INNOCENCE AND ARSENIC: Studies in Crime and Literature by Albert Borowitz

INNOCENCE AND ARSENIC: Studies in Crime and Literature

Email this review


Two things are white: innocence and arsenic."" Ten things are dull: the magazine-y pieces in this unfocused collection, featuring true crimes summarized and fictional crimes mused upon. Who was Jack the Ripper? Did rival composer Salieri poison Mozart? What's the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood? Borowitz amasses the various familiar, conflicting theories and adds his own bland or silly (Sherlock Holmes was the Ripper) contributions. ""Why Thackeray Went to See a Man Hanged"" scrutinizes the eminent Victorian's disdain for the death penalty and for crime novelists who glorified Fagin-land; the early 19th-century murder memoirs of duplicitous Clarisse Manson (the ""Fualdes case"") are scoured in detail, with painstaking separation of fact from fiction. And, studying then-and-now Rome, Borowitz reconstructs Cicero's defense of an accused jury-corrupter/poisoner and the much more recent case against a ""psychological kidnapper"" (Borowitz coined the phrase now in ""common journalistic use"") who enslaved young men with his political-sexual magnetism. Only one entry tries to do more than gather and report--a comparison of the C. P. Snow couple's literary uses of the ""Moors"" murders--and there Borowitz's stylistic limitations lead him into pedantry. Overall survey: trampled ground dug up with a dull plow.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row