“A fascinating tale of poisons and poisonous deeds which both educates and entertains.” --Kathy Reichs
A brilliant blend of science and crime, A TASTE FOR POISON reveals how eleven notorious poisons affect the body--through the murders in which they were used.
As any reader of murder mysteries can tell you, poison is one of the most enduring—and popular—weapons of choice for a scheming murderer. It can be slipped into a drink, smeared onto the tip of an arrow or the handle of a door, even filtered through the air we breathe. But how exactly do these poisons work to break our bodies down, and what can we learn from the damage they inflict?
In a fascinating blend of popular science, medical history, and true crime, Dr. Neil Bradbury explores this most morbidly captivating method of murder from a cellular level. Alongside real-life accounts of murderers and their crimes—some notorious, some forgotten, some still unsolved—are the equally compelling stories of the poisons involved: eleven molecules of death that work their way through the human body and, paradoxically, illuminate the way in which our bodies function.
Drawn from historical records and current news headlines, A Taste for Poison weaves together the tales of spurned lovers, shady scientists, medical professionals and political assassins to show how the precise systems of the body can be impaired to lethal effect through the use of poison. From the deadly origins of the gin & tonic cocktail to the arsenic-laced wallpaper in Napoleon’s bedroom, A Taste for Poison leads readers on a riveting tour of the intricate, complex systems that keep us alive—or don’t.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 83 members
Fascinating and darkly delightful. A recommended first purchase for collections where true-crime and forensic titles are popular.
Date reviewed/posted: March 12, 2021 Publication date: October 19th, 2021 When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave ( #thirdwave ?)is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. As any reader of murder mysteries can tell you, poison is one of the most enduring—and popular—weapons of choice for a scheming murderer. It can be slipped into a drink, smeared onto the tip of an arrow or the handle of a door, even filtered through the air we breathe. But how exactly do these poisons work to break our bodies down, and what can we learn from the damage they inflict? In a fascinating blend of popular science, medical history, and true crime, Dr. Neil Bradbury explores this most morbidly captivating method of murder from a cellular level. Alongside real-life accounts of murderers and their crimes—some notorious, some forgotten, some still unsolved—are the equally compelling stories of the poisons involved: eleven molecules of death that work their way through the human body and, paradoxically, illuminate the way in which our bodies function. Drawn from historical records and current news headlines, A Taste for Poison weaves together the tales of spurned lovers, shady scientists, medical professionals and political assassins to show how the precise systems of the body can be impaired to lethal effect through the use of poison. From the deadly origins of the gin & tonic cocktail to the arsenic-laced wallpaper in Napoleon’s bedroom, A Taste for Poison leads readers on a fascinating tour of the intricate, complex systems that keep us alive—or don’t. If I show up dead, blame my husband as he all but ripped this book from my hands......ditto if I am dead as I told him last week that two cherry pits have enough arsenic to kill a person. I freaking loved this book - it was so interesting and I had not heard of most of the stories in this book. This is NOT a casual read but it is one that I will recommend to patrons and book clubs that are in search of a different but excellent book. It is deftly crafted and at no time did my attention ever waver --- that says A LOT! As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it ⚰ ⚰ ⚰ ⚰ ⚰
It’s rare to find a book that gets it a 100% right in all accounts but let me tell you this one is just that. It covers all basis. True crime. Murder mystery. Scientific sourced information. An author that can keep you enthralled and entertained. I can’t sing this books praises loud enough. This book makes my morbid little heart full with glee (or arsenic).
Such a fascinating and captivating book. It is well written and easy to follow. Very informative and one I will be purchasing in hardcover once available. The author is very detailed and it shows in the excellent descriptions. I truly enjoyed reading A Taste for Poison. Great work!
I received this book for an honest review from that galley #netgalley This is a great non-fiction book I've always been fascinated by poisons and the people that use them as a history major especially. you can tell that this book went into great detail and I really appreciate that.
Overall I really enjoyed my time reading this book! I, like I'm sure many people, have a fascination with poisons and their history and this was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening read. In TASTE OF POISON, we get a deep dive into a different poison each chapter. We learn about the history, the naming, one or two cases of poisoning linked to the chapter's specific poison, and how, scientifically, the poison interacts with the body, making it so deadly. I found the balance between historical context, murder/trial, and chemistry to be really well done, and it kept the book moving at fun pace. I don't necessarily process scientific information super well, but it was done in such a way that was really digestible and accessible. I would say the strength really lies in the connection of historical context. I had a lot of lightbulb moments reading the book and was constantly highlighting fun-facts to recall later on. From how things were named, and learning of the prevalence of poisons in building history and meaning into what we still know and do today- the dilating of eyes from belladonna still being used today in low lighting in restaurants was a particularly fun fun-fact. My main critique of this book is that I think it needs a sensitivity read. There are some outdated words, ideas, and ingrained beliefs from the author that pop up throughout the book, and I think it detracts from overall spirit of the book. Thank you to Neil Bradbury and St Martin's Press for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion of this book. First, I will say if my science teachers back in high school spoke and explained things the way this author does I would be so much more interested in science than I was and who knows where that might have taken me! This author does a wonderful job of explaining each poison, its history, what its medical benefits are (when used properly) and how it effects the body in both a positive and negative way. He also provides stories of misuse of the poison. I found myself Googling each case after I read that section to find out even more. The book is well paced and you will not get overload from too much science. A great read for any True Crime Lover as well as those interested in history!
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This was definitely a different spin on “true crime.” It was super interesting to read about different poisons and how they have been used throughout history.
