“A fascinating tale of poisons and poisonous deeds which both educates and entertains.” --Kathy Reichs
A brilliant blend of science and crime, A TASTE FOR POISON reveals how eleven notorious poisons affect the body--through the murders in which they were used.
As any reader of murder mysteries can tell you, poison is one of the most enduring—and popular—weapons of choice for a scheming murderer. It can be slipped into a drink, smeared onto the tip of an arrow or the handle of a door, even filtered through the air we breathe. But how exactly do these poisons work to break our bodies down, and what can we learn from the damage they inflict?
In a fascinating blend of popular science, medical history, and true crime, Dr. Neil Bradbury explores this most morbidly captivating method of murder from a cellular level. Alongside real-life accounts of murderers and their crimes—some notorious, some forgotten, some still unsolved—are the equally compelling stories of the poisons involved: eleven molecules of death that work their way through the human body and, paradoxically, illuminate the way in which our bodies function.
Drawn from historical records and current news headlines, A Taste for Poison weaves together the tales of spurned lovers, shady scientists, medical professionals and political assassins to show how the precise systems of the body can be impaired to lethal effect through the use of poison. From the deadly origins of the gin & tonic cocktail to the arsenic-laced wallpaper in Napoleon’s bedroom, A Taste for Poison leads readers on a riveting tour of the intricate, complex systems that keep us alive—or don’t.
Physiology and biophysics professor Bradbury debuts with an accessible and fascinating study of poisons, using real murder cases to explain how the chemicals affect the human body. In the past, poisoning murders were relatively easy to get away with, but today Bradbury considers the prospect of a poisoner getting away with their crime as "almost nonexistent." In chapters with titles reminiscent of mystery fiction ("Aconite and Mrs. Singh's Curry," "Arsenic and Monsieur L'Angelier's Cocoa"), Bradbury examines well-known cases such as the 1978 ricin poisoning of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov by means of a jab from a specially treated umbrella tip as well as more obscure ones, such as John Hendrickson's 1853 murder of his wife with aconite. He also details exactly how his 11 potentially fatal molecules work; for example, arsenic, in its gaseous state, disintegrates red blood cells, thus causing asphyxiation by reducing the oxygen carried through the body. Bradbury offers the occasional light touch, as in an appendix with a caveat that the "following information is purely for educational purposes only, and is not intended to give the advantages or disadvantages for the use of any particular poison in the commission of murder." Readers of A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie will be entertained. Agent: Jessica Papin, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.