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The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York Hardcover – 18 Feb 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Non Basic Stock Line; First Edition edition (18 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202435
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202438
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 5.4 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 823,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The Poisoner's Handbook is an inventive history that, like arsenic, mixed into blackberry pie, goes down with ease."--The New York Times Book Review
"Blum illuminates these tales of Norris and Gettler and their era with a dedication and exuberance that reflect the men themselves. Not only is The Poisoner's Handbook as thrilling as any CSI episode, but it also offers something even better: an education in how forensics really works." --The Washington Post
"Blum, a longtime newspaper writer and now a professor of science journalism at the University of Wisconsin, skillfully explains the chemistry behind Gettler's experiments. Her book is sure to appeal to mystery lovers, science nerds and history buffs. . . ."--Associated Press
"Fast-paced and suspenseful, The Poisoner's Handbook breathes deadly life into the Roaring Twenties."--Financial Times
"All the nitty-gritty about death by arsenic, by thallium, by wood alcohol, is here in precise, gruesome detail. It makes for a stomach-turning read. . . . .Ms. Blum's combination of chemistry and crime fiction creates a vicious, page-turning story that reads more like Raymond Chandler than Madame Curie."--New York Observer
"In this bubbling beaker of a book, [Blum] mixes up a heady potion of forensic toxicology, history and true crime. . . . The Poisoner's Handbook will get into your head. You'll find yourself questioning the chemicals in our everyday lives. What's really in our food, cosmetics, pesticides, cleaning supplies, children's toys and pet dinners? This isn't just a good read. It's a summons to study labels, research, think and act."--Dallas Morning News
"The Poisoner's Handbook succeeds as science, as history, as entertainment and as an argument for the power and purpose of popular science writing."--Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"One thinks of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City . . . a book that gave splendiferously disgusting descriptions of horrible murders

"The Poisoner's Handbook is aninventive history that, like arsenic, mixed into blackberry pie, goesdown with ease."--The New York Times Book Review
"Blum illuminates these tales of Norris and Gettler and their era witha dedication and exuberance that reflect the men themselves. Not onlyis The Poisoner's Handbook asthrilling as any CSI episode, but it also offers something even better: an education in how forensics really works." --The Washington Post
"Blum, a longtime newspaper writer and now a professor of sciencejournalism at the University of Wisconsin, skillfully explains thechemistry behind Gettler's experiments. Her book is sure to appeal tomystery lovers, science nerds and history buffs. . . ."--Associated Press
"Fast-paced and suspenseful, ThePoisoner's Handbook breathes deadly life into the RoaringTwenties."--FinancialTimes
"All the nitty-gritty about death by arsenic, by thallium, by woodalcohol, is here in precise, gruesome detail. It makes for astomach-turning read. . . . .Ms. Blum's combination of chemistry andcrime fiction creates a vicious, page-turning story that reads morelike Raymond Chandler than Madame Curie."--New York Observer
"In this bubbling beaker of a book, [Blum] mixes up a heady potion offorensic toxicology, history and true crime. . . . The Poisoner's Handbook will getinto your head. You'll find yourself questioning the chemicals in oureveryday lives. What's really in our food, cosmetics, pesticides, cleaning supplies, children's toys and pet dinners? This isn't just agood read. It's a summons to study labels, research, think and act."--Dallas Morning News
"The Poisoner's Handbook succeeds as science, as history, asentertainment and as an argument for the power and purpose of popularscience writing."--MilwaukeeJournal-Sentinel
"One thinks of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City . . . a bookthat gave splendiferously disgusting descriptions of horrible murdersand did it so dexterously and intelligently that even readers whowouldn't normally read a true crime book were happily sucked in.Deborah Blum's The Poisoner'sHandbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New Yorkis that kind of book." --New Haven Advocate
"Blum has cooked up a delicious, addictive brew: murder, forensictoxicology, New York City in the 20s, the biochemistry ofpoison. I loved this book. I knocked it back in one go and now Iwant more!"--Mary Roach, author of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Scienceand Sex and Stiff: The Curious Livesof Human Cadavers

