Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Gallery of Poisoners – Adrian Vincent

Non-Fiction 4*s

Well this collection of thirteen poisoners was a good way to round off a year that has seen me fascinated with the poisoner. Adrian Vincent has found a selection of those who chose poison as a way of getting rid of unwanted people in the UK and the US. This book was originally published in 1993 but has recently been republished by Endeavour Press.

Many of my favourites, including Florence Maybrick are included along with some that I hadn’t come across before. Each murderer, or more accurately suspected murderer is given a short chapter that goes into varying amounts of detail of their crime and punishment.

In order of appearance the poisoners featured are:

Frederick Seddon (1912)
Tillie Gburek (1921 USA)
Everitt Applegate and Mary Creighton (1936 USA)
Mrs Florence Maybrick (1889)
Jean Pierre Vaquier (1924)
Graham Young (1972)
Adeline Bartlett (1886)
Roland Molineux (1889 USA)
Harold Greenwood (1929)
Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen (1910)
Mary Ann Cotton (1873)
Madeline Smith (1857)
Nurse Waddingham (1936)

The author mentions famous expert witnesses, my favourite Bernard Spilsbury appears three of the trials and he also lists the crown prosecutor, the defence counsel and the judge in many of the trials. Sometimes an attorney who appears as junior counsel in one trial is promoted to become chief counsel at a later date, all of which a poisoner nerd like myself found fascinating. It’s like following these men through their careers as an aside to the individual crimes most of which were committed for love or money.

The author has a somewhat off-hand but insightful tone which I have to confess made me smile more than once, as illustration I am using his insight into Jean Pierre Vaquier, a new-to-me poisoner who struck in 1924 in Byfleet Surrey at the local tavern, the Blue Anchor.

Jean Pierre visits a chemist in London for strychnine which he claimed was for his wireless experiments:

‘But you will have to sign the poison book’
Vaquier signed the book J. Wanker, an odd choice for a false name. But it raised no eyebrows from Mr Bland, who gave Vaquier the strychnine without further comment.

Poor Mr Jones was found to have died of strychnine poisoning and Dr Carle informed the police. Our esteemed author summed up the questioning of Vaquier:

At this stage did Vaquier become alarmed by the questioning the police were taking? Not in the slightest. Finding himself in the limelight, Vaquier blossomed like a well-watered flower, happily posing for the photographers when he left the police station.

Adrian Vincent informs us that Vaquier practically took over his own defence when he came to the dock seemingly oblivious to Justice Avory’s pained looks and sums up:

It says much for British justice that all this nonsense was listened to in silence, rather than being greeted with howls of derision, as it might well have been elsewhere.

For these asides alone, I loved the book. No death is so tragic that Adrian Vincent can’t add a little quip about some aspect that brings some levity to the proceedings.

The only downside to such an array of poisoners is that although we have an outline of the cases, there is no deep analysis or thread that examines causes, details the forensic breakthroughs or examines changes in the law that has more or less consigned this method of murder to the history books. Nothing links the cases involved beyond the fact that all those featured either chose to, or were accused of, bumping someone off with poison, the top choice being good old arsenic.

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this book by the publishers Endeavour Press. This review is my thanks to them and the author for a jolly romp through the poisoners that formerly walked the earth.

First Published UK: 1993
Publisher: Endeavour Press
No of Pages: 250
Genre: Non-Fiction – Historical True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (December 4)

Weekly Wrap Up

The start of advent has ushered in that time of year where all of sudden there appears to be no free time at all but on the plus side the snow has been turned on by WordPress! Sadly, I have only managed read two books this week but I did manage to post four reviews, so without further ado…

This Week on the Blog

My first review of the week was for one of the books I chose for my 20 Books of Summer (yes, I am that much behind!): They Did It With Love by Kate Morganroth is best described as a mixture of Desperate Housewives and a mystery novel with references to Agatha Christie! A real fun read.

My Tuesday excerpt came from The Silent Hours by Cesca Major, a book that is narrated by three different characters in an epic wartime drama with a true story at its core.

My This Week in Books post detailed my reading for the week that took in the world of fostering, war and The Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre.

