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

Version: Unabridged
Author: Deborah Blum
Narrator: Coleen Marlo
Genres: Science & Technology, Medicine
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published In: March 2010
# of Units: 8 CDs
Length: 10 hours
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Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Deborah Blum follows New York City's first forensic scientists to discover a fascinating Jazz Age story of chemistry and detection, poison and murder.

Reviews (4)

Never has Poison Been So Sweet

Written by Dr. Antidote on February 2nd, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This book is one of the best I\'ve rented and I\'ve rented over 300. It completely pulled me in from the first chapter and maintained my interest till the last. The story of how substances now know to be extremely harmful, cancer causing, or death causing were once thought of as healthful and salubrious. No doubt 25 years from now other writers will be asking \'how did anyone ever think marijuana was a medicine that was good for you?

The Poisoner's Handbook

Written by nab6215 from Altoona, PA on November 5th, 2015

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Deborah Blum wrote an outstanding book. It is combination science text, biography and history. I laughed. I gasped. I was outraged. I was saddened. This is a very good book. Note: If you saw the PBS American Experience espisode that premiered on January 7, 2014 you saw the book. It was very well done.

A Historical Version of CSI:New York

Written by Jean from Santa Cruz, CA on December 28th, 2011

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This book is a fascinating tour through a number of murder cases and investigations in New York between 1890 and 1930, touching on social history, chemistry, and evolution of criminology and forensic science. The story is as much about the struggle of the NYC coroner to establish the reputation of his dept. after a series of inept Tammany Hall political appointees bungled their ways through various poisoning cases, as about the development of the science of detecting whether someone's been poisoned or died of natural causes. It's a great listen-interesting material and anecdotes, well-told, that point a vivid picture of life during the Industrial Age, when foods, over-the-counter medicines, furnishings, clothing, and workplaces were commonly laced with poisons like arsenic, lead and mercury, and when hundreds of people a year died of accidental poisonings before the Pur Food and Drug Act and various occupational safety laws came into effect. I highly recommend this book.


Written by Kathy on February 13th, 2011

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Listening to this was like listening to a mystery novel. It was fast-paced, and explained the biology of various poisons in a way that was targeted to the general reader/listener. The descriptions of the people involved - from the scientists to the politicians to the police to the criminals - were also very vivid. The only complaint I have is that the name of the institution in Baltimore is Johns Hopkins (yes, Johns) not John Hopkins.

Author Details

Author Details

Blum, Deborah

DEBORAH BLUM is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the author of five books, including The Poisoner's Handbook. She writes about environmental chemistry for The New York Times at Poison Pen and is a blogger for Wired at Elemental.