Poisons

Were I to murder someone, I would choose poison as a weapon. (Note to my husband: chew carefully!) There are so many benefits. First of all, it’s not bloody. It requires no physical strength. And if you plan ahead, you don’t even need to be around. Also, it’s so hard to detect.  So you can imagine the pleasure I’m having reading Kathryn Harkup’s wonderful book, A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. Harkup, who describes herself as a “chemist, author and Agatha Christie fanatic,” goes through 14 Christie novels, and explains the poisons used, the real-life cases that inspired Christie, and the occasional thing she got wrong. She also includes all sorts of weird information.  For example: Cleopatra considered poisoning herself with arsenic, but felt it would leave her corpse looking too unattractive, so she opted for the asp (though Harkup reports this would still not have been a pain-free way to die and her cadaver would have needed some cosmetic retouching.) In Sparkling Cyanide, there was a potential antidote on the dinner table in the form of sugar in champagne. She goes on to say that Rasputin (of Russian religious fanatic fame) might have survived the poisoning attempts against him because of all the Madeira he drank on his final night.  Then there’s the case of the real-life serial murderer Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, who used strychnine on his victims. When he was eventually hanged, in the 1890s, is it said that he last words were, “I am Jack the…”   Of course the best part of reading this book is having a chance to go over Agatha Christie’s great stories again, and with a guide who enjoys them so much. It makes me want to pick up one of my favorites, and perhaps I will. How about you? Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie?   

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