"The Poisoner's Handbook opensoneriveting murder case after another in this chronicle of Jazz Agechemical crimes where the real-life twists and turns are as startlingas anything in fiction. Deborah Blum turns us all into forensicdetectives by the end of this expertly written, dramatic page-turnerthat will transform the way you think about the power of science tothreaten and save our lives."--MatthewPearl, author of The Last Dickensand The Dante Club
"The Poisoner's Handbook is awonderfully compelling hybrid of history and science built aroundeccentric characters. One scene reads like Patricia Cornwell and thenext like Oliver Sacks. From movie stars and aristocrats to homicidalgrandmothers and entrepreneurial gangsters, from the government'spoisoning of alcohol during Prohibition to the dangers of radiation andautomobile pollution, Blum follows an amazing array of poignanttragedies through the laboratory of these crusading public servants.--Michael Sims, author of Apollo's Fire and Adam's Navel
"With the pacing and rich characterization of a first-rate suspensenovelist, Blum makes science accessible and fascinating." --PublishersWeekly, starred review
"Caviar for true-crime fans and science buffs alike." --Kirkus Reviews
"Formative figures in forensics, Norris and Gettler become fascinatingcrusaders in Blum's fine depiction of their work in the law-floutingatmosphere of Prohibition-era New York."--Booklist

The Poisoner s Handbook is aninventive history that, like arsenic, mixed into blackberry pie, goesdown with ease. The New York Times Book Review
Blum illuminates these tales of Norris and Gettler and their era witha dedication and exuberance that reflect the men themselves. Not onlyis The Poisoner's Handbook asthrilling as any CSI episode, but it also offers something even better: an education in how forensics really works. The Washington Post
Blum, a longtime newspaper writer and now a professor of sciencejournalism at the University of Wisconsin, skillfully explains thechemistry behind Gettler's experiments. Her book is sure to appeal tomystery lovers, science nerds and history buffs. . . . Associated Press
Fast-paced and suspenseful, ThePoisoner s Handbook breathes deadly life into the RoaringTwenties. FinancialTimes
All the nitty-gritty about death by arsenic, by thallium, by woodalcohol, is here in precise, gruesome detail. It makes for astomach-turning read. . . . .Ms. Blum s combination of chemistry andcrime fiction creates a vicious, page-turning story that reads morelike Raymond Chandler than Madame Curie. New York Observer
In this bubbling beaker of a book, [Blum] mixes up a heady potion offorensic toxicology, history and true crime. . . . The Poisoner's Handbook will getinto your head. You'll find yourself questioning the chemicals in oureveryday lives. What's really in our food, cosmetics, pesticides, cleaning supplies, children's toys and pet dinners? This isn't just agood read. It's a summons to study labels, research, think and act. Dallas Morning News
The Poisoner's Handbook succeeds as science, as history, asentertainment and as an argument for the power and purpose of popularscience writing. MilwaukeeJournal-Sentinel
One thinks of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City . . . a bookthat gave splendiferously disgusting descriptions of horrible murdersand did it so dexterously and intelligently that even readers whowouldn't normally read a true crime book were happily sucked in.Deborah Blum's The Poisoner'sHandbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New Yorkis that kind of book. New Haven Advocate
Blum has cooked up a delicious, addictive brew: murder, forensictoxicology, New York Cityin the 20s, the biochemistry ofpoison. I loved this book. I knocked it back in one go and now Iwant more! Mary Roach, author of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Scienceand Sex and Stiff: The Curious Livesof Human Cadavers
The Poisoner's Handbook opensoneriveting murder case after another in this chronicle of Jazz Agechemical crimes where the real-life twists and turns are as startlingas anything in fiction. Deborah Blum turns us all into forensicdetectives by the end of this expertly written, dramatic page-turnerthat will transform the way you think about the power of science tothreaten and save our lives. MatthewPearl, author of The Last Dickensand The Dante Club
The Poisoner's Handbook is awonderfully compelling hybrid of history and science built aroundeccentric characters. One scene reads like Patricia Cornwell and thenext like Oliver Sacks. From movie stars and aristocrats to homicidalgrandmothers and entrepreneurial gangsters, from the government'spoisoning of alcohol during Prohibition to the dangers of radiation andautomobile pollution, Blum follows an amazing array of poignanttragedies through the laboratory of these crusading public servants. Michael Sims, author of Apollo's Fire and Adam's Navel
With the pacing and rich characterization of a first-rate suspensenovelist, Blum makes science accessible and fascinating. PublishersWeekly, starred review
Caviar for true-crime fans and science buffs alike. Kirkus Reviews
Formative figures in forensics, Norris and Gettler become fascinatingcrusaders in Blum s fine depiction of their work in the law-floutingatmosphere of Prohibition-era New York. Booklist"

