DARK MIRROR by Barry Maitland

Dark Mirror“There’s your culprit:  arsenic trioxide.”

DCI Brock and DI Kathy Kolla have another case, and in this nifty mystery, sebendy-lebendyeth in the series, it is all about poisoning.

Did you know that one of the revolutionary things about the Pre-Raphaelite painters, such as Rossetti, Millais, Holman Hunt and others, was their use of the vivid new pigments that the chemical industry of the time had recently developed, especially a brilliant green called Emerald Green or Paris Green, made from arsenic?   But the paints were quite dangerous.  The painters absorbed the pigment through their skin, they breathed its fumes and held paintbrushes loaded with it in their mouths.  It is said that arsenic poisoning from Emerald Green was the cause of Monet’s blindness and Van Gogh’s madness.  It was Cezanne’s favorite color, and he developed severe diabetes, a sympton of chronic arsenic poisoning.

Keep all that in mind.  Everything hinges on it.

It starts with a young woman, doing research in a London library, collapsing after having eaten her lunch, being violently ill, and eventually dying.  It was determined that she died of arsenic poisoning.

I had always thought arsenic was slow acting, being administered in small doses until eventually the victim succumbed, but now know that a large enough dose all at once can be lethal as well.  The Victorians lived in an era of easily obtainable arsenic and used it for all kinds of mundane purposes. In those days, arsenic was used to treat syphilis.   And of course, what’s not to be charmed by the little old dears in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Great mystery with no lack of plausible murderers, and natch, the second death just adds to the suspense.  Oh, I didn’t mention the second poisoning?  Momentary lapse.

Did you know that widespread arsenic contamination of groundwater has led to a massive epidemic of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh and neighboring countries? It is estimated that approximately 57 million people in the Bengal basin are drinking groundwater with arsenic concentrations elevated above the World Health Organization’s standard of 10 parts per billion.  This interesting tidbit was part of the plot of the book.  So you see how much you can learn just from reading fiction!

2 comments on “DARK MIRROR by Barry Maitland

  1. Deb Atwood says:

    This looks deliciously fun! Another arsenic book–Have you read Strong Poison by Sayers? It might be interesting to find out how many arsenic novels there are.


  2. Marti says:

    I haven’t read Strong Poison. Sigh. Another for my ever expanding TBR list. I definitely need another lifetime. Thanks for the heads up. Going to grab the Sayers book. Hey, I have a Kindle. Doesn’t matter how many books pile up electronically. At least I don’t have to dust them.


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