Dangerous, dark and difficult to detect, poisons have been a common character in literature from ancient times to the modern day. Their ability to perform deadly deeds at a distance is a well-worn plot device for creating dramatic tension and playing on our real-life fears. But what is fact and what is pure fiction?

In this hour-long webinar you’ll meet Hilary Hamnett, author of Poisonous tales: a forensic examination of poisons in fiction about how modern forensic toxicology knowledge can shed light on fictional poisonings. Hilary will take you on a tour of case studies from fiction to explore how the scientific (and not-so-scientific) knowledge of the day found its way into literature. Sometimes the identity of the poison is revealed, other times a cold case review is needed where real-life experience investigating poisonings can reveal the possible chemical culprit.

Using real forensic science Hilary explores the toxins and tinctures in our favourite works. Could a poison really mimic death in Romeo and Juliet? What is the cause of the mad Hatter’s malady in Alice in Wonderland? What heartfelt poison was slipped into James Bond’s martini in Casino royale?

This webinar will immerse you in these ‘cases’, where you will discover the captivating truth behind these tales and how real-life tragedies can replicate themselves in fiction.

Keep an eye out during the recording for the discount code. Using this, you can receive a 50% discount on the print and ebook of Poisonous tales: a forensic examination of poisons in fiction. Please note, offer ends July 20th, 2023.

Meet the author


Portrait photo of author Hilary Hamnett

Hilary Hamnett

During seven years as a caseworking forensic toxicologist in the UK and New Zealand, Hilary Hamnett worked on thousands of cases involving drugs and poisons; from deaths and serious drug-facilitated crimes to driving under the influence of drugs. She holds MChem and DPhil degrees from the University of Oxford and an MSc in forensic science from the University of Strathclyde, UK. She is currently an associate professor in forensic science at the University of Lincoln.


The front cover of Hilary Hamnett's book, 'Poisonous Tales: A Forensic Examination of Poisons in Fiction'

Utilising her knowledge of forensic science, Poisonous Tales  author Hilary Hamnett explores the toxins and tinctures behind our favourite works.

The book is published by the Royal Society of Chemistry and will be available from May 17, 2023.

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