Kathryn Harkup

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Rezension zu "A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie" von Kathryn Harkup

The Poisons Of Agatha Christie
TheRavenkingvor einem Jahr

Fourteen novels. Fourteen poisons. Just because it's fiction doesn't mean it's all made-up . . . Agatha Christie reveled in the use of poison to kill off unfortunate victims in her books; indeed, she employed it more than any other murder method, with the poison itself often being a central part of the novel. Her choice of deadly substances was far from random--the characteristics of each often provide vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. With gunshots or stabbings the cause of death is obvious, but this is not the case with poisons. How is it that some compounds prove so deadly, and in such tiny amounts? Christie's extensive chemical knowledge provides the backdrop for A is for Arsenic, in which Kathryn Harkup investigates the poisons used by the murderer in fourteen classic Agatha Christie mysteries. It looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, the cases that may have inspired Christie, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering and detecting these poisons, both at the time the novel was written and today. A is for Arsenic is a celebration of the use of science by the undisputed Queen of Crime.

Agatha Christie killed a lot of people in her books and her murderers often used poison to achieve their means. Christie knew what she was writing about, after all she had been a nurse during World War I., and her works have been praised for their scientific accuracy when it comes to the effects of poisons.

A is For Arsenic walks us through some of the Queen of Crimes’ most effective toxins. The chapters start with a scientific overview of the various poisons’ origins and their history before telling us how Christie utilized them in some specific works. We learn about popular poisons like strychnine, veronal, arsenic or cyanide, but also about more obscure toxins.

I found the chapter T is for Thallium particularly fascinating. It deals not only with the novel The Pale Horse but also tells the real life case of British serial-killer Graham Young who used this toxic element to kill several people. I just recently came across Young in one of Peter Lovesey’s mystery novels, and it was interesting to learn more about him.

There are some omissions. Most notably my favourite (if you can call it that) poison taxine used in a Pocket Full of Rye.

A is For Arsenic might not be for everyone. It helps if you have a scientific mind and a certain interest in chemistry, since otherwise the book can be a tad dry, but it is nonetheless a worthy addition to any mystery fan’s library.


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