Neil Bradbury writes in 'crime noir' fashion a book at the intersection of medical science, criminal history and classic literature. With his dark humor, he keeps the story of 11 ways to poison someone connected to the 11 ways poisons work and criminal investigators likely catch you if you would be so foolish to put to use his teachings. It is a fun and interesting ride, each chapter loosely connected to the previous, but still independent enough to read in sections or in one go on a plane ride across the nation.
This book is filled with some fascinating stories about past poisoners and the various substances they used. It also goes deep into detail about how the substances work and affect the body which, while interesting, became a little tedious at times. I was amazed by how one such substance was able to be used to try and kill someone in one instance, and to try to hide the use of poison in another. And then it was used as an antidote to a poison in the 3rd situation! You can’t get more versatile than that. It always amazes me how people come up with so many ways to try and kill one another, and poison is one of the most sneaky and sinister. It’s a good thing that science has gotten so much better at detecting it in recent years, but it still takes someone who thinks to look for it first, in most cases. A satisfying read, overall. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Neil Bradbury, and the publisher.
A Taste for Poison by Neil Bradbury is a well written and meticulously researched history of the favored poisons used throughout the centuries. Beginning with arsenic, that old favorite, to polonium, the history. Arsenic has long been a favorite, but was made more popular as a favored weapon of the Borgias. Although the recipe has been lost, cantarella was frequently used, as was Aqua Tofana. Believed to be a mixture of arsenic, lead, and belladonna, cantarella was so precise that it could be considered time release. Then there's polonium, arguably the most expensive poison in the world. After all, doesn't everyone have a bit of refined uranium lying around. I would highly recommend this title to anyone interested in the history of poison. In the interest of full disclosure, I received a free digital copy of this title to review from Net Galley. #ATasteForPoison#NetGalley
A Taste for Poison by Neil Bradbury is a superb read with a well defined plot and characters. Well worth the read!
Neil Bradbury shares his knowledge of poisons utilized in murders, both real and literary. The book is a well-paced journey through 11 poisons utilized for nefarious ends but in the laboratory contribute to an understanding of our physiology. There is enough science to help the true crime lover to understand how poisons kill the victims in their favorite murder mysteries. The book is a very worthwhile read!
What a fascinating book this is! With an engaging mix of stories about the uses of the eponymous poisons as well as background into their origins and mechanisms of action, Bradbury has crafted a book that proves fact is often stranger than fiction. His writing style is conversational and easy to fall into, whether focusing on the poisonings or the poisons.
Amid the increasingly crowded field of popular literature about poisons and poisoning, what distinguishes Dr. Bradbury’s effort to create narrative portraits of eleven deadly molecules (and the killers who used them)? First of all, the author succeeds as a storyteller. With typical British wit, Dr. Bradbury draws the reader into his tales about deadly molecules by recounting different murder mysteries, each of which involves a poison of one sort or the other. He realizes the power of stories to intrigue and to captivate, and to compel us to know more about the pathophysiological actions of these toxic agents. Secondly, Dr. Bradbury is an educator who realizes these stories are not just entertaining tales about crime. Instead, they are case studies or stories to educate. As he indicates, “this book…explores the nature of poisons and how they affect the body at the molecular, cellular and physiological level.” To fashion these tales into case studies, he stitches together narratives of criminal action and psychology, anecdotes from the history of science, courtroom testimony and drama, descriptions of pathophysiology and cell biology, and bits of medicinal chemistry. In doing so, he creates multidimensional portraits of eleven molecules that have become recognized poisons in the hands of infamous murderers. As a result, Dr. Bradbury is eager to share how these case studies illuminate key tenets of pharmacology and toxicology. One of the recurring themes of the book is that the line between the use of molecules as therapeutic agents or poisons has been crossed in both directions over the history of medicine and crime. For example, digoxin and insulin were first isolated and utilized as medicinals, and later used in their purified forms as poisons. On the other hand, both atropine and ricin were first exploited as poisons before their beneficial uses were employed by the biomedical community. Dr. Bradbury’s accounting of the same molecule as therapeutic and toxic well illustrates Paracelsus’ dictum “it is the dose that makes the poison”. As every pharmacologist, toxicologist and clinician recognizes, pharmacological agents can have beneficial actions at lower doses and toxic effects at higher concentrations. Reflecting a desire for the ordinary person to learn important pharmacological and physiological principles, Dr. Bradbury draws back the sometimes dense and complex curtain of scientific concepts, and shows how these molecules exert their life-giving and deadly effects in ways that all can understand. With clarity and simplicity, he can’t help but convince us that a practical understanding of physiology, pharmacology, and toxicology matters to our everyday lives. Finally, the book shows that bioactive molecules have power to be used for great good or for great evil. Employed benevolently, they can act as important tools for scientific discovery and medical practice in the hands of well-meaning scientists and clinicians. Yet the same molecules have power to transform healthy physiology into pathophysiology, and ultimately cause death, in the hands of those would work them for malevolent purposes.
This book takes an in-depth look at a variety of poisons -- how they work, their therapeutic vs. criminal uses, how they react in the body, how they were discovered, etc. Every poison profiled is also connected to criminal cases, some historical and some more recent. A disturbing number of the crimes discussed were carried out by members of the medical profession. Until relatively recent times, most poisoners were able to go about their deadly work without fear of being detected, since the scientific community had no way to distinguish a death from poison from a death due to diseases which were common at the same time. The author does a wonderful job of explaining how each individual poison causes death. Even so, the explanations at times were a bit difficult to follow. Still, it was very interesting to read about how the body reacts, both outwardly in terms of symptoms, as well as the cellular process that is occurring within the body. The criminal cases discussed were also fascinating. It was quite disturbing to read how an early way to detect poison was for investigators to "taste test" various bodily fluids and tissues to determine if poison was present. If that were still the case today, I'm sure more poisoners would be able to get away with murder! The book ends with a helpful section called "Pick Your Poison" where each poison is discussed in terms of how it is administered, what the poison does to the body, symptoms observed after ingestion, lethal amount needed, and antidote (if any). I highly enjoyed reading about all the various poisons, and especially all the historical information surrounding each one.
