So.... I think, maybe, I could win a few rounds of 17th/18th century Trivial Pursuit on the subject of early forensics, but other than that this was kind of a waste of my time after the first third of the book.
So, so much information, but it was so disorganized...
My impression of the book when I had initially requested it from the library was that it was going to be about arsenic, the history and use of it as a poison; I expected to read about some of the same incidents I have seen on Deadly Women. Maybe there would be some insightful histories that I had never heard of before. Instead the book mostly focuses on one incident featuring the Bodle family where, obviously, someone died - which is not a spoiler considering the book is about arsenic and murder and, heck, it's even in the title! - and all of the events following.
And then it derails, very, very quickly. For some reason one must also understand the entire life and history of every official involved in the investigation, court trial, in the forensics, such as it was a the time, and even members of the British government because... somehow the stories about their involvement with laws or granting pensions or whatnot is related directly to this one murder case? I will grant the fact that all of the information on various historical persons is related, but in a very, very distant way. There were odd lines at the beginning and ends of paragraphs trying to relate what was going on back to the Bodle family that, presumably, the whole story is supposed to be about.
I don't even see how or why the Bodles were chosen by the author to represent the subject of arsenic and its use as a poison of choice to guarantee inheritance, as the case often was.
Even trying to write (type) down my thoughts about the book is all jumbled. It... it was just a mess. If it had been orderly discussed, perhaps with the Bodle family incident as a hook at the beginning a prologue, and then proceeding chronologically from the first development of criminal forensics, it might have gone off better. I do have a few gems of a saying saved for later, so I'll jot those down soon.
Would be wary of other books by this author if this is her usual writing style.