Tag Archives: trivia

Book Review – Elements of Murder

The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison

John Emsley

Hardcover: 436 pages

Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (28 April 2005)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0641823894

ISBN-13: 978-0641823893

It has everything I want from a book – science, history and murder. It’s not a book everyone would enjoy but to geeks like me it’s fascinating to know that a broken thermometer played a part in the development of photography. I’m also intrigued to find that Pope Alexander VI  was poisoned in 1503 after dining with his son (well, they were Borgias), and that “perpetual pills” were made from antimony. When swallowed, they would pass through the gut, and irritate the gut into clearing itself out. They would then be retrieved, washed and used again. I’m not surprised their use has died out. I still shudder at the thought of what happened when I swallowed one of my gold crowns.

If you prefer environmentalism to murder you can read it as a book on the damage done to humans, fish and the atmosphere, with examples from history and from modern times.

If science is your thing, there is plenty available, possibly too much.

The book covers the poisons Mercury, Arsenic, Antimony, Lead, Thallium and “Other poisonous elements”. There are other poisons available, but these are the ones in the book – the clue is in the word “element” in the title. If you want a book on poisons in general you need a different book. If, for instance, you were interested in general poisons  (and I am making no judgement here) you may be better with a book on plants.

It’s not an easy read because the detail is quite dense, and you have to concentrate, but it is interesting and informative.

I won’t lie, it’s patchy, and there are slow bits because some of the poisoning cases are well known (like Napoleon’s death by wallpaper) and because the science sometimes goes on a bit, but I like the history and there are hundreds of items of trivia to be gleaned from a reading of the book. I’m not going to criticise a book just because of my inability to process science writing.

It’s going back on the shelf for now, but after leafing through it for examples of trivia, I’ll be reading it again soon.

 

 

 

Triviata

Yes, was surprised it was a real word too. I was looking for a title that denoted an accumulation of trivia and thought this was about right so checked it up to make sure if it was already taken, and yes it was. Shakespeare introduced 1,700 new words into English, but these days it’s not quite so easy.

There is also a Trivipedia, but no trivicumulation. I’m going to think about that…

I think it can be defined, in my sense, to denote a jumble of trivial news of the sort that makes up conversations between spouses or posts on blogs about normal life. Well, you may discuss world politics or philosophy with your spouse, but we tend to discuss children, what we did during the day, and housework. Or, more precisely, why I have done no housework.

So, his morning, after a day on the road yesterday, I drifted into consciousness just before 7.00 am, looked at the day outside and went back to bed for a while. Feeling energised I then sorted out books for charity, selected clothes for the Salvation Army (they seem to have been shrinking lately) and took a faulty kettle back to TESCO. It hadn’t been expensive but even cheap kettles are supposed to keep the water on the inside.

It’s surprising how long it takes to return a faulty kettle to TESCO. First you have to find someone to accept it, and at our branch that means going and standing at a shabby, anonymous counter at the back of the shop as everyone ignores you. Then, after finally intercepting a passing manager, you have to wait and see if they can find a replacement on the shelves or in the warehouse. They couldn’t. So I accepted a refund on my debit card.

Lunch was soup (Pea and Mint from TESCO) with fresh bread. Yes, I know I should make my own but I wanted something quick.

Blogging next – reading posts and adding bits to some posts I’m mulling over. I still have another post on Crowland Abbey to polish  (you have to ration these things out ) and a few others to develop.

Finally, gardening. I’ve been putting it off until the warmer weather came, and the warmer weather has come. As I have plenty of time this year, it really is time to get on top of the job. It’s also time to add some permaculture design and  wildlife to the garden.

I’m alternating TV, computer and cookery now. Julia is out at a meeting and when she returns she will be expecting meatballs. I’m still looking for a meatball recipe so “relaxed” and “well prepared” are words that don’t currently apply to me.

It will be different tomorrow – the Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry is already done.

Meanwhile, I’d better focus and stop browsing. I’ve just been reading this. It’s cookery, but not as we know it.

Readers of a nervous disposition may be better not clicking the link.