The Poisoner’s Handbook, by Deborah Blum tells the tale of the birth of modern forensic medicine. Set against the backdrop of Prohibition, moonshine and corruption, this nonfiction offering reads like a crime thriller. The science of the book is accessible without being condescending. Each chapter deals with a specific poison and how it was employed in a specific murder.
Many of us would not be alive today if not for the work of Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler. This fascinating Jazz Age tale of the birth of forensic medicine in the U.S. highlights the careers of these two heroes, who worked against incredible odds to develop techniques that would reveal the poisons that killed countless citizens. Their cases included: a family mysteriously stricken bald, Barnum and Bailey’s famous Blue Man and a diner serving poison pies.