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The Deadly Dinner Party & Other Medical Detective Stories

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  695 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews

Picking up where Berton Roueché’s The Medical Detectives left off, The Deadly Dinner Party presents fifteen edge-of-your-seat, real-life medical 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 st

ebook, 260 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Yale University Press (first published 2009)
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Jul 14, 2010 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
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What made this book great to read was how easy it was to understand the author. I never read the original Medical Detectives (but thought as this book came later that it would have more updated info).

First, the author explained that he had a short attention span. Great! So do I. He summarized each of the following cases in the foreword with a brief one sentence summary. Great! (especially for going back to the case you want to review.) Second, it seems that he's an M.D. himself, practicing or n
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.
The summary of this book really put too much emphasis on how "thrilling" it would be. While a decent read, the stories do drag on a little and I found myself getting bored a lot. It ended up being less mystery and more medical history than I thought it would be. Edlow seems to talk just for the sake of talking at times. He explains things that I don't really see as relevant or important, leaving me lost and waiting to get to the point.

Overall it was well-written, I'll give it that, but it just w
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
Nov 23, 2014 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
Aug 21, 2012 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
Sep 16, 2010 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 21, 2013 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
Stories about real life medical mysteries are fleshed out with the history of the illness or diagnosis. Someone gets sick from ingesting something, something trying to ingest them, or the environment. It shows how important OSHA is - rather than just Nanny State Gone Mad. Consider how much lost work time has been caused by going to work and inhaling some invisible contaminant.
And you might get nervous about what you're eating, especially bluefish (whatever they are). I had already read about Ty
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gimme more

I picked this up from the library as an after thought but found myself really diving into this book that was my bread and butter- medical mysteries with poisonings, bacteria and various drama abound!
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medicine
Edlow examines about ten 20th / 21st century medical mysteries and explains them by doing two thing: 1) providing a lot of detail about the case itself and 2) broadly discussing the context of the case by explaining the workings of the body, the nature of the disease or poison, and discussing related cases--particularly the first recorded cases.

It was fascinating to read all aspects of the book--the cases, the working of the body, and the older cases.

Now I'm a bit more paranoid about contracti
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fun book- lots of medical detective cases, appropriate for lunchtime reading
( well, if deadly food doesn't put you off yours)
Jul 29, 2014 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
Mar 13, 2013 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 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 10, 2010 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
Jun 27, 2016 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
May 04, 2015 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 08, 2012 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
Oct 27, 2014 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
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
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2010 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.
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