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Secret Poisoner: A Century of Murder

by Linda Stratmann Yale University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 344 pages
AU$33.99 NZ$34.77
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Murder by poison alarmed, enthralled, and in many ways encapsulated the Victorian age. Linda Stratmann’s dark and splendid social history reveals the nineteenth century as a gruesome battleground where poisoners went head-to-head with authorities who strove to detect poisons, control their availability, and bring the guilty to justice. She corrects many misconceptions about particular poisons and documents how the evolution of issues such as marital rights and the legal protection of children impacted poisonings. Combining archival research with a novelist’s eye, Stratmann charts the era’s inexorable rise of poison cases both shocking and sad.
The Secret Poisioner is a seriously nasty book, and… that’s a compliment. If you like grusome deaths and the history of toxicology then it appears comprehensive. Linda Stratmann, who has been a dispensing chemist, a tax inspector and now writes well-received crime fiction, has a logical dispassionate hand on her materiel.” - Melanie Reid, The Times


“Poisoning, Linda Stratmann makes clear in this extravagantly detailed history, was one of the great fears of the 19th century… Filling her pages with case after case, she pursues her subject with the dogged persistence of a laboratory analyst.” - Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times


“There’s fire in [Stratmann’s] sociological thesis that poison murder was a “secret” crime, the chosen method of voiceless women, children and servants - those who had no legal power within the Victorian patriarchal system.” - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review


The Secret Poisoner chronicles an amazing array of poisonings… Stratmann is highly skilled at combining brevity with colour, her rapid succession of poisonings soon coalesces into an overall pattern.” - Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday


“Linda Stratmann makes a fine job of chronicling the cat-and-mouse contest between poisoners on the one hand and science and law on the other…ghoulishly fascinating” - Jacqueline Banerjie, TLS


"This fine social history charts the changing patterns of using poison – from arsenic to strychnine – but also shines a light on domestic desperation in Victorian times” - Kathryn Hughes, Guardian


“This intoxicating social history explores the rise of poison in the Victorian era. Combining archival research with a chemist’s expertise, Stratmann chronicles the efforts of science and the law to combat the homicidal dispenses of toxins … Gripping and sad.” - Tatler


'I love Linda Stratmann’s non fiction work. This is a beautifully researched and written history of poisoners - so vivid you can see yourself there on every page.' - Peter James, author of You're Dead
Linda Stratmann is an expert on Victorian crime and the author of several nonfiction books, including Yale’s The Marquess of Queensberry. She lives in London.