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The Medical Detectives

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  721 ratings  ·  50 reviews
This is a classic collection of 25 true narratives of medical investigative reporting by award-winning journalist Berton Roueche. Readers of "The New Yorker" may be familiar with the author's suspenseful tales of strange illnesses, rare diseases, poisons and parasites.
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 30th 1991 by Plume (first published January 1947)
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Updating this rating to 5 stars (January 6th, 2008), because it was one of the five best books I read in 2007.

This "classic collection of award-winning medical investigative reporting", published in 1988, is an excellent book. Each of the 25 case studies originally appeared as an "Annals of medicine" piece in the New Yorker, and there's not a dud in the bunch. It's like 25 "House" episodes, but without the gratuitous obnoxiousness, condescension to the reader, or the ridiculous constraint that o
What a great book! Roueche was a writer for the New Yorker, covering medical mystery stories. This book was suggested to me by Maggie Merman, a doctor in Atlanta whom I rotated with when I was a medical student. I'm so glad I had written it down and then thought to order it when I ran across it online a couple of years ago. Fabulous stories about all sorts of medical mysteries: the blue men, an orange man, a case of rabies, a case of a boy poisoned by his blue jeans... It's fascinating to see ho ...more
One of my favorite books from childhood--it's very old-fashioned (when's the last time you thought of Farrah Fawcett-Majors as a current fad?), and medically/socially out-of-date, but most of these essays still have the thrill of a good episode of House (note: it's never Lupus). Some of these I believe were episodes of House. Heroes are not the doctors (who are basically good and pragmatic, occasionally wry), or the patients (who are confused, pathetic, simply drawn)--it's the group procedural d ...more
Dr.Nouf AlKaabi
Sep 14, 2009 Dr.Nouf AlKaabi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: medical students who like detection and forensic
This book have changed my idea about epidimiology. For someone like me, who loves sherlock holmes, Agatha christie and every detective and detection story, this book was the best ever. Although it was written along time ago but I found it to be usful and it helped me a lot. planing to read it again, and more than that, to study it.
A fascinating collection of stories, perfect for the type of people who watch Discovery Health or shows like Medical Mysteries or Untold Stories of the ER. Some of these stories go all the way back to the late 1940s. Some are diseases you have heard about. Some are things we have made some additional advances in fighting or treating or just diagnosing. But some are still obscure and mysterious. Since I deal with medical stuff on a daily basis, I found it right up my alley. And since it was broke ...more
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This is the seminal book of the medical mystery genre. I loved it, even though many of the stories from the 1950s were amusingly dated (oh the horror - a single injection of anti-rabies serum used in the Pasteur regimen cost an alarming FIVE WHOLE DOLLARS!). SoMe of the diseases were unfamiliar, but for a veterinarian there any also plenty of old friends like tularemia, rabies, and psittacosis discussed in this book. I love the matter-of-fact descriptions of the tried and true epidemiological fi ...more
Great book! A little worrisome, given that now I think I will have some horrible disease and no one will know what it is, but other than that I loved it! Every now and then I thought his style was a little confusing, in that vast passages of the book are just quotes from various doctors on the case — not that this was a bad thing, but that it was sometimes confusing to remember, after 5 or more pages, which of the ten doctors that were involved with the case was speaking. But, despite this, it w ...more
This is one of my favorite books, and prompted by interest in public health, and my subsequent decision to become an epidemiologist. This is a classic in the genre and a must read.
Jul 11, 2007 Tia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who like mysteries
Shelves: medical, non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book. It has simple cases of "medical mysteries" and tracks the ways in which doctors, epidemiologists, amateur entymologists, etc., helped crack the cases. The stories were compiled in the 50's and 60's, so there is a lot of emphasis on mroe epidemiological mysteries like smallpox outbreaks or salmonella infections. What's interesting is that, even though most of the diseases he covers are common, (even ancient!), figuring out what they are can often be a herculean task. A ...more
Super book. Great stories. I can't think of how a book about medical mysteries could be any better.
Jan 31, 2014 Jessica marked it as to-read
Recommended by Octavia Butler in afterward to "the evening and the morning and the night" in Bloodchild
Daniel Farabaugh
I liked much of this book and gave it three stars which is interesting because I did not finish it. Many of the cases are interesting and it is nicely paced in how he breaks down all the cases, but after a while I just lost interest in this book. I started reading other books in between each case and then found myself unwilling to pick it up again. I have no real explanaition for why I lost such interest in this book even though I found it enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone with an intere ...more
Sandra Strange
What fun! I love the quote on the opening page: "I hope that Lord Gran and you are well--no easy thing seeing that there are above 1500 diseases to which Man is subjected." (from a letter written by Sidney Smith) This book gives short, pithy chapters chronicling the adventures of epidemiologists, public health specialists, doctors, and sufferers in their fight against some of the more dramatic of the 1500. The book is fascinating and fun to read, though it will make you reel if you're prone to h ...more
