Comments: 10
BrokenTune 11 months ago
I love the cover.
Does this overlap with A is for Arsenic a lot? I think I would get a kick out of reading a bit more about Marsh.
A is for Arsenic has only the one chapter on Arsenic. The others are all on different poisons.
BrokenTune 11 months ago
I know that (I have read the book) but I was wondering how in-depth the background story to Marsh and his development of the test is.
Murder by Death 11 months ago
I'd have to re-read the chapter in Arsenic to be sure, but I think this book goes farther into his own background (and how badly he was treated by his own country given his many accomplishments), but less into this actual work developing what becomes the Marsh test. He's inspired by the Bodle case (he was the chemist specialist at the inquest and trial) to create a more accurate test, but we don't spend any time with him as he does; Hempel comes back to him after the new test has been designed. (She gives a great description though, of exactly how it works.)

This is a really hard book to pin down; it's the story of the Bodle murder but with lots of contextual anecdotes and a candid look at the very rough start forensic toxicology got in a time when there were no standards for anything or anybody.

It's a good read, but I think maybe The Poisoner's Handbook by Blum does a better job of creating a coherent history (although at a later date when medico jurisprudence wasn't quite so, um, chaotic) of the science. But this one excels at creating a gripping narrative that brings the whole time alive.
BrokenTune 11 months ago
I checked my library and they don't have this one. But from your description I am really tempted to find it elsewhere just for the description of the marsh test alone. That was the only thing that annoyed me about A is for Arsenic - she seemed to get the description wrong. There was a part missing about when/where the material that was being tested was added. (It's not in the schematic in the book either.)

And, hey, The Poisoner's Handbook will be on my to-find-list, too. :D
Murder by Death 11 months ago
Ah, well you'll definitely get that from this book (at least I did). Hope you enjoy it! And The Poisoner's Handbook (which I really liked, iirc). :)
I had the visual of the Marsh test in my head from when it's done in Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers.
Thanks for covering this book. From the cover and synopsis it seems right up my street but like you I don't particularly like when authors jump around too much because it detracts from the smooth enjoyment of the narrative. Still debating if I should add this to my TRL...
Murder by Death 11 months ago
It's hard to say "definitely read it!" because I did find the jumping around chaotic and at one point I got aggravated by all the names thrown at me. BUT it is a good read and a great story; I'm not at all sorry I read it, and even though I think it would have benefitted from a much stricter editor, it remains very readable and I learned a LOT!

But maybe try your local library first? :)
That's a pretty euphemism. I confess I laughed when I saw that title.