The League of Lady Poisoners: Illustrated True Stories of Dangerous Women by Lisa Perrin
Foreward by: Maria Trimarchi & Holly Frey
Chronicle Books – Pub Date: September 19, 2023
A feast for the senses, this sumptuously illustrated book will introduce you to some of the most infamous women throughout world history, united by their shared taste for poison. Welcome to the League of Lady Poisoners.
This riveting and well-researched volume by Lisa Perrin weaves together the stories of more than twenty-five accused women poisoners, exploring the circumstances and skill sets that led them to lives of crime.
You might find yourself rooting for some of them—like Sally Bassett, who helped poison her granddaughter’s enslavers in Bermuda, or Giulia Tofana, who sold her name-brand concoction to women wanting to be rid of their abusive (or otherwise undesirable) husbands. Other stories, though—including that of Yiya Murano, one of Argentina’s most notorious swindlers and serial killers, or the terrifying Nurse Jane Toppan—may prove less palatable.
Organized into thematic chapters based on the women’s motives, the book also includes an illustrated primer that delves into the origins and effects of common poisons throughout history, as well as a foreword by Holly Frey and Maria Trimarchi, creators and hosts of the podcast Criminalia. It is a treat for true crime fans, feminist history buffs, and any curious readers fascinated by the more macabre side of human nature.
TRUE CRIME GALORE: Women can do anything—even commit murder. This thoughtfully researched and insightful survey into the lives of the poisoners explores the toxic events that put these women in the spotlight, the deceptive methods and substances they used, and their legacies today. The League of Lady Poisoners is a thrilling deep dive for fans of true crime podcasts, docuseries, and books.
EYE-CATCHING GIFT: Illustrator and author Lisa Perrin’s beautiful and distinctive art style blends the romantic allure of these pop culture legends with the disturbing and twisted facts of their lives. The hardcover is decorated with shining foil, and the interior contains clever Victorian-inspired lettering, borders, and diagrams that complement the text. Readers and illustrated book collectors will love all the details honoring the Golden Age of Poison.
FASCINATING, DIVERSE STORIES OF WOMEN WHO KILL: These women lived in different time periods and had varying cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds that influenced their motives. Some acted out of defiance—like the Angel Makers of Nagyrév, who taught women how to dispose of their abusive husbands in Hungary. Others schemed their way to power and money, including Empress Wu Zetian of China and Belle Gunness, who killed more than 14 people in the American Midwest. Discover all their stories in this engaging collection . . . if you have the stomach for them.
Lisa Perrin is an award-winning illustrator, designer, entrepreneur, and educator. She is a professor in the Illustration department at MICA, and her work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, 3X3 Magazine, and Print Magazine. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Holly Frey and Maria Trimarchi are co-hosts of Criminalia, a podcast that explores the intersections of history and true crime. They first met while writing and editing the curiosity-driven website HowStuffWorks. Holly Frey is also the host of the podcasts Stuff You Missed in History, Full of Sith, and Drawn: The Story of Animation. She lives in Georgia. Maria Trimarchi is a writer based in Oregon.
Men are more likely to poison than women. One of the myths busted in this book is that poison is a tool of usually female killers. In more recent history, the truth is poison is a gender neutral weapon.
There is also a clear reminder that history books and articles are written with a bias.
The beautiful illustrations are black and white with greyscale shading contrasted against stark white and bright absinthe/arsenic green.
The timeline of how chemistry evolved from Ancient Egypt to modern times is a quick and easy read that includes classic philosophers, chemists, and poisons like arsenic and strychnine. The more detailed description of how strychnine kills reveals the process to be a lot like tetanus. It’s an excruciating death that the victim is aware of until their final suffocating breath.
“It’s a sobering reminder as we seek out organic and all-natural products to use that just because something is natural does not automatically mean it is safe.”
It’s so interesting and chapter one doesn’t even start until page 43.
A good balance of witty and humor on the serious subject of death. (Note: regarding La Voisin, learn more from the Vodka O’Clock podcast interview with author Judy Willmore)
There’s an entry in this beguiling encyclopedia about India’s Poison Maidens, the Visha Kanya. They allegedly built up immunity to poisons and were dispatched as assassins. Legend states that these women could poison a victim with a touch or kiss. They could kill with their breath or sweat and pollute waters. These women have certainly inspired fictional women like Poison Ivy and Curare (DC Comics). Differing from the subject book of this review, wisdomlib.org includes “kanya” as one of the names of the Goddess Devi. That would mean the name translates more to Poison Goddess than damsel or maiden. Perhaps most importantly to cis-male rulers of the time, having sex with a Visha Kanya makes the penis fall off.
Once I arrived at the chapters on specific women, I was compelled by their histories. Some might use murder to get out of an abusive marriage. Others were trying to take a path to insurance payouts. It might be surprising to some readers to learn how callous women can be regarding children’s lives. However, author/artist Lisa Perrin keeps the mood jaunty and light. If you’re used to the podcast My Favorite Murder, you’ll see similarities in how the dark subject of death is deflected with humor.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get to finish the book before the review copy expired! I was halfway and most definitely wanted to finish it. This was my first time getting to review through Edelweiss which has an unfortunate system of their downloads being in Adobe Creative something format only with DRM. They have a read through the GUI interface which thankfully kept my place each time I closed my Kindle. Even bearing all the time I tried to crack the Adobe format and change it to PDF, I will not let that skew my opinions on the book. It’s fantastic!
Rating: 5 stars