I can't get enough of books about poisons and weird medical "cures," and this was a solid entry in the subgenre. I liked the clear organization of it. I will suggest this for purchase for the library collection, and have already recommended it to people.
The skillful melding of medical and cultural history in Neil Bradbury’s engrossing A Taste for Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them will appeal to lovers of history, mystery, and true crime. The author’s detailed accounts of how eleven historically significant poisons work appear along with accounts of how, when and why these deadly substances were used in cases both well- and little-known. Lovers of history, medical and scientific lore, mystery fiction and true crime among others will appreciate Bradbury's lively expert treatment poisons and what might be called the poisoner's art.
Simply delicious! As a retired medical transcriptionist, I found this book to be absolutely delightful. Even without a medical terminology background, one would find this book full of interesting tidbits and stories about poison I would find fascinating. Easy to read and enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this book! I received an e-book from NetGalley in return for an unbiased review.
This book was a fascinating insight into the science behind and effects of many different common (and not so common) poisons. The interweaving of the science and stories about attempted and successful poisonings throughout history was very well done. I did, however, find myself bogged down in some of the science despite trying as I might to understand it as a layman. That being said, science was never my forte in school, so I was not surprised to get a little lost. The author is clearly well versed in the subject and has done an astounding amount of research that is presented in the clearest way possible. The stories were engaging and I enjoyed my reading experience. Many thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for allowing me access to this advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
Neil Bradbury seamlessly weaves together the cat-and-mouse story of poisoner and investigator with the molecular explanations for poisons, and the medical history of these mysterious, alluring substances. He finds new and fascinating stories about the ways people have used medicines and toxins to harm each other as well as the human motivations behind such actions. Bradbury describes paradigm-shifting concepts as well as Gould, gives illustrative anecdotes as well as Gladwell, and provides apt metaphor like Hawking. I only wish he had been my toxicology instructor in grad school!
I have seen Dr. Bradbury give a talk about Cystic Fibrosis and have even been lucky enough to hear him present on the poisons that he writes about in A Taste for Poison. He did such a wonderful job explaining everything during the talks that I was concerned that the book could not match the same level of enthusiasm and educational utility. I am happy to inform you all that I was wrong. Even though I have a decent background in science and currently teach about the human body, I think this book is accessible to a wide range of readers. There is a perfect mix of science and dark history to not only inform the reader but to keep them interested as well. Dr. Bradbury does a fantastic job of setting the scene for how each molecule was utilized in a nefarious manner but also intertwines the medical properties for the individual molecules. I would recommend this book for readers who are interested in murder mysteries, medical history, or those who are just looking to appreciate how complex our body really is. It was easy to read, difficult to put down, and left me wanting more when I reached the end of the book.
YES! Finally - I have been waiting for a book like this. I am a huge nerd when it comes to chemistry, true crime, and microbiology. This was a dream come true book. I am always on the hunt for new material to read regarding medical history. This is not an intimidating book by any means- so don't be fooled by the words molecules and chemistry in the synopsis of the book. The author did such a fine job balancing everything-from the science aspect to the crimes themselves. This is one heck of a fascinating book. This was a very enjoyable read- and will be picking up a copy for myself to transfer over my notes and all the highlighting I've done in my kindle. Thank you to Neil Bradbury and St Martin's Press for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Such a wonderful cookbook! I simply can't wait to try out these recipes at my next dinner party! I'm just kidding. In all seriousness' do not use this book as a way to spice up your home cooked meals. This is however, a wonderful book that gives you an up close and personal look at some really interesting poisons.
Poisoning is perhaps the most discrete manner in which to murder someone. Judicious choice of toxic agent provides the poisoner with a number of potentially useful options: do you need to make a getaway, in which case poisons can be chosen that will not exert their dreadful effect until you are far from the crime scene, or potentially even days after you have left the country; was the perceived slight so great that you want your victim to suffer unduly, thereby incorporating a fearsome added element to the process; do you want your toxin to be untraceable, therefore causing your victim’s demise to be put down to natural causes or misadventure? Further, you can also deliver the poisonous agent at a remote distance; the arrival of an unsolicited box of chocolates should always be treated with suspicion. These methods and their perpetrators are admirably described in Neil Bradbury’s “A Taste for Poison”, published by St. Martin’s Press. Examples of poisoning for profit, love, revenge or power have been known since early times and while some of the cases have been previously described, some will undoubtedly be unfamiliar even to aficionados of the true crime genre. However, what differentiates this entertaining little book from other similar accounts, is the accompanying explanation of how these agents wreak their terrible damage on the cells and organs of the body. Drawing on his academic background, Dr. Bradbury explains the biochemical and physiological mechanisms of how poisons kill, even if only minute quantities are absorbed. The scientific details are accurate, concise and easily readable – you will not need to have aced Chem 101 in order to be able to appreciate the mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of the agent being described. Additionally, the author makes an important point that is frequently overlooked; many poisons can have valid therapeutic effects, only becoming toxic at high concentrations or in particular situations; after all even water is toxic if too much is ingested. Details of toxic doses, methods of administration, and biological/chemical source are provided in an appendix. However, this is not an instruction manual for the would-be poisoner; fortunately the author has also included periodic asides on the development of forensic detection methods that will, (one hopes!), reassure the reader that the chances of a poison being detected and traced back to the poisoner are now much greater than they were even 20 years ago. Overall, for those interested in the history of poisons, murder and the science behind the madness, this will be a diverting and engaging read.
