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Book Review: He Said It with Arsenic by Ruskin Bond

Well, before putting this story into the category of detective story, the author Ruskin Bond very slyly has built the background for it by introducing the topic of born killers. He professes as just there are born singers, actors, and sports persons; similarly there are some people who are smooth at killing. William Jones was such a magnificent killer as he always killed his victims quite smoothly. Not violently like criminals or dons.


He was a male nurse in the hospital of Agra; and he always stood by terminal cases. As no one expects terminal patients to recover like hopeful cases, thus their death could never be highlighted. When Jones fell in love with Mrs. Browning - the wife of a stationmaster, their letter exchanging activity became a notable thing for the people working in the postal department. By the way Jones was based in Agra and Mrs. Browning in Meerut. Mrs. Browning’s husband fell sick and died silently. After that she shifted to Agra and took a home beside Mr. Jones. That raised eyebrows. And Jones’ wife too had died by first falling sick and then succumbing to ill health. In Rusty’s family, William Jones was reverently referred as Bill Jones. He was an uncle to him.

Jones would send letters and in them powdery substance for her. She used the same powdery substance to kill her husband slowly and silently. When the investigations were carried out, letters and that powdery substance was found from beneath the mattress of Mrs. Browning’s bedroom. Both were arrested and Jones was sent to jail for eight years.

After twenty years, one fine day Rusty receives a visitor from South Africa. He came by flight. He was an old-looking man in his fifties while Rusty was in his thirties. Rusty could not recognize him at once but when they chatted for a few moments, oh it is Uncle Jones. Uncle Jones told him about his book that went on to become a best seller and thus he thought of visiting his nephew, the only living relative.

Jones narrated the story and the fate of his sister and her husband who lived and died in South Africa. Jones was with them until they died peacefully. Rusty had a confident hunch that Uncle Jones had come to him to take away his royalties for a few years by killing him silently. One evening Uncle Jones told him about a sherry from South Africa, however when he went inside to get it, he took time than usual. Rusty smelled a rat, and grew conscious, and also he was desperate to get rid of someone who killed people in cold blood.

Uncle Jones came out with two glasses full of sherry on a wooden rounded tray. Rusty didn’t want to take any chances. He turned it round with his index figure and said it was a custom here to revolve the tray as it would bring good luck. Uncle Jones turned it again for more luck, and then Rusty also turned it to reverse the luck. Uncle Jones got confused and Rusty quickly drank his glass of sherry. Next morning Jones was taken violently ill. It was a preliminary dose of arsenic meant for Rusty. A day later, Uncle Jones packed his luggage and got ready to leave. When Rusty asked him why he slipped his famous powder in one of the glasses, he said in the circumstances it seemed the only decent thing to do. And for this reason Uncle Jones was always the perfect gentleman for Rusty.

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