book thoughts: The Poisoner’s Handbook (2010)

When you think of the 1920s (like ya do), some things that might come to mind are those images from Great Gatsby – the Jazz Age flappers partying, drinking cocktails even though Prohibition has made alcohol illegal.  After reading ‘The Poisoner’s Handbook’, you’ll associate something else with that turbulent decade: forensics.

In this highly detailed book, Deborah Blum attempts to track the birth and acceptance of the fields of forensics, toxicology, and all those things that make CSI shows possible today.  In New York City, the medical examiner Charles Norris [insert Chuck Norris joke here] and his team turned chemistry into a weapon in the courtroom. 

In each section of the book, Blum describes the discovery of certain elements, the chemistry that makes them deadly, and murder trials that followed.  It’s a great mix of true science and true crime.  While the chemistry and lab tests can get a bit tedious at time, especially for the layperson like myself, they are easy enough to skim and get back into the action. 

I definitely recommend this title to someone, especially if you enjoy high quality true crime with a bit of history tossed in.  I learned a LOT (and felt like writing a letter to the FDA about how much I appreciate their work now…who would have thought putting radium in drinking water would have been a good idea?)

4.5 outta 5

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