Customer Reviews for

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

Average Rating 4.5
( 67 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(33)

4 Star

(24)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(2)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Excellent for science nerds and history buffs alike.

I'm a biology major who is wanting to work in the field of forensics, and I'm a bit of a history buff, too. So, this book was right up my alley. It was informative without being dry. People unfamiliar with chemistry should have no problem understanding it, but some of...
I'm a biology major who is wanting to work in the field of forensics, and I'm a bit of a history buff, too. So, this book was right up my alley. It was informative without being dry. People unfamiliar with chemistry should have no problem understanding it, but some of the descriptions of the chemistry of the poisons might get tedious. I found the case studies and personal anecdotes very interesting. If you enjoyed Mary Roach's "Stiff", you will probably enjoy this one as well.

posted by thesoundofherwings on July 23, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

The story is based in New York City in the early 1900's. It was

The story is based in New York City in the early 1900's. It was the time of prohibition, and the beginning of what you could call a medical revolution. Mercury, cyanide, chloroform, wood alcohol, and more, stocked doctors' offices, homes, and pharmacies. With the beginn...
The story is based in New York City in the early 1900's. It was the time of prohibition, and the beginning of what you could call a medical revolution. Mercury, cyanide, chloroform, wood alcohol, and more, stocked doctors' offices, homes, and pharmacies. With the beginning of Prohibition, each cocktail drank added to a game of chance.
. The people of New York City knew something had to change, so pathologist Charles Norris was hired. Norris along with with chemist Alexander Gettler, founded the city's first toxicology laboratory. The main story though, starts before Gettler and Norris. It starts when an unlikely killer springs up and bares its nasty fangs.
. This story is very believable and exciting. For people who enjoy television shows like CSI or NCIS, this book gives you a perfect combination of chemistry and forensics.
. Norris, Gettler, and other characters in the story are all believable. I want to know why Charles Norris chose to become a pathologist, and why he wanted Gettler so badly on his team.
. The science content is very accurate. I wouldn't necessarily want to learn more about the poisons, but I would be interested in learning more about the pathology and medical side to the story.
. In my opinion, this book is for somebody who is interested in chemistry more than anything. It was an ok book, but probably not one I would choose to re-read.
.

posted by Anonymous on January 13, 2013

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  • Posted July 23, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent for science nerds and history buffs alike.

    I'm a biology major who is wanting to work in the field of forensics, and I'm a bit of a history buff, too. So, this book was right up my alley. It was informative without being dry. People unfamiliar with chemistry should have no problem understanding it, but some of the descriptions of the chemistry of the poisons might get tedious. I found the case studies and personal anecdotes very interesting. If you enjoyed Mary Roach's "Stiff", you will probably enjoy this one as well.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 11, 2010

    Terrific Book! Great Read!

    I've already bought this book for myself, and after starting it, I could not put it down! It was so fascinating, I ended up buying two more copies for friends, and they also found it equally fascinating. Nonfiction that reads like fiction. I will keep my eye out for future Deborah Blum books!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A forensic spectacular!

    To all the fans of CSI, NCIS, etc., read this book! If you want to see what forensic criminology was like "back in the day" you could not choose a better book. The history of this subject is largely ignored by the popular press and it is fascinating (if a bit stomach-churning on occasion).

    I finished it in 3 days! And it left me wanting more, more information, more stories. The author did her subject proud.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    The story is based in New York City in the early 1900's. It was

    The story is based in New York City in the early 1900's. It was the time of prohibition, and the beginning of what you could call a medical revolution. Mercury, cyanide, chloroform, wood alcohol, and more, stocked doctors' offices, homes, and pharmacies. With the beginning of Prohibition, each cocktail drank added to a game of chance.
    . The people of New York City knew something had to change, so pathologist Charles Norris was hired. Norris along with with chemist Alexander Gettler, founded the city's first toxicology laboratory. The main story though, starts before Gettler and Norris. It starts when an unlikely killer springs up and bares its nasty fangs.
    . This story is very believable and exciting. For people who enjoy television shows like CSI or NCIS, this book gives you a perfect combination of chemistry and forensics.
    . Norris, Gettler, and other characters in the story are all believable. I want to know why Charles Norris chose to become a pathologist, and why he wanted Gettler so badly on his team.
    . The science content is very accurate. I wouldn't necessarily want to learn more about the poisons, but I would be interested in learning more about the pathology and medical side to the story.
    . In my opinion, this book is for somebody who is interested in chemistry more than anything. It was an ok book, but probably not one I would choose to re-read.
    .

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 16, 2011

    Fascinating story!

