Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Deadly Dinner Party: and Other Medical Detective Stories” as Want to Read:
The Deadly Dinner Party: and Other Medical Detective Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Deadly Dinner Party: and Other Medical Detective Stories

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  627 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
Picking up where Berton Roueché’s The Medical Detectives left off, The Deadly Dinner Party presents fifteen edge-of-your-seat, real-lifemedical detective stories written by a practicing physician. Award-winning author Jonathan Edlow, M.D., shows the doctor as detective and the epidemiologist as elite sleuth in stories that are as gripping as the best thrillers.

In these sto
Paperback, 264 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Yale University Press (first published 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Deadly Dinner Party, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Deadly Dinner Party

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 16, 2010 Kerry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, 6, non-fiction, 2010
I found this in the library by chance. I like a scientific/medical mystery book of this kind, so I brought it home.

While the case studies were interesting, the writing did, on the whole, let the book down. The author had a tendency to outline the problems, hint or explain the issue quickly and then diverge into a history lesson about the bacterium/condition/additive/whatever in question before finally finishing up conclusion of the case study and final outcome.

For me, it just flattened everythin
This is the best book that ever made me never want to eat again.

Or go outside.

Or even take a vitamin.

This book will straight up RUIN YOUR LIFE, but it is so goddamn good. Edlow hits just about every literary kink I have: snappy writing, educational (but interesting) asides, mysterious happenings, and just the right level of Gruesome Detail. Because each incident is a short vignette, it's easy to break up your reading - but to be honest, I fucking inhaled this book.

Recommend it to literally ever
This book by Dr. Jonathan Edlow is the result of combining great mysteries with great medicine. The author, in his preface, talks about his lifelong fascination with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and it seems only right that he should find a unique way to combine both his love of 'whodunits' with his love of medicine. The case studies in this book are diverse... some deal with pathogens being introduced into the body and some are interestingly about health 'habits' which turn out to be not s ...more
Dec 10, 2014 C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that hit 4 out of 5 highlights for me: 1. mystery 2. life or death situations 3. resolution to the problems presented, and 4. interesting facts/details.

The only thing that could have made it more entertaining to read would have been a narrative like in a work of fiction, but that would have discredited the book's contents so I'm glad the author didn't do that. As is, an excellent book.

Really interesting medical cases: mysterious illnesses, symptoms seemingly without cause or relat
Allyson Dyar
Feb 11, 2016 Allyson Dyar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Berton Roueche fans
Shelves: science
The Deadly Dinner Party: and Other Medical Detective Stories by Jonathan A. Edlow, M.D. is a true worthy successor to Berton Roueche. Accept no substitutes! This book is the real deal!

In all seriousness, The Deadly Dinner Party is exactly how Berton Roueche would have approached the subjects covered here with the introduction of the patients and their sickness; the doctors who uncovered the medical mystery, the history behind the disease in question; the treatment and aftermath. Pure Roueche at
"Last, each of these miniature mysteries had all the elements of any good story-- plot, character, and setting. The writing placed the reader in the midst of the investigation, just like Dr. Watson, the sidekick to Holmes." So the author explains his love for Berton Roueche's "The Medical Detectives". Unfortunately, the writing in The Deadly Dinner Party is weak-to-non-existant on all three counts. (I mean, technically they're all there, ish, but the prose is such that it's really hard to notice ...more
Aug 17, 2011 Sarazen rated it liked it
Enjoyable read for folks who like a good medical whodunit, however, it suffers from the short comings of Edlow as a writer. At times awkward and prone to an abundance of digression, Edlow does get round to telling the story of each medical case, but he has difficultly maintaining the thread of tension that would turn such dramas from merely interesting to downright riveting.
Sep 26, 2010 Christa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Stopped reading halfway through. This book sucks. The medical mysteries are all boring and decades old. The author sidetracks a lot to even more boring and irrelevant topics. He's not a very good writer. Skip this unless you have insomnia
Amanda Racanelli
Not my most favorite mystery book, but not the worst, either. Also read for HOSA at work/school.
Aug 25, 2013 Kam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
No one likes being sick. All too often many people move through their day only to realize, later on (or even right from the moment they wake up) that something isn't quite right. In many cases, it's a minor, easily-treatable thing that eating or taking some over-the-counter medicine can easily counteract. Other times, it's not quite so easy to treat, but nothing that a day in with some bed rest won't cure: a fever, perhaps, or a migraine.