I absolutely loved this informative true crime book based on poison. Is divided into chapters based on the type of poisoning and a crime committed with it. There are also several references in the book to crimes created in fiction books.
Bradbury uses a breezy writing style to tell about poisons used to kill. Interspersed in each section is a narrative of someone who has killed or been killed with the poison being discussed as well as information on the poison, where it comes from, how it is made and what effect it has on the body. Many of these poisons have extremely gruesome effects on the body, so be prepared to be grossed out. The stories Bradbury has chosen to tell caught my interest and in more than one case, i felt the need to look up more on the victim or the killer. What does it say about me that I loved this book?
I didn't initially enjoy this book as much as I expected to since I obviously did not read the description very carefully. I was expecting a mystery with poison as the killer's choice. This is not a fictional novel. After reading more of the reviews from others and moving along with learning more about novel-writing, I realized what a wonderful "RESEARCH' opportunity this book provides. If you're a mystery writer and you need to choose your poison, this is your book. Poison Choices were provided with brief descriptions of fictional stories which utilized this choice along with the chemical properties and details of death. At this point in my writing career, this is the perfect choice.
This enchanting book covers the most famous poisons in history. Dr. Bradbury has crafted stories about each poison with a historical perspective of infamous crimes, details the poison’s development and mode of action in scientific laymen’s terms, and with a spark of wry humor. This is a highly recommended read for those with an inquisitive mind and a penchant for the dark arts. Lane L Clarke, D.V.M., PhD.
4.5 stars A Taste for Poison by Neil Bradbury, Ph.D. A fascinating book that immerses the reader into an in-depth look at poisons and how they have been used through the years to commit murder. Prior to reading this book, I had not heard of most of these crimes. It was quite interesting how old some of these murders were, it is easy to forget that murder is not something of just the last century but is as old as man himself. I highly recommend this book. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley.
As a hospital pharmacist, I found this book very intriguing and easy to read. It is an entertaining mixture of crime, history and pharmacology. Each poison is presented with a nice balance of physiologic description, nefarious uses, and current knowledge and practical utilization of the chemical. I highly recommend "A Taste for Poison".
This was such a cool book! Every now and then I need a break from thrillers and horrors, and I’ll usually grab a non-fiction as a palate cleanser. I’ve had my eye on this one for awhile and I was lucky to get an Advanced Read Copy so I didn’t have to wait long… I really liked this one. Informative and interesting are two great qualities, and this book was both. I learned a lot of fun facts, like insulin was once used to control schizophrenia (by putting patients into a coma), or that so many things were once used as both medicine and poison, with the doses between the two being way too close for comfort. The eleven poisons examined are aconite, arsenic, atropine, chlorine, cyanide, digoxin, insulin, polonium, potassium, ricin and strychnine. You’ll get the chemical breakdown, history and other uses for each - and you’ll also get examples of times these substances were used to kill. History, science and true-crime all in one; this book is a triple threat! I’m giving this 4.5 stars rounded down because it got a bit dry in spots, but it was still a great “infotainment” book. If you like any of the above-mentioned genres, I’d recommend this one to you! (Thank you to the publisher, author and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my review.)
This was an interesting book describing the most used poisons for homicide! well written and intriguing, I enjoyed it!
Entertaining book! The stories are fascinating to hear and are great mini true crime novels in themselves. My only gripe would be the sections of the chapters where they go into the history and chemical affects of the poisons. Those parts read just like a textbook, informative but a bit boring.
I received an advance copy of, A Taste for Poison, by Neil Bradbury, PH.D. This was a really good, informative story on poison. The many types of poison, and how they can kill you. Also, people who used poison to kill.
I really enjoyed this book. The author was able to relate complex scientific principles in a straightforward, easy to understand manner. He gave the history of a poison, how it was discovered, its action, treatment (when available), and real-life examples of when the poison was used to kill or attempt to kill someone. The book is very descriptive and detailed without going overboard or too far into the weeds.
Bite-sized chapters (bad pun) make make for easy reading. Thought-provoking, informative, but most of all a very interesting book written so laypeople can understand more about poisons.
A Taste for Poison is fascinating! The different uses of poison is clearly explained and the science behind them is easily understood. You don't have to be well versed in science/chemistry. Dr. Bradbury includes some chilling stories about the insidious use of poison by seemingly "nice" people. Loved every page of this must-read book. Thank you to NetGalley.
This book was a page turner from beginning to end. It is crazy to not only know the history of poison but what people actually think that they can get away with and then how they get caught. Highly recommend if you are a fan. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
As a nerd who has always loved true crime and especially the more "delicate" art of poison, this book was the absolute perfect read for me. I cannot wait until this book is out and I can add it to my shelves!
