PDF The Inheritors Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science

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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. Using the death of prosperous farmer George Bodle as her jumping-off point, Sandra Hempel explores the use of arsenic as a murder weapon in 19th-century England. Multiple cases are examined, some in more detail than others, and Hempel examines how these led to the development of better and more sophisticated techniques for actually detecting the presence of arsenic.

A big digressive at times as Hempel veers off on tangents, but overall an engaging read on the topic. One of the most interesting elements is her coverage of poisoning as portrayed in popular fiction of the time, including Bulwer-Lytton's Lucretia. Apparently the author considered the story too long for a magazine article and too short for a book.

Unfortunately she chose to add filler, lots of filler, to make it up to pages. There are about good pages in there, but Hempel needed a tough editor to force her to cut away the dross. I couldn't make it through numerous accounts of arsenical poisoning completely unrelated to her storyline.

It's tempting to include every fact one has uncovered through exhaustive research, but more engaging writers pick and choose in order to build a narrative. If you skip the last three chapters, you will have made a substantial down payment on trimming the book down to its optimal size.

That evening, the local surgeon John Butler received an urgent summons - the family and their servants had all collapsed with a serious illness. Three days later, after lingering in agony, the wealthy grandfather George Bodle died in his bed at his farmhouse in Plumstead. The Bodles had been the victims of a terrible poisoning.

In the nineteenth century, criminal poisoning with arsenic was frighteningly easy.


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For a few pence and with few questions asked, it was possible to buy enough poison to kill off an entire family, hence arsenic's popular name - The Inheritor's Powder. The surgeon John Butler had set about collecting the evidence that he hoped would bring the culprit to justice but, in the s, forensic science was still in its infancy. Even diagnosing arsenic poisoning was a hit-and-miss affair.

So when a chemist named James Marsh was called as an expert witness in the case of the murder at Plumstead, he decided that he had to create a reliable test for arsenic poisoning, or the murders would continue and killers would be left to walk free. In so doing though he was to cause as many problems as he solved.

In the style of Kate Summerscale, it was okay. Here at Walmart. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason.

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You can go to cart and save for later there. Average rating: 2. Sandra Hempel. Walmart Then came a riveting case.

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On the morning of Saturday, November 2, , 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.

click In doing so, however, he would cause as many problems as he solved. Were innocent men and women now going to the gallows? 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.

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