Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the…

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in… (edition 2011)

by Deborah Blum

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,307855,970 (4.1)108
Title:The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
Authors:Deborah Blum
Info:Penguin Books (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

  1. 40
    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  2. 30
    The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  3. 10
    The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago by Douglas Perry (merovin)
  4. 00
    The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery by Sam Kean (KCampana)
    KCampana: Both books report the history of science (specifically of the human body) in an engaging, approachable manner.
  5. 00
    The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr (391)
    391: The Killer of Little Shepherds both have to do with the advent of forensic science; one set in rural France, in the attempt to track down a vicious serial killer, the other set in 1920s New York during Prohibition. Both are excellent books that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the vanguards of forensics!… (more)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 108 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
Tales of poisonings, murderers, and bootleggers encountered by two scientists in early 20th century New York. The scientists paved the way for forensic pathology.
  mcmlsbookbutler | Nov 22, 2016 |
This is a fascinating look at the birth of forensic science in the United States from 1917 through the 1930's; specifically, at the revolutionary changes brought about by two men: the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, Charles Norris, and toxicologist Alexander Gettler. It's well-written, engrossing, and sometimes even sensational.

The book is divided up by chapters, each representing one of the prevailing poisons of the jazz-age era and the crimes committed with them, with an inevitable focus on the effects of prohibition. While there are some deviations within each chapter in order to maintain a chronology in the historical narrative, each chapter focusses on breaking down a specific poison, its physiological effects and methods of detection. Blum does this in a way that is both accessible and fascinating...and sometimes gruesome.

My only complaints are purely personal: Blum wrote a thorough, comprehensive history of these two great men, but that requires a discussion of animal experiments, something I can't tolerate even as I recognise their contributions. I also found that the emphasis on the dangers of prohibition-era alcohols grew tedious. There's no way to write a history of this time frame without methyl- and ethyl- alcohols dominating the history, but I still found myself growing a bit weary of reading about them towards the end.

What these two men accomplished in their time was phenomenal; their dedication, their perseverance is downright inspiring. If you enjoy science and/or history, I'd recommend this book without reservation. ( )
  murderbydeath | Oct 16, 2016 |
Very informative and somewhat shocking. This chronicles the birth of toxicology, and specifically how that came to be used in the criminal justice system. Several toxins are addressed and described, along with the deaths they caused. Very interesting the science and processes developed to test for different poisons. ( )
  BrittanyLyn | Jun 22, 2016 |
The biochemistry of poison, poisoners, workers poisoned by indifferent industries, poisonous hooch during Prohibition, death on and murder by choice or indifference or greed, set in New York during the roaring Twenties. A superlative telling of laboratory detective work by Norris and Gettler in the office of the Medical Examiner. I couldn’t get enough of this book.
( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
A riveting account of the beginning of the New York Medical Examiner's office, as well as American toxicology/forensic chemistry. The book follows the life of Charles Norris, the first person in charge of that city's dead with a genuine interest in the science and circumstances of how they died.

The book takes the reader through a litany of poisons, from the dangerous quasi-booze of Prohibition to everyone's favorite, arsenic. Norris, with tremendous help from his chief scientist, Alexander Gettler, pioneered the use of science to convict criminals of wrongdoing, as opposed to a policeman's supposition/forced confession.

A very worthwhile read for any loves of history, chemistry or just a good story. ( )
  thoughtbox | May 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Deborah Blumprimary authorall editionscalculated
Marlo, ColeenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To the Haugen family- Dave, Helen, Peter (always), Treaka- and in loving memory of Pamela.
First words
Until the early nineteenth century few tools existed to detect a toxic substance in a corpse.
Prohibition is a joke. It has deprived the poor working man of his beer and it has flooded the country with rat poison. - Brooklyn magistrate
The government knows it is not stopping drinking by putting poison in alcohol. It knows what the bootleggers are doing with it and yet it continues its poisoning processes, heedless of the fact that people determined to drink are daily absorbing that poison. Knowing this to be true, the United States Government must be charged with the moral responsibility for the deaths that poisoned liquor causes, although it cannot be held legally responsible. - Charles Norris
Only one possessing the instincts of a wild beast would desire to kill or make blind the man who takes a drink of liquor, even if he purchased it from one violating the Prohibition statues.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Book description
Shares the story of how the appointment of Charles Norris as chief medical examiner in New York in 1918 dramatically slowed the incidence of murder by poisoning, and looks at how Norris worked together with toxicologist Alexander Gettler to investigate chemistry-related deaths and disorders and to establish the discipline of forensics.
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

Science journalist Deborah Blum shares the untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. She tracks the perilous days when a pair of forensic scientists began their trailblazing chemical detective work, fighting to end an era when untraceable poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime. Drama unfolds case by case as chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler investigate a family mysteriously stricken bald, factory workers with crumbling bones, a diner serving poisoned pies, and many others. Each case presents a deadly new puzzle and Norris and Gettler create revolutionary experiments to tease out even the wiliest compounds from human tissue. From the vantage of their laboratory it also becomes clear that murderers aren't the only toxic threat--modern life has created a kind of poison playground, and danger lurks around every corner.--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
323 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (4.1)
1 2
2 5
2.5 3
3 45
3.5 17
4 153
4.5 31
5 94

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,174,537 books! | Top bar: Always visible