    Now I know just enough about poisons to be dangerous, I definitely want to learn more. Blum has put together a well-researched and interesting look at Jazz Age New York....from an unexpected angle.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 5, 2011

    Excellent

    Authoratative and exceptionally well written? Ms Blum makes the 1920's come alive. She gives historians an excellent background as to why the 18th amendment failed and the government's ghastly hand in poisoning those people who just had to drink. Despite the politics of the time, she also brings to hand the hard work of Doctors Norris and Gettler. The state of forensic pathology is still catching up to Europe.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Interesting read about and unusual topic

    People will ask why are you reading a poisons book, but this book is an interesting history of forensic science. I really didn't know what to expect, but it kept me reading like any good murder mystery book does. I think anyone who enjoys all the CSI type shows would like this book so they can understand how the science of identifying poisons started with detailed accounts of cases & methods.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent. Non fiction book that reads like fiction. I found it

    Excellent.
    Non fiction book that reads like fiction. I found it hard to put down once I started reading it. The beginnings of forensics and the chaos of New York in the 1920"s. Great book for fans of CSI and similar shows also good for mystery fans who like science in their mysteries, I think. I finished it and turned right around and read it again. Only four stars because i would have liked it to be longer. I didn't find the chemistry overwhelming as did one other reviewer and i am no chemist, believe me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    Interesting

    I'd been wanting to get this book for a while, and finally did. It's a great read - an interesting history book, with science tied in, and pretty easy and entertaining as well. I'm almost done with it, and will be sad when it's over. I would definitely recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2012

    Such a great read!

    This is such a wonderfully weird, informative book. What could have been a dry read about the history of forensic science was a real page turner. The author intersperses scientific facts with human stories that highlight the social and emotional consequences of deliberate and unintentional poisoning, advancing forensic work, prohibition, and poverty to name a few.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    Loved the ebook so much, had to buy it in "real" book form.

    Blum shows perfectly balanced writing skills by blending intricate science details with engaging storytellling. The amount of research is impressive. While reading "Handbook" a second time I kept imagining who I would want to see play these characters in a movie. The story of these forensic pioneers should be known to everyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2012

    A Morbid Curiousity

    I just finished this book in two days, it was such a page-turner! I loved how the author managed to evoke the creepy and sinister atmosphere around the times, places, and people she wrote about. I also have a new respect for early forensic pioneers. A deft mix of history, science, and criminal mysrery with a dash of the deliciously ghoulish.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2011

    Really interesting!

    Thank God for forensic science! This book was fascinating how it recounts the very beginnings of forensic science. It's amazing how far we've come in one hundred years in discovering dangerous poisons and solving murders. Truly interesting!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2011

    LOVED IT!

    A long-time interest in forensics and a great title got me to pick up this book - I was not disappointed. The wonderful science details are accurate without being "too science-y" and there are true stories to show how valuable forensics can be in criminal cases. This book is never boring and, in an era where there is a CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and similar shows all over our television, this book gives every reader a new appreciation for what the early pioneers went through to get this valuable science recognized. Excellent book - highly recommended to those interested in forensics, the 20s & 30s, and/or the interesting lengths criminals will go to get away with murder.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Intriguing & Informative

    I found this book to be interesting and very well written. The organization of the book was wonderful and made it an easy read. Chapters are laid out by poison and follow a timeline, solving the problem that many nonfiction accounts have of a wandering timeline.

    The author creates a vivid history and captures the scenery of Prohibition Era New York. The author also does an excellent job of describing chemical reaction in a simple, easy to follow jargon that would not be intimidating to someone unfamiliar with chemistry.

    I was not able to put this book down.

    I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys interesting in-depth looks at off beat topics. Fans of Mary Roach would certainly enjoy this book as well as those who enjoy True Crime.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great history book that reads like a novel!

    Loved it! I love reading non-fiction and learning new things. I learned a great deal from this book. At times, the science talk was a little too much but over all it was easy to understand and I couldn't put it down! I just wish it had pictures!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    Most Absorbing!

    I found this book to be riveting; it explains the history of different poisons. Far from being macabe, as it may first sound, it is a history lesson of how poisons came into use and how forensic medicine began to detect these substances.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    I found this book fascinating! The detailed historical times, ev

    I found this book fascinating! The detailed historical times, events, politics and individuals involved made this a captivating book. My mom told me that my grandfather had developed a drinking problem during Prohibition, but that never really made sense to me until I read book. That happened to many people. The lack of credible products & information back then was appalling. Drs. Norris & Gettler are true "heroes" in shaping our national health protections and crime detection! If you like history, mystery, crime detection, forensics, or anecdotes, you'll enjoy this book. I highly recommend it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2014

    Would definitely recommend it

    Anyone that enjoys nonfiction should enjoy this book

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  • Posted February 7, 2014

    As many of the review I read before reading this book mentioned,

    As many of the review I read before reading this book mentioned, "The Poisoner's Handbook" is non-fiction that reads like a who-dun-it novel. Engrossing and fascinating, it gives a lot of informationa bout poisons in the 19th and early 20th century, as well as a lot of useful and fascinating information about Prohibition. The birth of forensic science in the U.S. is covered, and it's extremely interesting to find out how this came about. i would recommend this to anyone who likes either history or fiction of this genre. I enjoyed reading it and will probably read it again once my memory fades and I need a refresher!

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