"A Taste for Poison" was a very interesting book. The author discusses eleven different chemicals or substances that can be used as poisons -- some very familiar, such as cyanide, arsenic, or chlorine, and some less familiar, such as atropine, aconite, or polonium. He discusses the legitimate uses of these various chemicals, some of which are critical for the human body or certain types of medical care (for example, insulin, digoxin, or potassium) in certain forms or certain concentrations. The author talks about specific cases where people have used the chemical or substance to poison others in order to harm them or kill them, often succeeding. He explains why the particular poison was chosen, which was often because it mimicked symptoms of natural illnesses or natural causes of death and because it was considered impossible or difficult to detect. However, even those poisons that were considered impossible to detect have not remained that way, with dedicated scientists finding ways to extract evidence of the chemicals from tissue or bodily fluids. While there are many ways to kill a person via poisoning, it has become nearly impossible for a poisoner to get away with it if his/her identity can be determined. The discussion of cases of poisoning and how the perpetrator was caught and guilt proven was interesting. However, the most fascinating aspect of the book for me was the detailed explanation of how the chemical affected the body -- which organs or tissues or bodily functions were affected, the biochemical process that was involved, and the changes that occurred in the body in response to the poisons. The end of the book contains an appendix that indicates the route of entry, lethal dose, targeted part(s) of the body, symptoms, and antidote (if it exists) for each poison. I received a copy of the e-book via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
this was a interesting read, I found the poisons and how they were used in crimes was strange and bizarre. It was a fascinating read and well done.
Science - check, true crime - check, murder mystery - check. This book manages to keep the scientific parts interesting, even for those without a background or major interest in science. I really enjoyed this one. Thank you to the publisher for an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
With A Taste For Poison, my inner science geek got to hold hands with my inner true crime junkie, embarking on a dark and interesting journey. This book is primarily science-based, with each chapter focusing on a different poison that has been used for both good and evil through the ages. Bradbury explains the origins of each, as well as a pretty detailed account of the poison's effects on the human body (let me tell you, it's not pretty!). He breaks them down into two categories: biomolecules (ricin, digoxin, insulin, atropine, strychnine, aconite, and cyanide) and molecules from the earth (chlorine, arsenic, polonium, and potassium round out this section). There are historical notes as well, especially on the subject of creating accurate testing/detection methods which helped in the early prosecutions of those who thought they could get away with murder. For those who enjoy the true crime aspect, Bradbury introduces us to various criminals who have used these poisons as their weapons of choice. Many of the cases are much older (1800's to early 1900's) but there are a few from more recent times, including the man who laced several bottles of tonic water at a local grocery store with atropine just to get to his wife, and the former spy who died a terribly slow and painful death from polonium poisoning. Compared to the scientific explanations, I found the true crime aspect to be a bit lacking at times. Even though they were thoroughly researched and well presented, I thought some of them just didn't rise to the same level as the scientific narratives (or perhaps it was the case studies themselves that lacked a certain shock factor, I'm not sure). What I enjoyed most about this book is Bradbury's writing style. While the information can be overwhelming at times, it is written to be easily accessed and understood by everyone. Even with such a weighty topic, he keeps the narration on the lighter side, with some darker humor thrown in as well. In short, if you're like me and have an inner science geek and/or inner true crime junkie, be sure to put this book on your 2022 reading list!
I was reading quietly at the dining room table while enjoying a bowl of scotch broth. Suddenly, the Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) entered, stage right, and plunked her open handbag on the table. A clear Zip-Lock® baggie, containing three vials, fell out of the handbag and onto the table in front of me. The vials, I noticed, contained liquids showing a tint and a viscosity which, in my sight, indicated that they were not water. “O! Vision of Loveliness!” said I (for this is how I often address her). “I am even at this moment reading an enjoyable and informative book (which I received for free from the publisher for review) that is essentially a history of poisoning. You might think that this is a practice mostly done by dastardly men on their long-suffering (like you) wives or girlfriends, but (particularly in recent times) women give as good as they get in the poisoning business, seeing as comparatively inferior upper body strength is not a disadvantage when poisoning, and also because they can often accomplish the act without irreparable damage to their frocks. Therefore, seeing these three vials troubles me much more than it might otherwise, as each recently read chapter contains at least one alarmingly thorough description of the agonies which the poisoned endure, along with disturbing deep dives into the clinical details of the disrupted bodily functions which generate aforementioned agonies, as well as the methods used to bring the poisoners to justice, which are now much more effective and expeditious due to advances in medical and chemical science. So, what’s the deal with these unusual liquids?” “They’re nothing,” replied LSW, grabbing the bag and exiting the room. To be fair, unhappy and unprincipled wives, husbands, and other romantic entanglements don’t even seem to achieve the status of a majority of high-profile poisoning cases presented in this book, given the competition they receive from certain modern Slavic governments and (perhaps more disturbingly for those of us leading ordinary lives) murderous nurses. About the latter, allow me to say that the existence of these sadists (apparently exclusive to our own age) has perhaps not been sufficiently exploited by governments and other entities who wish to motivate us to be vaccinated against COVID and other modern horrors. In my case, reading about how these twisted anti-Florence Nightingales managed to remain at liberty to poison the already ill for astonishingly long periods of time, often aided by large dollops of bureaucratic sloth and indifference, has increased my desire to remain vaccinated up to the eyebrows, if it means decreasing the possibility that I will escape the horror of being intubated by a new modern iteration of like-minded maniac. I found that making tables often helps me organize and retain information that I read. In this case, I used Google Sheets to keep track of the poisoners and their tonic of choice, plus other relevant details. Some chapters feature the story of more than one horrific poisoner, but to keep the organization relatively simple I have decided to only list the first, most prominently featured, poisoning in each chapter, you can also see it here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1xqWzhpys0vuGHLz9b2TMXIZoFz2LKq-wIX_KOYmsVNo/edit#gid=0 In the meanwhile, I have taken advantage of our quiet evenings at home after dinner, while LSW is contemplatively sticking pins into the eyes of dolls bearing the image of political figures with whom she disagrees, to remind her that now, as a method of disposing of one’s enemies, poisoning is now hopeless old-fashioned, at least if one wishes to remain undetected and therefore at continued liberty to hatch diabolical plans which will trouble the sleep of global oligarchy. I believe my remonstrances have had the desired effect, but now she is asking more questions about the number and size of the hammers we have around the house. Not only did I receive a free advance electronic review copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley, I also got a very pleasant invitation by email to download and review this book, so of course I did. It is perhaps a flaw in my nature that, if you indicate that you value my opinion, I will do nearly anything you ask.
