Obsessing these past few weeks over poison — for our show this week “Pick Your Poison” — has brought back memories of my grandmother’s library, where she had every Agatha Christie book arranged on shelves, each with her own name inscribed on the first page (in case she lent them to someone she wanted them back). As a child, I began to read her copies, some of them paperbacks from the 1930s, and then my own, eventually devouring all 66 Agatha Christie novels and her 14 story collections.
As one of our guests, Kathryn Harkup, notes in her book “A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie,” the prolific mystery writer used poison to kill her characters more often than any other method. There’s something so intimate about poison: the way the attacker must get close to the victim, sometimes studying their habits, or following them, or, even, handing them a cup of tea spiked with arsenic. But the possibility of an antidote also raised the question of a sudden recovery, a twist in the mystery, and maybe a reversal of fortune.
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