The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie

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The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie

By Michael C. Gerald

A study of the use of drugs, poisons, and chemicals in Christie’s fiction.



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6 x 9 | 288 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72864-6

Poisoning occurs in over half of Agatha Christie's many novels and stories. In fact, she used a larger number and broader selection of poisons and medicines, for a wider variety of purposes, with greater frequency, ingenuity, and scientific accuracy than any other detective fiction writer. Yet very little has been written on the use of drugs, poisons, and chemicals in Christie's fiction.

The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie entertainingly and authoritatively fills this gap. Michael Gerald explores the use of poisons and drugs in Christie's fiction not only to commit murder and suicide but also to incapacitate a victim, alter behavior, treat disease, or support addiction. He also analyzes her views, as expressed in her fiction and autobiography, on drug addiction, the health professions, the value of medicines, and scientific discoveries.

Especially valuable is Gerald's exhaustive listing of all drugs, poisons, and chemicals mentioned in Christie's novels and stories, with references to the work(s) in which each appears and the ways in which each is used. Other tables list all the novels and short stories and the chemicals that are used in each. Throughout, the properties of all drugs are clearly explained so that the reader needs no special scientific or medical knowledge.

The Poisonous Pen of Agatha Christie illuminates the fictional uses Christie made of her real-life experiences as a hospital drug dispenser and as a provider of nursing care. It will be of interest to fans and scholars alike.

Michael C. Gerald is Professor of Social and Administrative Sciences at the University of Connecticut, as well as an avid student of the works of Agatha Christie.

". . . an enjoyable account of the techniques of fictional murder from the perspective of an expert on pharmaceutics . . . a quirky, eccentric book which is essentially sui generis . . . it certainly will raise the interest of general readers in the romance of pharmacy."
—Tony Hilfer, professor of English, University of Texas at Austin, and author of The Crime Novel

"For people who are simultaneously interested in medical topics and murder mysteries, this labor of love should be a must."
—Alan B. Combs, professor of pharmacology and Bergen Brunswig Centennial Fellow in Pharmacy, University of Texas at Austin

Southern Books Competition, 1993