Customer Reviews for

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

Average Rating 4.5
( 71 )
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(37)

4 Star

(24)

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(7)

2 Star

(1)

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(2)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 6 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 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!

    5 out of 6 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.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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 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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  • 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    Great Book

    An excellent historical account about early forensic science.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2012

    Great book

    Very imteresting well writtem reads like a novel-
    I choice it for book club, most of us gave it 5 stars
    If history or science interest you at all or u watch CSI, I highly recomamd this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Very interesting and informative.

    I learned a lot more about the beginning of forensic science. I also learned more about the 1920s reading this book .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    I love this book!

    Poisoner's Handbook is fascinating and well written. For a book about chemestry, it reads like a crime novel. I couldn't put it down. Fans of Mary Roach will love Debora Blum.

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  • Posted April 3, 2012

    Interesting, Enlightening, Fantastic

    I've been thoroughly enjoying this expose on the various forms of lethal chemicals that have been used throughout the ages. Deborah Blum deftly balances the stories of deaths and murders, the science behind how the chemicals kill, and the race by toxicologists to keep up with detection of the advancing poisoning techniques. You'll learn a lot that will come in handy for future conversations.

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  • Posted July 9, 2011

    A real treat!

    Greatnonfiction book for mysteryand CSI fans!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2010

    Great book

    This book is perfect for any one who's even a little nerdy. It goes into just enough detail to be intriguing, while keeping things in plain enough English for those of us who aren't biology majors. And in addition, the stories are all about death and dismemberment. Who could ask for more?

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  • Posted June 4, 2010

    This book would make a great television series

    In her newest book, The Poisoner's Handbook, Deborah Blum transports me to a world I would otherwise never visit. I am intrigued, pulled in to each story, wondering if the character I am getting to know will be found innocent or guilty of plotting a murder by poison. I am in awe of the two stars of the book, Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler, who pioneered forensics; by book's end the tapestry of unusual characters they come to investigate is hard to forget. I am a big fan of Deborah Blum's writing and this book is one of her best. She brings characters and settings to life in exciting dramas. And, oh, yes, along the way I learned a lot of chemistry. I could see this suspenseful well-crafted book turned into a television series.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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