A fantastic read if you are looking for something medical. Every chapter is a new story about the diseases and cases that doctor deal with (almost) every day. As this book was written in the 1950s to 60s the medical technology was much different and it was very interesting to see how doctors then delt with problems that we can easily deal with now. Over all, if you are looking to feed your science side and love diseases and medicine, this book is for you
If you like reading Dr. Lisa Sanders "Diagnosis" column in The New York Times Magazine, you will enjoy The Medical Detectives. Similarly, this compilation of cases comes from what was a regular column in The New Yorker magazine. It is especially interesting as the cases date from 1947 to 1988, so you can see the progress of medicine over the years. If you don't like watching "CSI" or "House", then don't read this book.
Danielle J
Even if medical histories or medical non-fiction are not your cup of tea, I would still recommend reading this book. Yes, the specifics about each of the cases are very interesting from a diagnostic and medical standpoint, but - more than that - this book is about thinking outside of the box to problem-solve. If you are at all jazzed by mysteries or logic puzzles, I think you would really enjoy this.
James Davisson
This book was fascinating. Each chapter is a real life medical mystery--most cases are two-pronged: what is the disease? Once we know that, where did it start, how did it spread, and do we need to stop it? You get an insight into epidemiology in this book, which is new for me. It also has a wonderful mid-twentieth century charm: all the medical detecting is leg work, phone calls, and research in books.
I am thoroughly enjoying this. Brilliantly written and a mesmerizing reminder of how much has changed in 60 years. Gone are the days of typhus in NYC! Yet the deductive diagnostic and investigative process remains the same. Medical mysteries have become passé these days, yet I find Roueché's, the first ever, read fresh. Can't wait to get back to it.
A collection of articles that ran in the New Yorker from the later '50s to the late '80s. The stories are interesting, but perhaps even more fascinating is the glimpse into the recent past before small pox was eradicated, when bats where just become known as vectors for rabies, when aspirin was the best treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
My dad gave me a copy of this book when I was probably 9 or 10 because he loved it, and we've spent the intervening decade + referring to its different stories - even more fun now that medical school brings up the individual diseases I learned about first in these puzzles. One of my most fondly remembered childhood readings.
This reads like a thriller ...and in many ways is one. The anecdotes put together in this book go over some medical mysteries looking at diseases and poisons. Some of the best chapters include the man who turned orange and the scary story of a man who returns from his trip around the world with a parasite that won't leave.
This book is excellent! The writing is good, the stories intriguing, and even though some of the stories are 50+ years old, the information is still pertinent. I was swooning over the fabulous vocabulary in one story, I learned exactly what anthrax is in another, and I learned to be more cautious about food.
Amazing medical mystery writing. The cases may have occurred decades before I was born but they are enthralling and the writing is captivating.
I found myself penciling in the drugs we would use now (vancomycin, zosin etc) next to the really out of date drugs used in these cases.
Eileen Conner
I loved this book as a teenager. I was interested in medicine, and it unfolded in Roueche's stories like a mystery, get the clues, all of them and the case is answered. I still like the books now, but as a doctor, I read the stories differently than I did before I was one.
Lisa Vegan
Jun 07, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in epidemiology and/or detective stories
I love epidemiology, medicine, detective stories, and this book. It’s fascinating. True medical detective stories. I read this so many years ago and I would imagine that some of the medical information is out of date, but the epidemiological process remains so riveting.
I know this is kind of nerdy, but if you like science and mystery type books, you might enjoy this factual series of short stories about different medical mysteries during the last couple centuries. Another recommended read for public health or medical people.
Really interesting book about true accounts of odd medical circumstances. If anyone wants to know what an epidemiologist does in the field they should read this book or even just one chapter, it will definitely explain it.
Excellent collection of Berton Rouché's articles from the New Yorker magazine. The Eleven Blue Men is a fantastic opener and the stories get better and better. If you haven't read this - why not?
Avis Black
The book is a good way to kill an afternoon, especially if your stomach is a little stronger than average. I find medical anecdotes interesting, but you have to possess the temperament.

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History, Medicine...: The Medical Detectives 1 34 Oct 28, 2012 02:35PM  
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  • Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health
  • Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service
  • Virus X: Tracking the New Killer Plagues
  • The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery
  • Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases
  • Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC
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Eleven Blue Men And Other Narratives Of Medical Detection The Man Who Grew Two Breasts: And Other True Tales of Medical Detection Feral The Medical Detectives Vol. 2 The Incurable Wound

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