4 1/2 stars. This is an exemplary science book for the general reader and is more absorbing than many and many a novel.
The first few chapters are background ones covering poisons, medicines, and the actions of chemicals upon the body. The last of these especially was exciting for me: heretofore my eyes would have skimmed over any sentence containing 'metabolite' or 'induction of enzymes', but Trimball's presentation is so outstandingly good that I understood and learned rather than simply shoving necessary definitions into my short-term memory.
The bulk of Poison Paradox is devoted to different sorts of chemicals that might do us harm--such as those occurring naturally, pesticides, industrial poisons, murder weapons--and their effects on the body. From the action of a chemical and the body's reactions to and defenses against it and carrying on to overt symptoms of poisoning, these effects are explained thoroughtly and intelligibly, with the aid of very helpful illustrations, cross-references, and case histories.
Not surprisingly, there's some gee-whiz stuff here as well: A stiff gin is an antidote to a form of alcohol poisoning. There was a time when to eat green blancmange was to ingest a dose of arsenic, though presumably only colour-blind diners with undeveloped palates suffered the consequences. Oxygen can be toxic. And I'll never again knowingly eat an organically grown peanut.
A couple of very slight flaws were for me a glossary that could have been improved upon and a tendency here and there to unnecessary repetition. (A pronounced tendency in the case of Paracelsus's dictum, in fact.)
Timbrell is a professor of biochemical toxicology, and his students must consider themselves lucky: Someone who can spark an interest in and a delight in learning about biochemistry in me must be a very fine teacher indeed.