Catherine Peters

Marriage Plot

Did She Kill Him? A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery and Arsenic


Little, Brown 419pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

James Whorton’s entertaining history The Arsenic Century (2010) exposed the Victorian home as a death trap. From Buckingham Palace to the modest terrace, arsenic floated from the surface of the fashionable green wallpapers and leached from the dyes of fabrics used for everything from upholstery to ball gowns. Children sucked it off the paint on their toys and it was an ingredient in medicines and cosmetics. Pure, white and deadly, in powder form it was easily obtained for a few pence to kill vermin and was frequently mistaken for sugar. Arsenic also came to be seen as a particularly female murder weapon: there were several famous trials of women accused of poisoning their husbands or lovers with it in small incremental doses. None was more notorious than that of Florence Maybrick.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • He weeps by the side of the ocean, He weeps on the top of the hill; He purchases pancakes and lotion, And chocolate… ,
    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,