THE MURDER OF NAPOLEON by Ben & David Hapgood Weider


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An attempt to manufacture a detective thriller out of one controversial forensic theory and a rehash of historical fact. The basic premise--that Napoleon was the victim of arsenic poisoning, as evidenced by a few locks of hair now yielding their secrets to modern physics--is not in itself absurd; it has in fact been roundly debated (viz., Felix Markham's 1963 biography, Gilbert Martineau's 1977 Napoleon's Last Journey) ever since it was first put forth by Sven Forshufvud, a dentist with a taste for toxicology, some 20 years back. Here, Forshufvud is the tenacious hero/sleuth: ""Forshufvud knew he would not stop now; he would follow the case to the end. And that meant a lot more work, and, with a hand from fate, a lot more evidence."" He is, moreover, a man with a ""mission"": ""He would not fail Napoleon."" For all this hoopla, the payoff is meager. The authors' climactic identification of Napoleon's poisoner is solely based on circumstantial evidence, and their comparison of the scientific data with contemporary accounts of Napoleon's last days is confusing and inconclusive. Written in the tenor, sometimes, of a young adult bio (""Napoleon and Betsy quickly found they shared a rough and ready sense of fun""), a lot of fuss about very little.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1982
ISBN: 1583481508
Publisher: Congdon & Lattes--dist. by St. Martin's