Book Review – A Taste For Poison

Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m sharing another non-fiction review of A Taste For Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them. A bit of a mouthful – pun intended – so we’ll shorten it to A Taste For Poison!

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.

I came across this book after reading another poison related book, Murder Isn’t Easy by Carla Valentine. In her book, Valentine talks about the forensics behind just some of Agatha Christie’s wonderful mysteries, and how her knowledge of poisons especially, thanks to her experience as a pharmacist in both World Wars, helped fuel her reputation as the queen of crime.

While this book doesn’t have Poirot to lighten the tone, it is equally as fascinating, searching through history for cases of poisonings, talking about some incredibly famous cases, and some less well known. I listened to this as an audiobook, and the narrator, Derek Perkins, manages to capture the wit of the author perfectly.

I took a lot away from this read – no plans to use poison, you’ll be reassured to know! – and it left me feeling very thoughtful for several days after. The crimes committed were, obviously, awful, but were also utterly fascinating. Those that wanted to get away with it, and those who outright boasted about their crimes, it was almost a book about human nature as well as the nature of poison.

Thanks for stopping by for this non-fiction review today. If crime fiction is more your jam (no poison included!) maybe check out some of these reviews:

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