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Molecules of Murder Set Author: John Emsley

About this book

How can a plant as beautiful as the foxglove be so deadly and yet for more than a century be used to treat heart disease? The same is true of other naturally occurring molecules as will be revealed in these two books from award-winning author and chemist, John Emsley.

Molecules of Murder and More Molecules of Murder deal with potential poisons from man-made and natural sources. Both books investigate the crimes committed with them, not from the point of view of the murderers, their victims, or the detectives, but from the poison used. In so doing the books throw new light on how these crimes were carried out and ultimately how the perpetrators were uncovered and brought to justice. The crimes include those committed by infamous murderers and also famous victims like Harold Shipman, Alexander Litvinenko and Georgi Markov.

Each chapter starts by looking at the target molecule itself, its discovery, its chemistry, its often-surprising use in medicine, its effects on the human body, and its toxicology. The rest of the chapter is devoted to murders and attempted murders in which it has been used. But, be reassured that murder by poison is not the threat it once was, thanks to laws which restrict access to such materials and to the skills of analytical chemists in detecting their presence in incredibly tiny amounts.

Book content

  • Molecules of Murder: Part I: From medicine to murder
  • Chapter 1: Ricin and the assassination of Georgi Markov
  • Chapter 2: Hyoscine and the murder of Belle Elmore
  • Chapter 3: Atropine and Mrs Agutter's gin and tonic
  • Chapter 4: Diamorphine and the Dr Jekyll of Hyde
  • Chapter 5: Adrenaline and the near-perfect murders of Kirsten Gilbert
  • Part II: So simple, so useful, so deadly
  • Chapter 6: Chloroform and the murder of Edwin Bartlett
  • Chapter 7: Life and Death and CO
  • Carbon monoxide and the homemade gas chamber
  • Chapter 8: Cyanide and the death on the Nile
  • Chapter 9: Paraquat and the poisoned gravy
  • Chapter 10: Polonium and the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko
  • More Molecules of Murder: Ethylene Glycol for Antifreeze and Loved Ones
  • Oxalic Acid and Murders in Manila and Liverpool
  • Acrylamide in Fried Foods and in Auckland
  • Difenacoum, Amitriptyline and York
  • Temazepam and the Man with a Murderous Plan
  • Potassium Chloride: Essential to Life Yet Deadly
  • Tetramethylenedisulfotetramine, a Mouthful Best Avoided
  • Gelsemine and Cat Meat Stew
  • Strychnine and Cream
  • Digitalis and a Mysterious Death in Verona in 1329
  • Curare and the Psychopathic Surgeon from Argentina
  • Aconitine and Wimbledon
  • Cantharidin and Spanish Fly
  • Hemlock at the End of it All
This book is print only

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This book contains 524 pages.

Publication details

Print publication date
23 Jun 2017
Copyright year
Print ISBN