This was a fascinating book that talked about many notorious poisons, how each effects the body to catastrophic effect, and one or two stories of cases where they were determined to have been used. It also talks about what we've been able to learn from various poisons, some even to treat disease or counteract other poisons. It was a times a bit gruesome, since it does describe the effects of the poison on the body, but it was a fascinating read.
This book was a really interesting blend of popular science, medical history and narrative crime nonfiction. Dr. Neil Bradbury explores the most morbidly captivating method of murder from a cellular level. The biomolecules of death covered were insulin, atropine, strychnine, aconite, ricin, digoxin, cyanide, and naturally occurring minerals potassium, polonium, arsenic and chlorine. I thought this book read like a true crime podcast with an episode for each poison. Each chapter illustrated in detail a case that was attributed to that poison, explaining in detail all of the characters, the background and the extenuating circumstances. The author went to an amazing level of research with this book and the result is fascinating. He did not shy away from delving into the details of the science behind each substance- the reaction at the molecular level and the biological impact. Super interesting. It was excellent – the history, the crime and the science. I experienced this book as a dual read, flipping back and forth between reading the ebook and listening to the audiobook. Thank you to Netgalley, St. Martin's Press and Macmillian Audio for providing me with a temporary ARC.
This book covers poisons from those used in ancient Greece/Egypt/Rome through those used in more modern times. Poisons used prolifically and one that had a single use in 2007. This book is written in an easy to follow and entertaining style. It definitely made me feel smarter while reading it, though I likely won't remember all the interesting scientific details for very long. The author does a great job contrasting how most of these chemicals have a fine margin between being used as tonic or being toxic. Most of these chemicals have medicinal uses, not just to cause harm. That was the most interesting part for me. I especially found the chapter on Potassium helpful. There is a good reason it is a staple ingredient in sports drinks. I enjoyed the individual case histories given for each chemical as well. Thank you to Netgalley and St Martin's Press for the opportunity to enjoy this informative e-ARC. I look forward to adding it to my library once published.
A Taste For Poison by Neil Bradbury is a deep dive and unexpectedly fascinating look into a particular method of murder. I requested this book after loving a recent bestseller, The Lost Apothecary, which featured the use of poisons, both in the past and present timelines. And A Taste For Poison took me on a tour, using both science, history, and true crime stories. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey!
This was an absolute fascinating book. I love to watch True Crime TV shows and to read murder mysteries. A TASTE FOR POISON brought the two together in an interesting manner. Eleven poisons are introduced (although we know most of them already), the composition, effects, and a historical case of murder via the poison, comprise each chapter. Highly recommended for others who enjoy my same kind of affection for the science of murder.
This book was a fascinating read. It covers much more than what the title indicates. It does present individuals who used the various forms of the poisons listed and their success or failure in accomplishing their goal. The book also covers how the poison impacts the body and causes death. In addition, the author details how each poison is used for medical treatments to ease pain or as antidote. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the subject. I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and my nonfiction book review blog.
Thus book was so interesting! Definitely a different take on true crime. Highlights the role of poisons in murder. There is also a wealth of knowledge about how different poisons affect the body. Well written, well researched. Intriguing read.
I loved this book! And if you liked The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream, or City of Poison City of Light, then you will love this book as well. Dr. Bradbury presents an expertly assembled overview of the most common historical poisoners, and the poisoners who love them. But more than that, he brings life to what would otherwise be a stunningly academic topic. He is able to look over the centuries with a timeless eye, objectively describing events and people without either editorializing or trivializing, somehow still empathizing enough that the subjects of his momentous study come across as real people to the reader. This is an excellent new addition to the true crime aficionado's shelf.
Great Non-Fiction for any mystery, espionage, or thriller fan! Neil Bradbury dives into the histories of a number of different poisons and murder cases that have made them famous. The scientific context was easily digestible and gives a wonderful insight into how the poisons act in the human body. I quite enjoyed all of the quotes and references to classic mysteries and spy dramas, including Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ian Fleming. However, Bradbury does not dive into much detail on how these poisons are used in pop culture, rather he focuses on true crime cases. I would have loved more domestic cases, or perhaps just more variety from the nurses and doctors gone rogue, but in the end I could have read about many more poisons and I hope there is a sequel in the works!
Wow! I really enjoyed this. It was educational and interesting. Because this is about poisons the author followed many of the crimes associated with it. So if you love true crime I think you’ll really enjoy this. The author takes a deep dive into this topic and explains the chemistry along with what it actually does to the person and how it’s detected. Really well done and I’m glad I read it. Very interesting. Thanks Netgalley.
A book about poisons and the killers who used them. This reminded me a bit of the The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum but with more emphasis on the chemical side of various poisons from the obvious (cyanide) and archaic (belladonna) to the surprising (insulin). We might not think of all of these as deadly compounds but after all the dose makes the poisons. A really intriguing and informative read.
I really loved this book!! It had so many twists and turns. It kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next!! This was my first book by this Author, and it won’t be the last!! Quick read!! Highly recommended!! You won’t be disappointed!!
