Thursday, 8 November 2018

Audiobook Review - A is for Arsenic

  • Title And Author: A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury 
  • Physical, eBook or Audiobook: Audiobook
  • Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: Bought
  • Length: 320 Pages or 9 hours and 50 minutes 
  • Buy From: Book Depository - Foyles - Waterstones - Audible
As you might be have noticed over the past few months on here and on my social media (mainly my Twitter), I have slowly reading some more crime/thriller novels. I use to say this is a guilty pleasure of mine as my reading jam is usually fantasy, but not saying that now. I enjoy reading crime. What set this off was me reading/audiobooking Agatha Christie and making an effect to read some of her work this year (I am planning to read more next year as part of a reading challenge for The Pewter Wolf). But what intrigued me the most was how Agatha Christie did the killing in her works - poisonings.

So, when I saw this book a few months back, which looks at the poisons used in her novels, I became intrigued and wanted to read it. But no bookshop I went into had it on the shelf nor my library. Plus, I didn’t want to ask if anyone could order it for me - what if they thought I was plotting to kill my Other Half? So, when I saw this on Audible, I was in two minds for a good few minutes as I wasn’t sure if audiobooking this was a good idea, plus I wasn’t sure I would get on with the narrator, and it’s non-fiction (a genre I struggle in). But in the end, I went “What’s the worse that could happen?”

Agatha Christie was a chemist throughout both World Wars so her knowledge of poisons was extensive. A is for Arsenic looks into the poisons Agatha Christie used in well-known novels, such as Mysterious Affairs at Styles, Crooked House, Sparkling Cyanide and 4.50 from Paddington among others novels, and look at how the chemicals interact with the body to cause death, to cure the poison, real life cases and look at how the murder was committed in the novels. 


I’m in two minds over this. I did like this, but I think I would have preferred reading the book rather than audiobooking it. The reason for this is when it talked about the poisons and how they interact in the body to cause a reaction or death, I did feel like I had to rewind it a few times to understand the science being described. I think if I had read this, I could have reread the pages a few times or google the words that caused me to go “Ok, I don’t know what that means”. 

What I did find interesting was the real life cases in connection to the poisons used. There was one that made me go “I want to know more about this”. This was Dr Thomas Neill Cream, also known as the Lambeth Poisoner. The reason this case intrigued me the most was how the story ended. After found guilty of poisoning his victims in the US and then in England (maybe Canada and Scotland), he was hung. But before he died, he was heard saying “I am Jack the …”. Now, this was where the story ended in A is for Arsenic, so I went to Wiki and did some digging. While some people believe Cream was Jack the Ripper, others disagree. Police officials never heard Cream say this, plus records show that Cream was in prison at the time of the Ripper murders in 1888 (though some people say Cream could have very easily bribe prison officials so he could have left the prison before his official release or his prison sentence was severed by a look-a-like [this last seems utterly absurd to me]). Also, some people wonder if he said “I am ejaculating” due to possible loss of bodily functions out of fear. 

Plus there are other real life cases mentioned in this book that I want to research but as I don’t have the physical book, I can’t backtrack over names and poisons with the greatest of ease. 


While I thin Agatha Christie fans and people who like science and medicine will like this, I would say the physical or ebook version of A is for Arsenic is much better than audiobook. 

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