Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup

book cover
A is for Arsenic
by Kathryn Harkup

ISBN-13: 9781472911308
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Released: September 8, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
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. 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.

My Review:
A is for Arsenic examines the poisons used to kill in Agatha Christie's mystery novels. The author talked about the use of the poison in Christie's novels (usually without giving away who the murderer is, but with a warning if she does). She described real life cases involving the poison, from murder to accidents or suicide. She talked about cases that might have inspired Agatha Christie. She also described in depth how the poison kills, its symptoms, any antidotes (now and back when Christie wrote), and how it can be detected in the victim. She also explored how difficult or easy it would have been for a murderer to obtain the poison and get the lethal dose into the victim.

The poisons covered are Arsenic, Belladonna, Cyanide, Digitalis, Eserine, Hemlock, Monkshood, Nicotine, Opium, Phosphorus, Ricin, Strychnine, Thallium, and Veronal. This would be a great resource for mystery authors. The sections involving science may be more detailed than the average reader would care about, but fans of Christie and true crime fans may find this book interesting.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

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