The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum

Jul 12, 2011

Many of us would not be alive today if not for the work of Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler. This fascinating Jazz Age tale of the birth of forensic medicine in the U.S. highlights the careers of these two heroes, who worked against incredible odds to develop techniques that would reveal the poisons that killed countless citizens. Their cases included: a family mysteriously stricken bald, Barnum and Bailey’s famous Blue Man and a diner serving poison pies. Because of their work arsenic, morphine, thallium and radium are no longer available across the counter to shoppers who may have innocent purposes in mind – or some that are much less than innocent. Who knew that Prohibition actually caused more drinking and thus many deaths by homemade concoctions – some including fuel intended for automobiles? This page-turner is a concoction of true crime, history and science thriller. Readers who may not enjoy the science can easily skim those sections and not miss the excitement of speakeasies and murder mayhem of the Roaring Twenties.

Reviewed by Library Staff