Poisoner’s Handbook

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum is an incredibly captivating read that looks at the beginning of forensic science.  The book focuses on Charles Norris, who became the chief medical examiner for New York in 1918.  He was not loved by the mayor and often found his funding cut; luckily he came from money and could afford to keep pushing his science.  Eventually his determination lead to a better understanding of the chemistry of poisons and how to identify them in the deceased. Norris was also a pioneer of handling evidence when people died.  He set the standard for the police, district attorney’s and medical examiners.  Of course, he would never have had succeed without the help of Alexander Gettler who focused on toxicology.  Together the team created tests to identify the amount and type of poison that was used to kill people, thus establishing the world of forensic science.

This book was so well written and informative.  Blum walks you around New York while explaining the complicated world of chemistry, murder, politics and mayhem.  It is great for any non-fiction or true crime reader.


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