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For a person who has similar (morbid) tastes, "The Poisoner's Handbook" perfectly fits the bill. These crimes take place in New York City during the Jazz Age. The author carefully describes various poisons, such as wood alcohol, arsenic, and radium and the various effects it had on the victims. If your knowledge of poisons is based on tv shows or movies, you will be surprised to find out a lot you (probably) didn't know already.
As you can guess, forensic science was in its infancy at the time. This book focuses on Charles Norris, the New York City coroner, Alexander Gettler, Mr Norris' lead chemist and Harrison Martland, the New Jersey coroner. These people are for real, not like the old "Ouincy, ME" television show of long ago.
When you see old movies of people drinking "bathtub gin" during Prohibition, it looks so carefree and fun. But it wasn't. Many deaths were caused by the "hooch" that was made from renatured industrial alcohol. It wasn't a pretty death, either. It makes me wonder why anyone would be willing to take the risk of drinking homemade booze, but plenty of people did it, I guess thinking "It won't happen to me".
When you see what types of ingredients were in the common ordinary household items, you will wonder how anybody managed to stay alive in that type period. You think toxic products are bad now, when you read this book, you will be surprised how far (or maybe not) we have come.
40 of 40 people found this review helpful
First, this book is fascinating and engrossing, neatly following the birth of the New York City Medical Examiner's office and the creation of forensic medicine as a science in America. The book is organized into chapters covering both a short span of time (usually a year or two) and a particular poison that figures prominently into cases from that time.
The audio production itself, however, suffers from frequent mispronunciations of words and occasional changes of meaning from inopportune pauses by the narrator. It's as though the narrator did the book in a single take and no one bothered to listen to it with an appropriately critical ear. If it weren't for this the book would rate five stars from me.
74 of 75 people found this review helpful