And then there are the times when the situation is far gr
Anna Mosena
If you are a med student, or have an interest in the field, this book might be really exciting for you. I enjoyed many elements of this book, and found some of the cases fascinating. If you're not really interested in the field, though, large chunks will get pretty boring, and I found myself skimming a lot. The author likes to interrupt each case with a thorough and lengthy history of various diagnoses, even if they end up being mistaken, and the culprit turns out to be something different (whic ...more
Oct 11, 2016 Kristy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's really interesting but it makes you think twice of the food you're about to eat and the person that prepared it.
Jul 23, 2015 Sparrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable book I picked up after I read Hot Zone. I'm fascinated by this kind of stuff- plagues, pandemics, etc,- from a historical point of view, but also because they beat any horror novel out there when it comes down to it.

A lot of the virus hunter type books out there are just variations of the same events (for example, The Hot Zone and Virus Hunter are simple two different viewpoints of the same set of crisis), and there is also the issue of just how they are written. Some are very dr
Sep 15, 2016 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
He describes some really interesting cases. The writing could use more polish, though. It felt at times like he needed to increase the word count so he just started shoehorning in more facts.
Apr 02, 2013 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chapter 1, Botulism Reheat your food thoroughly before you eat it! Chapter 2 Typhoid People from other countries can have it and be carriers. It makes me wonder if eating in a restaurant is such a great idea.
Chapter 3 Plesiomonas shigelloides Your fish tank can make you sick. Chapter 4 Pseudomonas aeruginosa Do not use loofas or anything else that doesn't dry out between bathings.
Chapter 5 E. coli Do not buy unpasteurized apple cider from a small cider operator.
Chapter 6 Tick paralysis Examine
Dec 09, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Just when you thought it was safe to drink milk, fresh apple cider, soak in a hot tub at a resort, or even work in your office, this set of medical emergencies which leave doctors scratching their heads. Taken from true cases, with just the identities of the patients changed, these stories read like episodes of House.

Following investigators with the Center of Disease Control & Prevention in some cases are called in when multiple similar cases arise which have all the hallmarks of an impendi
Dec 13, 2010 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: onlyreadhalfofit
The book starts off with guests getting very ill after a dinner party. Well, dinner party is a bit too fancy of a term. It was more like a dad scrounged together some grub from the fridge and served it to some teens and their parents who happened to stop by. Anyway, the usual suspects of meat and cheese are ruled out before the doctor traces the sickness to the garlic oil used on garlic bread. Botchulism occurs naturally in the ground and sometimes garlic can "catch it," so the message to me is ...more
Aug 13, 2016 Darcie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good book overall, the stories are compelling, and the histories utterly fascinating. The writing makes the science and ideas extremely accessible and interesting.

The reason I couldn't finish it, however, is it made me afraid to eat, or breathe, or live. Life is scary coming from all the illnesses that are life threatening, and how instances of infection still crop up. Even though it's rare, the depth of description of how things are transmitted and how bacteria spread makes life terrifyi
Rachel Mcwilliams
Jun 22, 2015 Rachel Mcwilliams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Deadly Dinner Party was a very fascinating read. It is easy to pick up and put down because there are 15 independent stories. Some of them I found to e more interesting than others, but overall they were great.
If you are any level of a hypochondriac though... there may be a few more things, like me, that you are paranoid about-- fish, put-lucks and loofas just to name a few-- but I am okay with that added awareness!
Dr. Edlow wrote the book to be an interesting read for people who are fami
Dec 14, 2012 Xanthi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are a fan of the TV series House, this book may interest you and even if you are not, and are just interested in medical diagnostics, this is a good book to read. It is all about medical detective work, with an easy to follow writing style. No medical jargon, so the lay person can understand and appreciate. Each chapter presents a patient with certain symptoms and then the author goes about telling the story as to how they got diagnosed and sometimes misdiagnosed. Included, is a short his ...more
Nov 02, 2014 lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This interesting book was a collection of short stories, each detailing the events surrounding odd patient symptoms and their subsequent diagnoses. Each chapter contained its own story, which was a nice change from a typical novel. The author covers a range of mysteries including vitamin toxicity to the water conditions in a hot tub. I thought it was very interesting! The author also provided a history of medicine throughout the book. At times it added to the story and context and at other times ...more
Apr 20, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2014
I really enjoyed this. It is, as described in the extended title, a collection of medical mysteries. Even though I work in the medical field, many of the conditions I had never heard of before. The author presents each case well and explains things an appropriate level -- not too simple, not too complex -- and defines medical terms that the general public might not be familiar with. While not a "wow, this is the most amazing book ever!" kind of 5-star read, I really couldn't think of anything th ...more
DO NOT read this book if you have even the mildest of tendencies toward hypochondria or OCD. Unless you also have tendencies toward masochism, in which case, enjoy!

