HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the…
Loading...

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

by Deborah Blum

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,057657,948 (4.07)100
Member:jbrahney
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
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

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

  1. 30
    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  2. 20
    The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House 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 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)
Loading...

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

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 100 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
3.75 stars

The author looks back at the early 20th century in New York City as scientists learn more about various poisonous chemicals. She looks at various deaths (often murders, or suspected murders, but in some cases, accidental deaths) caused by the poisons. Various chemicals she focuses on include chloroform, ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, radium, cyanide, carbon monoxide, and more.

I listened to the audio, and although I was interested, I still managed to get distracted at times. I suspect it would have been a full 4 star book for me had I read it in print or ebook. Of course, the true crime aspect makes it a little more interesting, still, with “real-world” applications to the findings. Probably no surprise, but I didn't like the animal testing that was done/described. This one's nonfiction, but it reads like a novel. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 26, 2015 |
A very easy to read and very informative book about the very beginnings of forensic science. The dedication, scientific knowledge, and determination of those early pioneers is a strong testament to their will and commitment. Modern medical science and current criminology own so much to these men. ( )
  labdaddy4 | Dec 25, 2014 |
I absolutely loved this book. It is a highly readable account of the rise of forensic medicine and toxicology in the United States, focusing on the Bellevue lab in New York City. The book talks about a number of homicides (or, in some cases, accidents that were believed to be homicides) that resulted from poisonous chemicals. There are chapters on arsenic, cyanide, carbon monoxide, radium, thallium, etc. Some of the compounds that the author discusses were known to be poisons (like arsenic and cyanide, for example), whereas some were new compounds, discovered in the first third of the twentieth century, that were not discovered to be poisonous until ill effects were reported.

The book is not just about crime or homicidal maniacs who use poison as their weapon of choice. It is also about changing technologies, corporate greed, and egregious misuse of chemical compounds that borders on being comical to the modern reader. (Radium health tonics. Blearghhh.)

The book is well written (the crisp, non-academic writing is very refreshing - unlike the radium health tonics) and does not get overly bogged down in scientific terms. The author provides enough medical and scientific background to be relevant, but she presents it in layman's terms. I love reading about the periodic table, but since I am not a scientist, I find that sometimes I get lost when there is too much detail. That is not the case here. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  slug9000 | Dec 10, 2014 |
This book profiled the development of forensic medicine in New York, primarily through the actions of a reformer and a chemist.

It's a good crash course on different common poisons in the era (and their availability-- you could pick up arsenic-laden rat traps at any pharmacy). It's also a pageturner.

However, while I found the main narrative educational, I'm not sure how much weight I could put into some of the case studies and historical references Blum brought up. At one point, she mentions Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia as people who used poison as a frequent weapon; this is no longer an academic consensus (at the very least, a powerful noble house such as Borgia had minions for that kind of thing), particularly where concerns Lucrezia. It's a minor point but one that is so easy to research that I found myself skeptical of every other anecdote to follow.


( )
  eaterofwords | Nov 16, 2014 |
The tag line on this book is "Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York". It wasn't until 1918 that New York appointed a medical examiner with actual medical credentials. Before that time the coroners office was part of the Tammany Hall controlled administration. The new medical examiner, Dr Charles Norris and his toxicologist, Alexander Gettler, dragged New York into the modern world of forensic science.

This is not just the story of their dedication and struggles as they strove to create a world class medical examiner's office. It is also the story of New York, the US and the world's slowly expanding knowledge of the poisons around them. The chapters are arranged by poisons and of particular interest are the ones about radium and all the chapters on the various alcohols. Before reading this book, I didn't realize that alcohol consumption increased during Prohibition or that the government added poisons to alcohol in an attempt to deter people from drinking.

The Poisoner's Handbook is not only well researched, it is also very readable.
  Familyhistorian | Sep 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Deborah Blumprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
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.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (4)

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
1 avail.
395 wanted
1 pay4 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.07)
0.5
1 2
1.5
2 4
2.5 3
3 33
3.5 17
4 118
4.5 25
5 66

Audible.com

An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 95,151,560 books! | Top bar: Always visible