The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman (5 out of 5)

Eleanor Herman has to be one of the prominent historians left who still publishes “fun” history books. What is fun? Well, in my opinion, everything BUT American history. I’m a bigger fan of world history, where you get to witness first-hand the results of inbreeding, madness, rampant disease, and backstabbing the likes of which most of us have never gotten to witness. Eleanor Herman has written a number of these fascinating and fun history books. I mean, I know it wasn’t fun to those it happened to, nor those in the family line, but to people like me who like twisted history, this was a treat to read. I don’t think Herman has ever picked a focal point of interest, in this case poison, and wound her world histories around it- until now. She goes through some not-so-well-known victims of possible poisonings, and uses knowledge of ancient history, coupled with modern day medical history, autopsies, DNA tests, to determine whether poisoning was the cause of death, or a medical issue that was misdiagnosed, or mistreated as a result of misdiagnosis. Let me tell you, after reading this, I’m happy that modern medicine has advanced to its current state, because most of these poor people were truly fucked. Herman also pinpoints the art of Poison, and the effects it had on many back in those days. What about testers? Oh yes, they existed, and sometimes it didn’t matter! More on that in the book. One of the ironies revealed here is that as afraid as the royals were of being poisoned by threats to the court of power, they were poisoning themselves with cosmetics, lotions, and other “fail safe” potions to keep them looking good and staying safe and healthy. Quite a few of these had the “magical” ingredient they swore by- mercury. MERCURY. Absorb that. Not literally. Herman finishes up her fascinating treatise by highlighting some famous folks, among them Napoleon and Beethoven, and their deaths, and whether they were also victims of the royal art of poison. There is nothing that Bret Michaels or CC DeVille can do to save these sorry heads of state and their histories, but Eleanor Herman has done all of us a great service by writing this book. Highly recommended to history and nonfiction buffs alike, it’s currently available in hardback from the publishing wunderkinds at St. Martin’s Press.

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~ by generationgbooks on October 5, 2018.

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