by Neil Bradbury
Publication Date: February 1, 2022
Genre: History, Science
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
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.
Previous readers (who listened to audio versions, if that makes any difference) warned me that the format was a bit monotonous, so I went in with expectations firmly in place. Perhaps because I was reading a hard copy, I didn’t find the format to be too same/same. I whizzed through the book though, in a way I seldom do for non-fiction, so it’s a fast, easy read. While I liked the case studies he provided overall, I really appreciated the more contemporary accounts; I feared a bit that he’d recycle the same old case studies so often used in books of similar subjects. Plus, you don’t hear about people trying to poison people much anymore, unless they’re an enemy of a state that speaks … oh, say, Russian.
I did find the writing to be a little bit unsophisticated – not so much that it hindered the reading experience, but it’s probably why it was a fast read. I heavily skimmed the epilogue, for example, because it read entirely too much like the summaries we used to have to write in high school as part of our 500 word essays. What I did take away from the epilogue though, was that I missed more than just the ‘castle where Hogwart’s was filmed’ when I ran out of time for Alnwick that day many years ago – I missed the poison garden! Damn!
I read this for Halloween Bingo 2022, for the Arsenic and Old Lace square. This completes my squares and I have now reached a Bingo Card Blackout. No Bingos, yet, but they’re all there, just waiting for the calls.