Thank you Netgalley for this ARC of A Taste for Poison by Neil Bradbury. Is there something wrong with me that I'm into stuff like this? I'm going to argue yes. Bradbury has taken his knowledge and extensive education and brings up a history and account of poisons. Everything poison. How they originated, how they were used, some of the largest crimes using said poison, and the science behind how the poison works. It's as fascinating as it is terrifying. And fear not! If you think that you are going to be bogged down with a scientific textbook, Bradbury masterfully weaves science and anecdote, keeping you on your little true crime loving toes. You little freakshow you :)
Bradbury masterfully laces together scholarly knowledge about the chemical compounds of poisons and the crimes they were used for. One of my favorite sections was regarding insulin- the thing that keeps many diabetic people alive has been used as a poison since almost 12 years after it’s development as a medicine. Bradbury tells us the stories of many infamous poisonings, as well as little-known poisonings. This was a very informative read and for the most part very engaging. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher St. Martin's Press for an advanced copy of this medical and historical guide to murder. Neil Bradbury Ph.D., has created a interesting new hybrid, a true crime/ how-to book that is as informative as the Physicians' Desk Reference, and as thrilling as an Agatha Christie mystery and as disturbing as a Harold Schechter serial killer profile compendium. The mix of medical science and ghoulish crime makes for a very fun and educational read. Dr. Bradbury in A Taste for Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them, writes of one of the most popular murder weapons in both fiction and historical events, poison. Mixing both real cases with laboratory studies explaining the chemical compositions and effects of said poisons, and how they were used, Dr. Bradbury tries to separate the fiction from the fact, and does a very good job. Poison while used a lot, is not the best nor the most effective or efficient. However sometimes a poisoner can get lucky and again that is covered in many of the cases that are written about. The book is not too technical, nor simplistic, but with a good balance that doesn't drag the narrative down or bog down the reader with unnecessary information. The uses of poison are covered well, and move well, without being glamorized or made Lifetime movie of the week. This book should appeal to fans of both Ann Rule and Mary Roach. Not too heavy and not too hey isn't this cool. A very good balance of science with true crime history. A perfect Valentine's gift, accompanied by a nice box of chocolates and some roses, with the thorns removed, just in case.
Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: Feb. 1, 2022 Neil Bradbury combines science and murder in his new non-fiction work, “A Taste for Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them.” Bradbury is a professor of physiology, so he definitely knows what he’s talking about, but he manages to make this novel easy to read, and the science aspects, when discussed, simply add to the entertaining nature of the novel, and provide further information for the reader. Bradbury’s book takes eleven deadly poisons that either occur organically in our bodies or grow in nature (some examples being insulin, chlorine, cyanide, radiation, ricin, belladonna/nightshade) and gives them each a chapter, where their origin and uses are discussed. Further, Bradbury provides examples (from modern day, within the last twenty years, and from as long ago as ancient Rome and Greece) of people who have used these poisons to kill. However, Bradbury does not forget to mention how each compound can also be used to the benefit of humanity, and how they serve the body when used for good. “Deadly Poisons” is scientific without being wordy, and surprisingly entertaining. I was unexpectedly impressed with Bradbury’s writing style, and found this novel provided me with information I didn’t realize I wanted to know. “Poisons” manages to tie science together with murder in a fascinating, page-turning way and I recommend this novel for anyone who wants to know more about the world around us, and what grows in it.
Genre: true crime, popular science Pub date: 2/1/22 In one sentence: A look at 11 deadly poisons and the crimes and science behind them. This book is exactly what I look for in popular science - it does a great job explaining he biological mechanisms of the poisons without going into too much detail or boring the reader. I liked the set of crimes Bradbury selected - there was a good mix, including some I was familiar with and some I wasn't. There's also a "pick your own poison" appendix if you're interested in seeing the poisons compared head-to-head. I often read nonfiction slowly, but I tore through this book - it's very readable! It's kind of ironic that this book is being released two weeks before Valentine's Day given that so many of the crimes were committed against partners. BUT if you have a partner who loves science or true crime, I think this would be a fun gift for them. Thank you to St. Martin's Press for providing an ARC on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A comprehensive, easy-to-follow overview of poisons: how they work, the history associated with them, and their uses. There is a good combination of scientific explanations and history. The book is well-organized and written in an accessible way.
"Poison has a certain appeal …. It has not the crudeness of the revolver bullet, or the blunt instrument." - Agatha Christie, They Do It With Mirrors, 1952 What It's About: A TASTE FOR POISON is an intriguing read blending science and true crime which explores the nature of eleven poisons, their effects on body at the molecular, cellular and physiology level and how they were used to commit murders. My thoughts: Each chapter covers the different poisons in details - Insulin, atropine, strychnine, aconite, ricin, digoxin, potassium, polonium, chlorine, cyanide and arsenic - from their origins to how they were used in murders and eventually identified through forensic science. So there were some medical history as well. I think this was a well-written book. The author explains complex biochemical processes and concepts in an easy to understand way. But I did find some parts were a bit too sciency for me and that is just me. I went back and forth between the ebook and audiobook, and I ended up spending more time on the audiobook. The narration was really well done. Overall, this was an intriguing and enjoyable read. It was both entertaining and informative! As a true crime aficionado, I enjoyed learning about the different cases - some new and some familiar to me! Pub. Date: Feb 1st, 2022 ***Thank you St. Martin's Press, Macmillan Audio, author Neil Bradbury and NetGalley for this gifted review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.***
I truly liked this book even with all the science in it, Neil Bradbury wrote it perfectly for the layman. It was actually the science that I really like about it. I knew some but Neil Bradbury explained it in a way that I could understand. You could tell that Neil Bradbury knew his stuff and dare I say enjoyed talking about poisons. I also liked that he wrote about how the poisons were used by the killers. I will be reading more from Neil Bradbury and recommend this to all my science and true crime friends. Thank you Netgalley, St. Martin's Press and Neil Bradbury, Ph.D. for letting me read and review this book.
