Winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, and now an Australian classic
When Dr William Macbeth poisoned two of his sons in 1927, his wife and sister hid the murders in the intensely private realm of family secrets. Macbeth behaved as if he were immune to consequences and avoided detection and punishment.
Or did he? Secrets can be as corrosive as poison, and as time passed, the story haunted and divided his descendants. His granddaughter, Gail Bell, spent ten years reading the literature of poisoning in order to 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, The Poison Principle is a masterful 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.