The Secret Poisoner A Century of Murder Linda Stratmann

Publication date:
22 Mar 2016
Yale University Press
344 pages: 235 x 156mm
32 b-w illus.

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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.

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Read an exclusive extract from The Secret Poisoner here
Read a special introduction to the book by the author here

Linda Stratmann is the author of several nonfiction books, including The Marquess of Queensberry.

“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

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

“A riveting history on the employment of poisons and the rise of regulations on them . . . mystery readers will be intrigued by the murderous methods and their effects on victims.”—Library Journal

“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

“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

"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