Dr William Macbeth poisoned two of his sons in 1927, his wife
and sister hid the murders in the intensely private realm of family
Like the famous British poisoner Dr Crippen, Macbeth behaved
as if he were immune to consequences; unlike Crippen, however,
he avoided detection and punishment. Or did he? Secrets can be
as corrosive as poison, and as time passed, the story of Dr William
Macbeth, well-dressed poisoner, haunted and divided his descendants.
Macbeth's grand-daughter, Gail Bell, who grew up with the story,
spent ten years reading the literature of poisoning in order to
'read' and understand Macbeth's life. Herself a chemist, she listened
for echoes in the great cases of the nineteenth century, in myths,
fiction, and poison lore.
Intricate, elegant, and beautifully realised, this is a book
about family secrets and literary poisonings. It is a meditation
on death, deceit and language, and answers questions like: how
do arsenic, cyanide and strychnine work? Why is it so hard to
poison someone these days? Was it ever easy?
And it finally answers the question of what really happened to
those small boys in the winter of 1927.