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John Emsley

The elements of murder

The poisonous nature of heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead is well known. In this book John Emsley examines how such elements have affected us, looking at their occurence in the environment, the danger they pose in industry and their use as medicines (where they poison the organisms which attack us). As such it is very informative, looking at the history of the elements, the symptoms they produce and their toxicity in organic and inorganic forms. But most of all it is about the use of these elements by murderers. If you enjoy a good murder story then you should certainly try this book.

I was surprised at how long it took to catch some of the murderers and I'm glad that modern procedures are much better at identifying these poisons.

I found that this book takes a bit of getting into - its a long book, and murders which would merit a few pages elsewhere get a whole chapter here. However, once you accept this then you should find it an enjoyable read.

There is also speculation on how some well know people may have been affected by these poisons. Newton probably suffered from mercury poisoning due his alchemical studies. The madness of King George could have been caused by lead in his wine, and the antimony in Mozart's medicines probably killed him.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews