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When I was reading The Romanov Sisters there was a lot of talk about medicating with arsenic injections. I knew a little about the drug but I was curious about the use of it in nineteenth century medicine. That led to John Parascandola’s book King of Poisons: A History of Arsenic. The book is a fascinating nonfiction look at arsenic’s role in science, literature, and crime. It’s broken down into bite sized sections and the writing is as lively and engaging as the subject matter (if you’re into that kind of thing). IMG_6172

There’s a whole section of the book that covers famous murders with arsenic as the weapon. Pre-twentieth century arsenic was extremely accessible and often used as a rodent repellent and in cosmetic procedures. You could go to any pharmacist and procure more than enough arsenic to kill a fully grown adult. Many arsenic compounds are also colorless, although technologies have been available to detect the substance postmortem since the 1700s.

I love a good true crime story (hey, In Cold Blood) and this book is chock full of antidotes about suspicious homicides and covert killers. Many women turned to poison to get out of abusive marriages and since arsenic mimics the symptoms of tuberculosis, they often got away with it. I found this to be a fascinating read, but, as with many of my recommendations, it is contingent on a strong interest in poison and murder. But at only 200 pages, it’s an otherwise breezy read!