Interesting read on poisons and true crime stories where poisoning was involved. If you area true crime junkie like me, this is a must read. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an arc in exchange for my honest review.
Neil Bradbury pens a new kind of true crime novel with A Taste for Poison, one that is equally informative as it is entertaining. Exploring lesser-known poisons used in crimes, like the lifesaving insulin and hardly heard of polonium-210, this book was incredibly researched and Dr. Bradbury’s experience in Physiology truly shows. This book is wonderfully scientific, but spoken at the level of the everyday person, which makes it accessible to a wider audience. It explores a wide assortment of criminal cases, from long ago to much more recently. Any true crime buff should take a look at this one when it releases.
A Little Gem — Interesting Read, Macabre At Times The author has selected eleven poisons, both ancient and modern, and written an informative chapter for each one. Each chapter has some of the poisonous history of the substance. How was the poison first discovered and used is interesting because many of these poisons originally were used for medicinal purposes to treat various afflictions. The author also includes one or more legal cases or incidents showing the darker side of the poison. The trials provide an insight as to why the poisoner chose that particular poison, how the poison was determined to be in the body, and how dosage was determined to be lethal. Details on the last two were quite interesting as the tests do not meet the modern ethical standards for testing on animals. If you are very disturbed by the killing of animals for science, this book may not be for you. The author includes a section on exactly how the poison works to bring on death. This section of the chapters can become a little heavy in the biochemical nature of the poison’s action. I have a masters degree in chemistry so this section was very interesting for me and not a problem in understanding. I believe that the author did bring the level down so that most readers could understand or, at least, provide some insight into how the poison works. Lastly, for the poisons that do have a medical use, the author provides more information on that use of the substance. The author’s style of writing made the reading of this book enjoyable for me. Of particular note was the author’s use of a cutting humor inserted in the storyline as an aside where in a theater production has the speakers thought known only to the audience. These always caused me to smile or chuckle. Overall, it is an interesting and light read that allows some insight into eleven poisons that generally are not known. The information is doled out in eleven easy to read chapters. Even if you skip the biochemical portions in each chapter, I believe that this novel still will be a good read. I rate it with four stars because this book is not a must read, If the subject interests you, this book can be a very good read for you. I received a free e-book version of this novel through NetGalley from St. Martin’s Press. My review is based only by my own reading experience of this book. I wish to thank St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read and review this book early.
"A Taste for Poison" explored how eleven different poisons work on the body. The author covered poisonings using insulin, belladonna, morphine, strychnine, ricin, aconite, cyanide, potassium, polonium-210, arsenic, and chlorine. He told about one or more cases that used the poison, then described the symptoms, how it could be treated if caught in time, and the biological details about how the poison disrupts the normal functioning of the body to create the symptoms and death. Most of the murders were from the mid-1800s to modern day, with a focus on relatively recent cases in England and America. The cases were told briefly but in an interesting way. The biochemistry details were easy to follow, with enough detail to follow what goes wrong without getting too bogged down in the science. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting book.
This was a thoroughly interesting book. Loaded with information and cases are discussed that expand on it. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.
This has got to be one of the most fascinating books there is...not only does the author vividly describe poisons and toxins but also the symptoms experienced, what happens in the body molecularly, true crime stories to illustrate each and medical history. The amount of research involved must be staggering! Dr. Bradbury's writing is also very engaging. When reading the scientific details I was again reminded how miraculous the human body is. Poison enters the body by ingestion, respiration, absorption or injection. This book includes information such as the difference between toxins and poison and how they disrupt the workings of the body, antidotes, how some poisons literally create a hair's width gap in the firing of synapses (and how that gap completely alters cells and function) and how the dose itself can determine the outcome (beneficial or deadly). From "pinpoint pupils" to nerve agents from which very few recover to the most bitter substance known to man which can kill to the "sardonic grin" to the "queen of poison" to unusual antidotes to analogies to serial killers, it's here, in spades. And it could not possibly be more enthralling. I read about the fatal umbrella poke, the interesting quality of cobalt with cyanide, the first casualty of polonium, Matt Ridley's incredible information on genomes, radioactive polonium inside a man's body which was the equivalent of 175,000 x-rays, the most ancient poison. Scheele green and arsenic eaters. Highly informative and endlessly fascinating, this mind blowing book is a must for anyone remotely interested in poisons and how they work inside the body, including Agatha Christie fans! I was glued to it. My sincere thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this wondrous book!
Fantastic read that was both informative and very interesting about 11 well-known poisons and the past poisoners who used them to commit murder. This is a very educational book as well and I was familiar with a number of the cases since I love True Crime stories. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC of this book that is a brilliant blend of science and crime in exchange for an honest review.
Educational and interesting, I think this book will appeal to fans of true crime as well as fans of or science communication related media, specifically I think Bradbury's method of explaining the science behind each of the poisons was reminiscent of the biology sections in episodes of <i>This Podcast Will Kill You</i>. As a whole, this book was a joy to flip through, reading a chapter here and there until I completed it. I liked that each chapter had segments about real instances of the poisons being used and then an explanation of how the poison works in the body. Bradbury also did an excellent job exploring the maxim "The dose makes the poison" by talking about the medical benefits when used properly.