“Book of Poisons” by Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon

No Such Thing As Iocane Powder

 I’m a quiet kind of person, but I have a peculiar hobby. That’s why I got the Book of Poisons. No, no, I write novels. Honest.

Especially useful for mystery writers, Book of Poisons details hundreds of toxins for causing havoc and death (to fictional characters, of course).

Organized by type (plant, animal, medical, industrial chemical, street drug, etc.), each entry in the alphabetized list includes different names for the substance (where applicable), potency (about how much is required to achieve the desired effect: death), symptoms, cause of death, and reaction time.

Treatments are also often given, so your villain’s plot can be foiled, or so you can know what you need to deny your victim for him to successfully die. You’ll also find tips on what a medical examiner might find while autopsying the body afterwards. Contrary to popular belief, a coroner isn’t magically able to tell exactly what substances were or were not in a body just by sampling eye-ball fluid, etc.; Book of Poisons, written by an RN, offers the perspective of a real-life toxicologist to help authors understand the challenges and procedures of detectives. That way, if you depart from reality for the purposes of your story, it won’t be because of ignorance.

One of my favorite features is the “interesting notes” at the end of many of the entries. These contain extra information like examples of real-life poisoning cases (criminal or accidental), references to where it’s been used before in fiction (frequently Agatha Christie), and other cool stuff.

I sometimes enjoy just flipping through and reading random entries, but that goes back to my peculiar hobby again. I mean the novel writing. Really – it’s got nothing to do with my eternal crusade against the creators of autocorrect. There’s plenty of material to get the creative juices flowing (or just make you paranoid about all the things that could potentially kill you).

There’s even a section to help you create your own poison that fits your plot, but in a knowledgable, believable way. This chapter also contains a list of fake poisons used by other writers, like iocane (The Princess Bride), Smilex (from Batman), and Meta-cyanide (the poison in the Gom Jabar of Dune, apparently).

Finally, the end of the book provides several indexes of the substances sorted by method of administration, form (liquid, gas, etc.), symptoms (like neurological system effects or nose and throat effects), reaction time (minutes or days, etc.), and toxicity. This allows you to select the poison you need to get the effect you want. There’s also a glossary for those of us not familiar with all the medical terms like dyspnea (dys + pnea = difficult or painful breathing) and necrosis (death and decay of body tissue). Fun, huh?!

Bottom line: Book of Poisons is a fantastic resource for mystery writers, or any writer wanting to spice up their story with a little “deadly neurotoxin”. Or you might want to read up on the cures and antidotes sections, just in case you ever get the chance to sample my cooking.

Wait—did I say that out loud?

The Book of Poisons is available in ebook and paperback versions on Amazon. Author Serita Stevens’s website is here. Author Anne Bannon’s website is here.

Disclaimer: Kimia Wood and affiliates are in no way responsible if any reader of this review uses the information in this review or this book in connection with any elderly rich uncles said reader might possess.

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