The Cyanide Canary

  • by Robert Dugoni, Joseph Hilldorfer
  • Narrated by Tom Perkins
  • 12 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Early in the morning on August 27, 1996, 20-year-old Scott Dominguez showed up for an ordinary day at the fertilizing plant where he worked. By 11:00 am, he was clinging to life, unconscious and suffocating from toxic exposure to cyanide in a tank that was supposed to contain only mud and water.
EPA Special Agent Joseph Hilldorfer was tasked with finding out what really happened on that horrific day in Soda Springs, Idaho, but the answers would not be easily uncovered. For more than four years, Hilldorfer, his partner Bob Wojnicz, and a force of top-ranking US attorneys struggled to expose the disturbing truths behind the tragedy, but would their efforts be enough to put the man responsible, Allan Elias, behind bars?

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What the Critics Say

"[An] electrically charged narrative...Top-notch nonfiction legal thriller, reminding readers of the baseline: 'This all comes down to one thing. It's all about money.'" (Kirkus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

True environmental crime case

If you expect action and suspense, The Cyanide Canary will disappoint you. Also, audio is not the ideal format for this book; I borrowed the Kindle ebook when I purchased the audio book and was able to follow the audio version as the ebook was read.

The crime which destroyed the life of a 20 year old man occurred while the owner of the company was operating what amounted to a hazardous waste disposal facility by burying waste on his work sites thus potentially polluting groundwater and local streams. I spent my career working in the manufacturing sector and am aware of the laws and regulations concerning hazardous waste and its transportation and disposal.. In my opinion the death penalty would not have been excessive punishment for this criminal.

This is a case, one of few, where an environmental criminal paid for his crime with significant jail time. It is a very unusual case because the criminal was convicted and sent to prison. Few others have.

The book does not deal with the pervasive issue of remediation of hazard waste sites through the superfund process. There are thousands of polluted sites in the US too few of which have been cleaned up due to the a combination of poorly written laws and the bureaucratic nature of EPA. Efforts on remediation of some of the sites has been ongoing with little progress for 35 years. The criminal owner in this book left the two sites he owned continuing to pollute groundwater and streams.

EPA has become a severely bloated bureaucracy that prefers to deal with the relatively trivial issues while failing to deal effectively with the more serious real problems. It has become so politicized that it deals almost exclusively in political matters.

The laws creating the EPA were passed during the Nixon administration. One of its first decisions under William Ruckleshaus was strictly political: outlawing the use of the insecticide DDT despite scientific evidence strongly to the contrary. Other nations followed the US eventually leading to millions of human deaths in third world countries. Nevertheless, the overall impact of EPA was strongly positive to air and water quality in the US until 2009 when the EPA became thoroughly a part of the political system and it primary task became influencing elections rather than environmental protection.

The Cyanide Canary is a worthwhile listen.
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- Wayne

Audible Format Not Optimal For This Book

Is there anything you would change about this book?

There was too much detail- especially for an audiobook. Too many digressions from the main case, technical details, agencies, and people. I found myself getting lost and unable to focus on the narrative.


What other book might you compare The Cyanide Canary to and why?

I just listened to "The Devil in the Grove", a book about racial injustice in Florida in the 1940's. The main case was about 4 young Black men accused of raping a white woman, and how they were viciously framed and abused. Although this type of phenomenon was common, the author was able to both detail the historical context and characters' without constantly abandoning the main gut wrenching story. The Cyanide canary did not succeed in this way.


Would you listen to another book narrated by Tom Perkins?

No problem with narrator.


Could you see The Cyanide Canary being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

It's a worthwhile story, but would need major editing.


Any additional comments?

A very important social justice story. Maybe better in book form.

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- H. Harmon

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-21-2017
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio