A beguiling concoction-equal parts true crime, twentieth-century history, and science thriller.
A fascinating Jazz Age tale of chemistry and detection, poison and murder, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten era. In early twentieth-century New York, poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime. Science had no place in the Tammany Hall-controlled coroner's office, and corruption ran rampant. However, with the appointment of chief medical examiner Charles Norris in 1918, the poison game changed forever. Together with toxicologist Alexander Gettler, the duo set the justice system on fire with their trailblazing scientific detective work, triumphing over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry.
In this fascinating forensic history, Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Deborah Blum documents the heroic efforts and ingenious insights of a pair of Prohibition-era medical investigators who were barraged with a baffling series of deaths and ailments caused by various types of poison. In 1918, Dr. Charles Norris was named the first chief medical examiner of New York, and he frequently came to call on toxicologist Alexander Gettler for advice and assistance in trying to discern the difference between diabolical murder and accidental mishap during a time when lethal poisons were distributed at every drug store and speakeasy. Blum examines a number of perplexing cases, including an entire family who suddenly went bald and a group of watch factory employees whose bones began disintegrating. Norris and Gettler developed innovative tests and experiments to identify the telltale signs of each deadly substance before embarking on the often more difficult task of determining whether the poison was delivered innocently or maliciously.
- Medical, History
- Forensic Medicine, USA / State + Local / Middle Atlantic, General, Toxicology
- January 25, 2011
- January 25, 2011
- Deborah Blum