A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie (Bloomsbury Sigma)

September 9, 2015 - Comment

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

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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.

Comments

Jessica Weissman "poet and computer programmer" says:

For Christie buffs and murder afficionados – but not as involving as hoped for such a golden idea Agatha Christie wrote a lot of mysteries where the method was poison. Poison wasn’t all that easy to get, and the effects of poison aren’t usually the instant death we see on TV. Kathryn Harkup has put together a compendium of poisons known to Christie, with a description of the use, effects, place in the pharmacopia, ease of obtaining, and so on. With notes relating each poison to the Christie book(s) where it was used. 

Tom B. says:

An entertaining read on the poisons of Agatha Christie books. A great read for those who are Agatha Christie fans, or just science and general knowledge fans. Each chapter is dedicated to a poison and follows the A is for Arsenic, B is for Belladonna, etc. Very thorough with references to Ms. Christie’s books, it breaks down the history and science of the various poisons and really tells you how a lot of the poisons work, many are very gruesome killers. Not for the faint of heart.

J. Lesley "(Judy)" says:

Amazing information if you are a Christie fan. I was amazed at all the information in this book. Concentrating on the types of poisons used by Agatha Christie in her novels had to be pretty much a labor of love for British chemist Kathryn Harkup because you can tell immediately that she is also a fan of this great icon of crime fiction. The book is written from the British point of view with changes in book titles noted for the American market. I really had my doubts that this subject matter could be presented in such a way that it held…

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