Monday, January 23, 2012
Macinnis, Peter (2004). Poisons: From Hemlock to Botox and the Killer Bean of Calabar. New York: Arcade Publishing.
From the author’s web site:
"As usual, I am interested in the people, their interactions and the social effects that poisons have had, as well as the science. There is an exquisite beauty in the way tetrodotoxin is made harmless to its hosts, the way a wasp moth vomits over its mate, or the way a mongoose withstands the venom of the cobra. To me, these are things worth exploring, so I do. "
In his book, Macinnis endeavors to describe poisonous compounds and their science, relate which historical figures are implicated in the use of these poisons, and document how these poisons are referred to literature. He then attempts to weave all of these aspects together.
Macinnis does indeed attempt to cover aspects of science, people, and all the history inbetween, but he does not seem quite able to cover everything in a consistent, coherent way. I think there is just too much material here to do this kind of approach justice. Just as a good story is getting underway, the author abruptly changes direction, or inserts a block of related historical text, or leaves the topic altogether. Many of these compounds have enough related material to sustain their very own book (and many have – for example, tetrodotoxin is implicated in the whole zombie culture, something not even mentioned by Macinnis, much to my disappointment).
This book is certainly worth perusing – just be prepared to be left wanting more.
Rating: One Oog