About the Author

Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum is a professor of science journalism at the University of Wisconsin. She worked as a newspaper science writer for twenty years, winning the Pulitzer in 1992 for her writing about primate research, which she turned into a book, "The Monkey Wars" (Oxford, 1994). Her other books include "Sex on the Brain" (Viking, 1997) and "Love at Goon Park" (Perseus, 2002). She has written about scientific research for "The Los Angeles Times," "The New York Times," "Discover," "Health," "Psychology Today," and "Mother Jones." She is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers and now serves on an advisory board to the World Federation of Science Journalists and the National Academy of Sciences.


Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unexpectedly this is a page turner of a book. A fairly wide range of poisons are discussed and their 'use' and later methods of detection described. But the human side of the stories are absolutely fascinationg. The book can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in this topic. And she does not shy away thankfully, from a bit of chemistry. I would not usually read a book like this and only did so on a friend's recommendation. Am I glad I did. It discusses nasty human nature - murder I suppose - the birth of forensics (in America: I must explain and they did not have the lead at the time and the new methods lead to the capture and disposal of very unpleasent criminals who previously escaped the law. They do not deserve our pity as they watched others sometimes slowly and painfully dying by their hands. Read and be fascinated.
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A really good introduction to forensic toxicology, written engagingly and with accuracy. Interesting not only scientifically but historically. I would highly recommend it to those not of a squeamish nature!
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This book has a misleading title. Yes, it does discuss noxious substances, but from a scientific point of view at a time when forensic medicine had not yet been born.From moonshine to chloroform, we learn about the compounds that many ignored and a few decided to investigate - often using their own funding to do so whilst the government buried their heads in the sand. Fascinating!
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Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating book. It follows the history of forensic toxicology in the US, and sets out how new poisons came to prominance and how tests were devised to detect them and legislation brought in to control them. The book is divided into chapters on the seperate poisons, detailing each poison and its (mis)use and reactions of the medical examiners.
Well written, accessable and engaging, I heartily recommended this book.
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The Poisoner’s Handbook

Not, as the title suggests, a book defining methods of eliminating your nearest and dearest, but an account of how in the early part of the 20th century, a nascent forensic team investigated intentional and non-intentional deaths by poisoning in the city of New York. This is an extremely informative and well-researched book, written in a style akin to a crime novel leaving the reader wanting more at the end of each chapter. In essence the story of two scientists, one a pathologist the other a chemist, both committed to establishing forensics as an essential tool of criminal investigation whilst hindered by an indifferent and hostile bureaucracy. The narrative covers premeditated murders using arsenic, accidental poisonings initially perceived as criminal and corporate negligence resulting in the deaths of workers from substances such as radium. An easy and interesting read deserving a high rating.
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This book reads more like a detective novel than a history book. It is a very interesting look at the birth and development of forensic pathology. There are lots of interesting stories that give a good flavour of the times in which they are set.

Highly recomended.
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After seeing the documentry I purchased the book for my daughter who is a forensic toxicologist she gave it a big thumbs up and several of her colegue want to read it.a book not just for those in that field but anyone interested in the birth of forensics
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Although (Obviously) to do with things American, this is an extremely interesting book on poisons and poisoners and should interest true crime writers, crime novelists and crime historians everywhere. Coroners and pathologists should also have it on their bookshelves.
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