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The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the…

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in… (edition 2010)

by Deborah Blum

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1,561947,161 (4.11)120
Title:The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
Authors:Deborah Blum
Info:Penguin Press HC, The (2010), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:True Crime, Forensics

Work details

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

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    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)
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» See also 120 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
This book scared the hell out of me. ( )
  sblock | May 6, 2019 |
Story of Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler and how they revolutionized forensic medicine in the early 1900's in New York City. My copy is inscribed by the author, who I met in February 2018. ( )
  Pferdina | Mar 3, 2019 |
This book is full of interesting information about the history of forensic science and various poisons but it isn't very well organized. The stories are thrown together and there is no underlying theme that draws the book together. In the afterword, the author says that the book is about two pioneering toxicologists, but that's news to me. Deborah Blum needs an editor. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
Interesting book in regards to how things were during Prohibition and how foresnic science developed. Also, distrubing was the thought process of how to make people stop drinking alcohol. The book is non-fiction but not written in the depth of a textbook. People with chemistry degrees will find it too "light" in the subject but the rest of us regular folk will find the technical information enlightening; at least I did. ( )
  gac53 | Oct 22, 2018 |
Wow! I picked this up as an impulse buy, thinking my sister (who loves all things Jazz Age) would want to borrow/steal it later. Now that I've read it, she can't have it: it's mine. Science! History! Prohibition! Murder! Accidental deaths due to the utter lack of regulation of drugs, household chemicals, and cosmetics!

The book has an interestingly layered organization. Each chapter is titled for the poison/chemical whose investigation is woven the most centrally through that section; however, the book is also a chronological biography of Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler, the scientists who put science at the center of death investigations in New York. Deborah Blum uses individual case studies -- some solved, some not -- to highlight the development of various detection techniques, Norris and Gettler's efforts to elevate the status of good science in the courtroom, and even the everyday dangers of the era.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys science, history, and forensics. ( )
  akaGingerK | Sep 30, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Deborah Blumprimary authorall editionscalculated
Marlo, ColeenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.
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The untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. 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. 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.… (more)

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