Review: A is for Arsenic, The Poisons of Agatha Christie – Kathryn Harkup

While I don’t find myself reaching for non-fiction books of science very often, it seems that in the past few months my interest into this subject have been peaked.

Enter A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup. Said to be a detailed look into fourteen poisons used in fourteen novels produced by Christie, solidifying them with cases that could have inspired her use of them.

What did I think of A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

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28260364A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup

Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma (January 3, 2017)

Print Length: 288 pages

Audiobook Length: 9 hrs and 50 mins

Narrator: Beth Chalmers

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.

The Review

This was an interesting look into the literary career of one of the greatest authors of all time.

A is for Arsenic follows Kathryn Harkup’s research into how Agatha Christie was able to use poisons correctly in her novels, how these chemicals kill in the real world, and cases that may have inspired Christie into the use of the poisons in her novels.

You can tell Harkup is fascinated by this particular subject. The way in which she explains her findings to the everyday reader is both accessible and highly informative. The way in which she structures the novel, by literally going through the ‘poison’ alphabet makes it easily sharable with other non-readers, like my fiancé, should something in the novel be of particular interest.

I suppose the only reason why A is for Arsenic didn’t receive a higher rating from me is because I thought it could be longer. I know Harkup was trying to give an overview into just a few poisons used by Christie during her literary career, but given the extensive research done by Harkup it is kind of a shame that more wasn’t written.

Overall rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup. Do you have any macabre scientific recommendations that you think I should check out? Leave it as a comment below and help my TBR grow.

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