A is for Arsenic

A is for Arsenic : The Poisons of Agatha Christie

4.07 (928 ratings by Goodreads)
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Shortlisted for the BMA Book Awards and Macavity Awards 2016

Fourteen novels. Fourteen poisons. Just because it's fiction doesn't mean it's all made-up ...

Agatha Christie revelled 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.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 135 x 216 x 27.94mm | 443g
  • Bloomsbury Sigma
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Black and white illustrations throughout
  • 147291130X
  • 9781472911308
  • 7,433

Table of contents

1. Dame Agatha's Deadly Dispensary
2. A is for Arsenic - Murder is Easy
3. B is for Belladonna - The Labours of Hercules
4. C is for Cyanide - Sparkling Cyanide
5. D is for Digitalis - Appointment with Death
6. E is for Eserine - Crooked House
7. H is for Hemlock - Five Little Pigs
8. M is for Monkshood - 4:50 from Paddington
9. N is for Nicotine - Three Act Tragedy
10. O is for Opium - Sad Cypress
11. P is for Phosphorus - Dumb Witness
12. R is for Ricin - Partners in Crime
13. S is for Strychnine - The Mysterious Affair at Styles
14. T is for Thallium - The Pale Horse
15. V is for Veranol - Lord Edgware Dies

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Review quote

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie ... has lethal charm. [Kathryn] Harkup leads every chapter with a literary quote, then proceeds to tell us what the poison is, how and under what circumstances it kills, some real-life instances of its use and what role it plays in the Christie plot ... good fun. * The Washington Post * ...this book is fascinating and anyone who is interested in the myriad painful and unpleasant ways in which people can be killed will relish it. * The Times * ...a cracking compendium of Christie's poisonings...A Is For Arsenic will appeal to any fan of Christie's work, but as a potted history of poisons, antidotes and medicines it has much wider reach than that. -- Mark Lorch * BBC Focus (Science and Technology) * Harkup superbly captures the texture of Christie's books, the sunshine and the surreptitious villainy. * Daily Mail * Fact and fun packed, A is for Arsenic looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with th body, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering and detecting these poisons. * Agatha Christie Website * ...a knockout analysis of poisons used in Christie's novels and short stories...Each chapter gives riveting information on the poison's chemical makeup, how it kills, whether there's an antidote, its history and its use in Christie's works and in real life...This is an absolutely bravura chemical compound. -- Connie Fletcher * Booklist * Intriguing and illuminating ... will please mystery fans, true crime readers, and lovers of popular science. * Publishers Weekly * An enjoyable, alphabetical overview of the renowned mystery writer's frequent weapon of choice. * Washington Independent Review of Books * A fascinating look at the poisons used in Christie's work. * How it Works * If you are coming to Agatha Christie's work for the first time, an avid fan, have an interest in crime or toxicology, or just like being taken on an adventure through time, A is for Arsenic is a must read. * Chemistry World * A killing read that combines scientific expertise with fan-based knowledge. * Saga *
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About Kathryn Harkup

Kathryn Harkup is a chemist and author. Kathryn completed a doctorate on her favourite chemicals, phosphines, and went on to further postdoctoral research before realising that talking, writing and demonstrating science appealed a bit more than hours slaving over a hot fume-hood. For six years she ran the outreach in engineering, computing, physics and maths at the University of Surrey, which involved writing talks on science topics that would appeal to bored teenagers (anything disgusting or dangerous was usually the most popular). Kathryn is now a freelance science communicator delivering talks and workshops on the quirky side of science.
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Rating details

928 ratings
4.07 out of 5 stars
5 36% (331)
4 40% (375)
3 20% (190)
2 3% (26)
1 1% (6)
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