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

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-01-25
  • Publisher: Penguin Group USA

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A beguiling concoction-equal parts true crime, twentieth-century history, and science thriller.

A fascinating Jazz Age tale of chemistry and detection, poison and murder, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten era. In early twentieth-century New York, poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime. Science had no place in the Tammany Hall-controlled coroner's office, and corruption ran rampant. However, with the appointment of chief medical examiner Charles Norris in 1918, the poison game changed forever. Together with toxicologist Alexander Gettler, the duo set the justice system on fire with their trailblazing scientific detective work, triumphing over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry.

Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum s fascinating study of the birth of forensic medicine is a finalist for the Audie Award in nonfiction, and narrator Coleen Marlo is one excellent reason. Marlo s voice is pleasant; her delivery, cool and compelling.

Blum introduces Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler, the dedicated men who developed techniques for tracing poisons in human tissue. She chronicles specific poisons and specific cases from nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century poisonings, including chloroform, arsenic, and cyanide experiments; hard-to-listen-to graphic descriptions of grisly animal testing; and accounts of serial poisoners. She constructs a convincing indictment against societal ignorance, corporate corruption, and political cronyism. Blum s spirited prose and well-researched science and Marlo s intelligent performance make this nonfiction production seem like a series of powerful short stories.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Poison Gamep. 1
Chloroform (CHCl3)p. 5
Wood Alcohol (CH3OH)p. 26
Cyanides (HCN, KCN, NaCN)p. 50
Arsenic (As)p. 75
Mercury (Hg)p. 103
Carbon Monoxide (CO), Part Ip. 128
Methyl Alcohol (CH3OH)p. 152
Radium (Ra)p. 176
Ethyl Alcohol (C2H5OH)p. 196
Carbon Monoxide (CO), Part IIp. 224
Thallium (TI)p. 245
Epilogue: The Surest Poisonp. 275
Author's Notep. 279
Gratitudesp. 281
A Guide to the Handbookp. 285
Notesp. 289
Indexp. 307
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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