On Thursday I posted my review The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley, a strong novel that I awarded the full five stars to. I was especially gratified that the lovely author stated that I had really ‘got’ her book!

Another five star review followed on Friday, and this is me being stricter with the stars, for The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy, a brilliant dual time-line story of a young woman living in Oxford in the 1920s and in the modern day a man who is deciding on his future. With a hidden diary and a dispute over inheritance, I was utterly captivated by this novel that was informative as well as entertaining.

Lastly I finally got around to reading and reviewing  the first of Martin Edwards’ The Lake District Mysteries, please note that I can start at the beginning of a series, sometimes: The Coffin Trail is a traditional police procedural with a straightforward time-line set in a small community.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading This House of Grief by Helen Garner which follows the murder trial of Robert Farquharson, an Australian man on trial for killing his three sons. Helen Garner doesn’t just report on the facts but recreates the atmosphere in the court as the prosecution and defence make their case.  You can read my review of one of my favourite non-fiction reads of 2015 here

This House of Grief


On the evening of September 4th 2005, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother, Cindy, when his car left the road and plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven and two, all drowned. Was this an act of revenge or a tragic accident? In a tale reminiscent of In Cold Blood (1966), Helen Garner decided to reveal every aspect of this complicated and highly emotional case.

The case became Garner’s obsession; she followed it on its protracted course until the final verdict was delivered, and attended every day of the trial (and subsequent retrial). She was there alongside countless journalists and family members – exposing with great compassion the emotional complexity of a case that gripped the nation.

In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man with a broken life – she presents the courtroom as a theatre with its actors and audience, all gathered for the purpose of bearing witness to an often uncomfortable truth. Amazon

Stacking The Shelves

Those Amazon deals are still proving extremely difficult to resist, particularly as they keep featuring books on my wishlist but I have confined myself to just one this week but first up, we couldn’t have a month in 2016 that didn’t feature a poisoner, and I have a whole gallery of them! A Gallery of Poisoners by Adrian Vincent was published by Endeavour Press on 25 November 2016.



Here are thirteen cases of fatal passions, unfortunate acquaintances and gruesome endings.

Presenting infamous cases ranging from 1857 – 1972, Adrian Vincent revisits the lives of some of the most notorious killers ever to be brought to justice.
What drives someone to specialise in devising agonising death for their victims?
Vincent reveals the lure of money, lust and deviancy as they manifest in pure evil — lurking beneath the surface of domestic bliss and professional respectability.

Wives despatching husbands for their cash.
Lovers killing for passion.
The infamous Mary Ann Cotton, who poisoned three husbands and eleven of her children.
Graham Young, who was fascinated by poisons from the age of twelve and given to administering lethal concoctions — just to see what would happen.
Obsessive poisoners like Tillie Gburek, a middle-aged woman who found a taste for making deadly soups — and got through a series of husbands …
There’s the voyeuristic ménage à trois where a husband enjoyed his wife taking a lover which had dire consequences …
While the so-called Angel of Death, Nurse Waddington, ran her own nursing home.
Killers who specialized in devising agonizing death for their victims.

A Gallery of Poisoners is classic true crime at its best — thrilling and disturbing in equal measure. NetGalley

My kindle bargain was for this week was Flowers for the Dead by Barbara Copperthwaite which came to my attention via the sheer number of outstanding reviews it received from fellow bloggers.



Adam Bourne is a serial killer who thinks he is a saviour. When he murders young women and cuts off their lips, he believes he has done it to make them happy.
How did he become warped from the sensitive four-year-old who adored his gran and the fairy tales she read to him? What turned him into a monster who stalks his victims? And what is he trying to say with the bouquets he sends?
When he meets Laura Weir, Adam weaves a fairy tale romance around them. A tale she has no idea she is part of. As he hatches his twisted plan for their fairy tale ending, can anyone stop him before he creates the ultimate sacrifice to love? Amazon

PicMonkey Collage TBR


Since my last post I have read 2 books and gave my Son-in-Law one unsolicited ARC that I really didn’t think I’d read – he claims he’ll give me a review but we will see – and I gained 2 so this week my TBR has rapidly reduced to 177 books!

92 physical books
71 e-books
14 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?<