Kate's Reviews > The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
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's review
Aug 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, history, read-unowned, research-for-the-novel
Read from October 24 to November 03, 2011

A bit focused on Chemistry (I was in it more for the history, so some of the nitty gritty details were a bit lost on me), but nonetheless, very approachable. I really enjoyed the book as a whole (but two chapters on Carbon Monoxide?). Blum is very engaging, and some of the murders in here were fascinating.

Particularly the poisoning sanctified by our own US Federal Government. They encouraged the poisoning of industrial strength alcohol to discourage people from drinking it. It didn't work, and while the government was criticized for it, many prohibition advocates praised the government.

Charles Norris was the country's first Medical Examiner, and hated that encouragement. From his work, from so many bodies that he was forced to examine because of prohibition, he disagreed with it. And Norris was a forward thinking man, experimenting with many poisons, learning how to trace them, keeping some from unjust convictions, and convicting those who might have gotten off scot-free. He's a captivating character, and pretty much a hero.

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