The Poisoner's Handbook

Murder And The Birth Of Forensic Medicine In Jazz Age New York (2010)

Untraceable poisons were easy to get, Tammany Hall controlled the coroner’s office while corrupt cops and politicians ruled Jazz Age New York—it had never been easier to get away with murder. This is how Pulitzer-prize winning author Deborah Blum’s fascinating story about the beginning of forensic and chemical detective work begins.

In 1918, Charles Norris was appointed chief medical examiner for New York City. When toxicologist Alexander Gettler came on board, they began to scientifically investigate unexplained deaths, mysterious illnesses, and other deadly puzzles. As they created experiments to discover poisons and solve murders, they also discovered chemicals that were polluting the lives of everyone around them.

The author shares many true stories, including a restaurant serving poisoned pies, and the crime syndicate that tried repeatedly to kill someone by serving him poison and running over him with a car until they finally succeeded in killing him with carbon monoxide. Previously, chemical murderers got away with their crimes; but their time was running out due to these dedicated officials.

A fast read, broken into sections by chemical formula and sample cases, this is nonfiction that reads like fiction. True crime devotees, those interested in the Jazz Age, and readers who enjoy science and history will like this book.

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