What I've learned:

1) It is not safe to eat processed foods.
2) It is not safe to eat unprocessed foods.
3) Other terrifying health hazards include swimming pools, tropical fish, hay, air-conditioned buildings, and, of course, ticks.
4) My long-standing conviction that sponges are gross has been justified. I'm right to not want to touch t
I read this because I like the TV show House, and the general idea of a book about diagnostic medicine in the context of unusual symptoms. I enjoyed reading this book, and learned a little (no more apple cider at little Christmas tree farms for me, unless I ask about how they wash their apples!), but the material was fairly dated. In other words, most of the detective stories are set in the 70s or 80s, and would nowadays be solved much more easily because of MRIs and CT scans and the like. In ot ...more
Mar 27, 2010 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, medical
A collection of medical mysteries and how they were solved.

I really expected so much more of this book than it was. Not to say it wasn't interesting, but it didn't live up to the 'medical detective' aspect. For the most part, the doctors had a strong suspicion of what the problem was right one, it just needed to be confirmed. Also, a lot of the stories were quite old (in the 80's). I liked it, but it fell short of my expectations.
Melinda Elizabeth
Pretty good medical detective book, in laymans language and well written. Although the studies in the book are a little dated now (eg 70's-early 90's) and the methods used for detection seem archane, its still a good book.

I'd like an updated version considering the leaps and bounds medicine has taken in the past decade, and I wonder if some of these cases would have been solved more efficiently in today's hospitals.
May 03, 2012 Netts rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Some doctors should stick to writing prescriptions. Though the cases were sometimes interesting, I was overcome by waves of nausea as I read on. The cause was no mysterious virus but the atrocious writing. Case in point: "The day's tempo was as slow as the metamorphosis of the surrounding trees, whose leaves were beginning to blush crimson, flash scarlet, blaze orange and yellow, against a backdrop of every shade of green imaginable." Pass the barf bag please.
Sep 08, 2011 Tracie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm only one story into this book, and I can already tell you that I'm going to be the super annoying person who tells you about all the crazy ways you can die after I finish this. Sausage poisoning!

It was all sort of downhill after the first story. Some were fairly interesting, but after I picked up on the format, and realized there really wasn't a big reveal at the end of each story I lost interest.
Apr 06, 2015 Cyndie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A book with good information and good facts, but I don't think they built up the mystery part of the medical mystery as much as they could have. Instead of building tension they provided background information. While obviously a non-fiction book, bringing in some red herrings or more emotion would have made this book more catching. Still enjoyed the stories very much - and a veterinarian appreciated some of the species cross over. Well written and interesting cases!
Dec 21, 2010 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most interesting non-fiction books I've read. The book is written in such a way that all the medical terms don't get too overwhelming. Some of the stories really stick with me, especially the first one, I've started noticing the word botulism everywhere. This book made me realize how susceptible we are to disease, even with all of the medicine availible. It makes me wonder how people a century or two ago survived.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Bitten: True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings
  • The Medical Detectives
  • Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis
  • The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera
  • Pox: An American History (Penguin History of American Life)
  • Virus X
  • Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World
  • Killer Germs: Microbes and Diseases That Threaten Humanity
  • Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries
  • The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox
  • Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius
  • Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine
  • Taking the Medicine: A Short History of Medicine’s Beautiful Idea, and our Difficulty Swallowing It
  • The Woman Who Swallowed a Toothbrush: And Other Weird Medical Case Histories
  • Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle
  • A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities
  • Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service
  • The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink

Share This Book