Book Review: A is for Arsenic

Harkup, Katheryn. A is For Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie (press edition)

No muss, no fuss, a moderate powder in a drink, or a bit of liquid added to hot coco, and someone stands to profits an inheritance, or conceal a concealed. Poisons are a standard in murder mysteries, and Dame Agatha Christie’s books bring to an edge the gold standard. Dr. Katheryn Harkup takes a chemist’s sight view of Christie’s work, looking at the ~ numerous common “inheritance powders” and liquids place in the novels and plays. Along the road the reader learns a great deal not far from forensic science, biochemistry, criminal history, and which time to avoid taking tea or accepting a dinner call from eager relatives.

Harkup begins by Christie’s bona fides. Agatha Christie closely examined pharmacology (as we would say today) during WWI, reading dispensing in order to operate in a compounding pharmacy. She stayed current, re-took and re-passed the examinations to cozen the same in WWII, and incorporated what she learned into her novels, outset with  Mysterious Affair at Styles. Christie not often went wrong with her toxins, for all that as Harkup points out, she at a past period accelerated both the demise and the discovery for the purposes of fiction.

Harkup begins with arsenic, one of the most used by all and readily available poisons in the seasonably 20th century, working her way through the the letters to Veronel, a barbiturate. Along the habit the reader encounters familiar names of the like kind as cyanide and strychnine, garden-variety poisons from monkshood, foxglove, and dwale to opium, and industrial toxins such as phosphorus and  thallium. With three exceptions, Harkup provides in ~ degree spoilers, and those spoilers are well-conspicuous with options for skipping over them and acquisition back to the science.

And knowledge there is in full. Harkup has a PhD in biochemistry and is not fearful to use it. Readers learn exactly by what mode the various toxins do their rancorous deeds. If all you want is entertaining bits about Christie’s writings, you be able to skip the medical sections, but Harkup does a excessively good job of explaining the by what means and why in terms a put-reader can follow, if the appease-reader is willing to pay deference to details. You will find a far-famed deal of medical and industrial recital in the book, something I base fascinating but others might not. I likewise found myself nodding at familiar names, because foxglove, aconite, and poppies have been grown (or planted and then given full funerals) in the garden at Redquarters. And for the reason that I have, on occasion, been known to sally out to rabid advocates of “every part of natural” lifestyles that arsenic and other toxins occur in mood without any assistance from humans.

I advise the book for fans of Agatha Christie’s book, people interested in how a scrivener uses medical knowledge, and those inquisitive about toxicology in fiction. The chapters are self-contained and the book is easy to read in bites and nibbles. It is in likelihood not something you want to be seen studying during cooking class, in whatever manner, or in the presence of annoying in-laws and maker lovers.


I did not give credence to any remuneration for this review. I borrowed the part from the public library.

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