The inheritor's powder : a tale of arsenic, murder, and the new forensic science

by Hempel, Sandra,

Format: Print Book 2013
Availability: Available at 7 Libraries 7 of 7 copies
Available (7)
Location Collection Call #
Bridgeville Public Library Civics, Politics and History 364.1 HEM
Location  Bridgeville Public Library
Collection  Civics, Politics and History
Call Number  364.1 HEM
CLP - Allegheny Non-Fiction Collection HV6555.G7 H46 2013
Location  CLP - Allegheny
Collection  Non-Fiction Collection
Call Number  HV6555.G7 H46 2013
CLP - Main Library Mezzanine - Non-fiction HV6555.G7 H46 2013
Location  CLP - Main Library
Collection  Mezzanine - Non-fiction
Call Number  HV6555.G7 H46 2013
Community Library of Castle Shannon Non Fiction 364.1523 Hempel
Location  Community Library of Castle Shannon
Collection  Non Fiction
Call Number  364.1523 Hempel
Northland Public Library Nonfiction 364.1523 H37
Location  Northland Public Library
Collection  Nonfiction
Call Number  364.1523 H37
Penn Hills Library Non-Fiction 364.152 HEM
Location  Penn Hills Library
Collection  Non-Fiction
Call Number  364.152 HEM
Shaler North Hills Library Non-Fiction 364.15 H
Location  Shaler North Hills Library
Collection  Non-Fiction
Call Number  364.15 H
In the first half of the nineteenth century, an epidemic swept Europe: arsenic poisoning. Available at any corner shop for a few pence, arsenic was so frequently used by potential beneficiaries of wills that it was nicknamed "the inheritor's powder." But it was difficult to prove that a victim had been poisoned, let alone to identify the contaminated food or drink since arsenic was tasteless.

Then came a riveting case. On the morning of Saturday, November 2, 1833, the Bodle household sat down to their morning breakfast. That evening, the local doctor John Butler received an urgent summons: the family and their servants had collapsed and were seriously ill. Three days later, after lingering in agony, wealthy George Bodle died in his bed at his farmhouse in Plumstead, leaving behind several heirs, including a son and grandson--both of whom were not on the best of terms with the family patriarch.

The investigation, which gained international attention, brought together a colorful cast of characters: bickering relatives; a drunken, bumbling policeman; and James Marsh, an unknown but brilliant chemist who, assigned the Bodle case, attempted to create a test that could accurately pinpoint the presence of arsenic. In doing so, however, he would cause as many problems as he solved. Were innocent men and women now going to the gallows? And would George Bodle's killer be found?

Incisive and wryly entertaining, science writer Sandra Hempel brings to life a gripping story of domestic infighting, wayward police behavior, a slice of Victorian history, stories of poisonings, and an unforgettable foray into the origins of forensic science.

Published Reviews
Publisher's Weekly Review: "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). This time, Hempel focuses on a different dilemma for the Victorian medical profession: how to successfully determine when poison is the cause of death. "The paranoia of early Victorian Britain... saw poisoners lurking in kitchens and behind bed curtains throughout the land, their little bags of white powder at the ready." In 1833 the strange death of farmer George Bodle and the investigation of his family members, with whom he lived, frames the history of scientists' struggles to develop foolproof tests for the presence, in the victims' digestive tracts, of arsenic-the most commonly used poison used at the time. 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. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Poisoning -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
Arsenic -- Toxicology -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
Murder -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
Toxicology -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century.
Forensic toxicology.
Publisher New York :W.W. Norton & Company,2013
Edition First American edition.
Language English
Notes First published in London in 2013 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson with subtitle: A cautionary tale of poison, betrayal and greed.
Description viii, 278 pages ; 25 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 249-267) and index.
ISBN 9780393239713 (hardcover)
0393239713 (hardcover)
Other Classic View