by murder. The popularity of murder mystery books, TV series, and even board games shows that there is an appetite for death, and the more unusual or macabre the method, the better. With gunshots or stabbings the cause of death is obvious, but poisons are inherently more mysterious.Read more...
People are fascinated by murder. The popularity of murder mystery books, TV series, and even board games shows that there is an appetite for death, and the more unusual or macabre the method, the better. With gunshots or stabbings the cause of death is obvious, but poisons are inherently more mysterious. How are some compounds so deadly in such tiny amounts?
Agatha Christie used poison to kill her characters more often than any other crime fiction writer. The poison was a central part of the novel, and her choice of deadly substances was far from random; the chemical and physiological characteristics of each poison provide vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. Christie demonstrated her extensive chemical knowledge (much of it gleaned by working in a pharmacy during both world wars) in many of her novels, but this is rarely appreciated by the reader.
Written by former research chemist Kathryn Harkup, each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison used by the murderer. Fact- and fun-packed, A is for Arsenic looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering, and detecting these poisons, both when Christie was writing and today.
- ISBN-13: 9781472911308
- ISBN-10: 147291130X
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
- Publish Date: September 2015
- Page Count: 320
- Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-07-13
- Reviewer: Staff
Harkup, a chemist and Agatha Christie fan, celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Dame’s birth with this intriguing and illuminating examination of Christie’s use of poisons in her mysteries. She begins by examining Christie’s background with regard to poisons, as well as her commitment to the ethos of the detective writer. Harkup does not name a poison for every letter, but she does include more than a dozen, arranged in alphabetical chapters from Arsenic to Veronal. She gives detailed, layperson-friendly explanations of how each poison acts on the body, along with its history and origin. Readers will also find real-world cases, including some that may have inspired Christie. In addition, the science, history, and literary explication are all leavened with a generous dose of poison trivia. Harkup includes two appendices: the first covers causes of death in Christie’s stories and novels, while the second provides chemical diagrams for many of the compounds. Though Harkup does not reveal any of Christie’s culprits, the book deserves a “Spoiler Alert” tag, as she does explain how the poisons are administered as well as how the respective sleuths come to their conclusions. This compilation should please mystery fans, true crime readers, and lovers of popular science. (Sept.)