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general non-fiction

The Inheritor's Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science

 
 
Author
Sandra Hempel.
Publisher Norton  
Format paperback
ISBN 9780393349887
Pages/Publication Date 280/2014
Daedalus Item Code 59001
List Price: $15.95
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Description
In the first half of the 19th century, an epidemic of arsenic poisoning swept through Europe. Available at any corner shop for a few pence, arsenic was undetectable in food or drink, and came to be used by potential beneficiaries so often that it was nicknamed "the inheritor's powder." Then in 1833, wealthy British farmer George Bodle died in agony at his farm in Plumstead, and the investigation into his poisoning brought together a colorful cast that included bickering relatives, a drunken policeman, and James Marsh, a brilliant chemist who attempted to create a foolproof forensic test for the presence of arsenic. Yet his success caused as many problems as it did solutions for the British courts, who were apparently sending innocent men and women to the gallows.

"[Sandra] Hempel's fascinating look at how the science of poison detection developed is certain to draw in readers with its masterful combination of telling details, engrossing prose, and drama—the same combination that marked the author's The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump (about the 1831 cholera epidemic that ravaged London).... The Bodle case reads like something out of Dickens, and those fascinated by modern shows like CSI will delight in learning about the field's early days."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 
 
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