Book description

Book info

eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
PublisherOxford University Press, USA
File size5.8 Mb
GanreNon Fiction
Release date 01.09.2006
Pages count418
Book rating4.42 (261 votes)
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I was expecting this to be a true crime book, and there are certainly aspects of that in the book, but really it's more than that.It's a scholarly look at several elements (mercury, antimony, lead, arsenic, and thallium) and their negative effects on the generations that either knowingly or unknowingly encountered them.

Emsley really did his research, this book overflows with details - both historical and technical.He seems like both a chemist and a historian, but unfortunately not a story teller.The prose is at times difficult to stay with, but fortunately this book doesn't need to be read in sequence.Each 'poison' gets its own section that really stands alone - Emsley never tries to tie any of them together other than the introductory chapter basically telling you that they're all bad and behind countless mysterious deaths over time - both high profile and banal.

One thing to remember about this book is that it's about poisonous ELEMENTS and not all poisons.So high profile poisons like cyanide or snake venom or other fast-acting poisons aren't discussed in this book.The elements Emsley describes all kill by slow accumulation that doctors almost always misdiagnosed.

The utter cluelessness of the doctors is staggering in this book.Throughout history they have consistently failed to diagnose poisonings on a regular basis.It was not until after most of the victims died that poisoning was diagnosed - always a little too late.

A weakness of the book was the Euro-centrism of the true crime stories.They almost always took place in England, or on rare occasions France or Germany.Maybe that's where poisonings were popular over the ages - but I think Emsley limited himself too much here (he is British after all).There were just a few stories that took place outside of Europe, such as rare cases in Japan or the US.

The book was well researched, but it was difficult to get engrossed in it.

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