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Publisher's Summary

Agatha Christie's detailed plotting is what makes her books so compelling. Christie used poison to kill her characters more often than any other murder method, with the poison itself being a central part of the novel, and her choice of deadly substances was far from random; the chemical and physiological characteristics of each poison provide vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. With gunshots or stabbings the cause of death is obvious, but not so with poisons. How is it that some compounds prove so deadly and in such tiny amounts?

Christie demonstrated her extensive chemical knowledge (much of it gleaned from her working in a chemists during both world wars) in many of her novels, but this is rarely appreciated by the reader. A is for Arsenic celebrates the use of science in Christie's work. Written by Christie fan and research chemist Kathryn Harkup, each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison (or poisons) the murderer used. A is for Arsenic looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering and detecting these poisons both at the time the novel was written and today. This book is published as part of the 125th anniversary celebration of Christie's birth.

©2015 Kathryn Harkup (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Intriguing and illuminating.... This compilation should please mystery fans, true crime readers, and lovers of popular science." (Publishers Weekly)
"Released just in time to celebrate Agatha Christie's 125th birthday on September 15, this is essential listening for both aficionados of the Queen of Mystery and anyone with a morbid interest in dangerous chemicals. Narrator Beth Chalmers's demure British accent is easy to listen to and quite addicting.... The subject matter itself is grim, but Chalmers's buoyant tones perfectly suit the well-researched and good-humored text." (AudioFile)

Featured Article: The Essential Guide to Agatha Christie


Agatha Christie is the best-selling fiction writer of all time, with more than 2 billion books sold. She's also the most translated author in history, and her stage play The Mousetrap holds the world record for longest initial run. (It has been running at the St Martin's Theatre in London for 68 straight years!) Whether you're a longtime reader or new fan, this list offers some of the best Agatha Christie books to listen to—and a handy guide to the author herself.

What listeners say about A Is for Arsenic

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A +

Would you consider the audio edition of A Is for Arsenic to be better than the print version?

Probably the audio, I really enjoyed the audio version and I have listen to it more than once. I think this would be a book that I would like to own both in audio and print.

Who was your favorite character and why?

No characters as this is a nonfiction book. I am a huge Agatha Christie fan and I absolutely loved this book. To get facts about Agatha, her murderers and the poisons all in one place is wonderful !

What about Beth Chalmers’s performance did you like?

Her accent was great. This is the first time I have listened to her work and I would be happy to listen to her again.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, I hated to stop when I had to take a break.

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Overall good.

This was actually pretty interesting, however, it did drag a bit in some of the more technical parts. Overall though I would recommend it...especially to Christie fans.

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Concise, focused, elegant

I like that this work focused cleanly and consistently on the science, interesting plot moments and history: very interesting.

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Excellent!

I really loved this! The poisons themselves are fascinating to learn about. The real life cases that are referenced were extremely interesting and more than a little disturbing. I learned more science than I ever though possible and was never bored. Beth Chalmers does a brilliant job of narrating, and kept me fully invested. I thoroughly enjoyed this and would highly recommend.

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A Good Book If You Like Sciencey-Type Non-Fiction

I know I made up that word Sciencey- But it is what I use to describe books that are written with a layperson in mind while still challenging those with a bit more scientific background- I had to re-listed to several chapters to get all the bits and pieces correct in my head-

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Death caps, nightcaps, and recaps

What made the experience of listening to A Is for Arsenic the most enjoyable?

Beth Chalmers was an ideal narrator, capturing the Britishness of the book and dealing well with the technical detail.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The book talks about several poisons as they were discovered, used in historical poisonings, and their effects on the body. Each chapter also gives an overview of the way each poison was used in an Agatha Christie book. I have read many of Christie's works, and I found the recap sections both tedious and unnecessary,

Any additional comments?

This is a little tough as an audio book, since the author goes into quite technical descriptions of nerve receptors, molecule shapes, and the functioning of body cells. I found myself losing the thread fairly often in these parts as I listened in the car.

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  • Ian
  • 09-21-15

Thoroughly enlightening

If you could sum up A is for Arsenic in three words, what would they be?

Well written.
Well read
Very interesting

What was one of the most memorable moments of A is for Arsenic?

Her description and the way Agatha Christie used her experience.

Have you listened to any of Beth Chalmers’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No, not yet but intend to.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Makes you think

Any additional comments?

Thoroughly enjoyed, did not think I would have. Bought it because of Agatha Christie.

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  • Julia
  • 02-02-17

Brilliant

A really interesting listen. And educational too. Narrator did a great job. Off to find more books read by her and more by the author too!

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  • Sian Linnell
  • 02-09-21

I loved this book

I loved this book it was a good mixture of fictional elements with the science behind the drugs. I really enjoyed listening to this book, I have listened to it fully twice and partially even more. I had not read anything from Agatha Christie before hand and still very much enjoyed the book!

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-16-15

Fascinating

It was spoiled by the narrator sounded far too young and good humoured for the subject matter. A better choice would have been Patience Tomlinson or Anna Massey.

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  • Jo
  • 10-07-15

Dull.

Interesting premise, but somehow ended up sounding like 5hr homework assignment. Maybe it's the combination of the book and school mistress like narration style. Found it hard to listen.