Tuesday, March 1, 2016


When the literary detective Hercule Poirot passed away in Agatha Christie’s novel Curtain, his obituary appeared on the front page of the New York Times. Such was the presence of Ms. Christie, whose novels, plays and short stories continue to attract readers who love a well-told and intricate mystery. Born into an upper-middle class English family, Agatha Christie lived from 1890-1976 and set the gold standard for crime fiction.

During World War I Christie volunteered to work as a nurse in a hospital, but instead took a position in the pharmacy, where she learned the about potions, poisons and drugs. In fact, Christie passed several exams about prescriptions and became so adept that she used this knowledge when she wrote her first book in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, where the instrument of murder was poison—strychnine to be exact.

Christie fans and others who enjoy unexpected non-fiction will enjoy A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie.  This absorbing book includes an overview of Christie’s literary (she loved to read!) and scientific background, an alphabetical study of the poisons used in her novels and a chronological list of her mysteries, with English and American titles, and a description of how the murders were committed.

Many fans know about Agatha Christie’s introduction to chemistry during World War I, but the book offers what may be little known. During World War II the famous author renewed her pharmacy credentials and once again volunteered dispensing medications. Find all the books mentioned here, as well as many other Christie titles, on the shelves at the Monrovia Public Library.

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