The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
Filed under: Book Reviews,General Reading,Reader of the Stack Goes Scientific — Ibis at 7:40 pm on Saturday, October 29, 2011

From the back cover:
“Deborah Blum, writing with the high style and skill for suspense that is characteristic of the very best mystery fiction, shares the untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. In The Poisoner’s Handbook Blum draws from highly original research to track the fascinating, 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. ”

My thoughts:
I loved this book, the story of the two men who drove the formation of a scientific medical examiner’s office in Prohibition-era New York City. A great mix of chemistry, interesting anecdotes of purposeful and accidental poisonings, political wrangling between several mayors and civil servants who just want to do the job they’re mandated to perform, the effects of Prohibition, the Depression, and the burgeoning machine age upon the populace. There could have been a bit more chemistry and biology, a little less detail about various animal experiments, but overall I think Blum struck the perfect balance to keep readers interested. A fascinating look at what things were like prior to regulated industry (proof to all those crazy libertarians that industry can’t be trusted to look after the best interests of people). A testament to two great men who worked tirelessly not just for knowledge for its own sake but in order to help people. There’s just so much material for thought here, but the presentation makes it a quick and easy read. Great book for a book club to read.

My rating: 8.5/10

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

You must be logged in to post a comment.