Elements of Murder and Mittens

My mom read a review of The Elements of Murder by John Emsley a while ago and mentioned it to me a couple of times and then gave me a copy for Christmas. It’s probably a sign of how many books I read, but I almost felt like this was foreshadowing. Like I will be called upon to know the properties of arsenic or thallium. Y’all, I have read the book and here’s hoping I’ll be prepared.

As per the title, it deals with toxic elements – mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead and thallium, so you will need to consult another book for your compound poison needs like, say, cyanide or strychnine. Still, those elements leave lots of scope for murderous intent.

This is kind of grim. In nontoxic news, please admire this mitten:


There’s some fascinating stuff in here. The Romans, lacking access to sugar, made sweetener out of lead acetate. So sugar is actually kind of good for you, in that it is a replacement for lead.

You have perhaps heard of how wallpapers coloured with arsenic compounds may or may not have killed Napolean? I had never really considered the mechanism, except that you covered the walls with poisonous stuff and what did you think would happen? It turns out moulds growing in the walls were metabolizing the arsenic in the wallpaper and giving off arsenical gas. Apparently less arsenic is actually worse because enough arsenic inhibits the growth of said moulds. Also, arsenic wallpaper in your bedroom would kill off bedbugs. Who knew?

Then, there are a lot of accounts of murder by element. I can get behind mystery novels where no one really died but I don’t read a lot of true crime because it makes me sad. Fortunately I have a pair of mittens to cheer me up:


Mittens! So gratifyingly quick!

Anyway, if you want to read about murder by arsenic, antimony &c, you can read the book yourself. I’m just going to say if you have a spouse you want to get rid of, call a lawyer not a pharmacist, okay?

Mitten Specs: My own pattern. Yarn is Madelinetosh DK in Opaline. Pretty in a barely-a-colour sort of way.

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3 Responses to Elements of Murder and Mittens

  1. Wait, would arsenic wallpaper all on its own kill bedbugs, or would the mold thing have to happen? I would be willing to paper my walls with arsenic wallpaper for a little while if it meant getting rid of the bedbug plague I live in constant fear of acquiring someday. I could just vacate the house for a while and then come back in a couple of weeks with a gas mask and take all the arsenic wallpaper down.

    • I think the mould has to happen. So it would be sort of like fumigating, but prettier. (Depending on the wallpaper you picked, I guess.)
      Can we not just eradicate bedbugs? I’m starting to feel itchy just thinking about them.

  2. Pingback: Posions Mnemonic for MBBS students | Medicospace

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