The Poisoner's Handbook - Deborah Blum

The Poisoner's Handbook

By Deborah Blum

  • Release Date: 2010-02-18
  • Genre: Pharmacology & Toxicology
Score: 4.5
From 50 Ratings


Equal parts true crime, twentieth-century history, and science thriller, The Poisoner's Handbook is "a vicious, page-turning story that reads more like Raymond Chandler than Madame Curie" (The New York Observer)

A fascinating Jazz Age tale of chemistry and detection, poison and murder, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten era. In early twentieth-century New York, poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime. Science had no place in the Tammany Hall-controlled coroner's office, and corruption ran rampant. However, with the appointment of chief medical examiner Charles Norris in 1918, the poison game changed forever. Together with toxicologist Alexander Gettler, the duo set the justice system on fire with their trailblazing scientific detective work, triumphing over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice.

In 2014, PBS's AMERICAN EXPERIENCE released a film based on The Poisoner's Handbook.


  • Fascinating story of the birth of ME's offices.

    By CarrotBean
    I've been a criminal lawyer for more than 20 years. This was a book about crime that even I could enjoy.
  • Great read

    By rbk970
    I was totally engrossed as I read about the birth of forensic medicine. The author has artfully woven the tales of the criminals with the tales of those who traced their actions trhough a trail of poison, death, and gore: most often to convict them, occasionally to exhonorate those accused.
  • Loved reading

    By this_girl_ is_PoiSon
    Great book!
  • Loved it!

    By Chapwoman
    I learned so much about prohibition and the rise of forensic toxicology. This book is interesting, informative and fun to read!
  • Incredibly smart, inspiring, and lots of fun

    By Rssnkgp02
    This was an excellent book--riveting in its portrayal of both the heroes and the villains, but especially the heroes, Drs. Norris and Gettler. The heroes inspire you by their capacity as scientists, but even more in their capacity as good citizens in the currents of their times. The author does an excellent job of coloring Great Depression America, so as to further highlight the protagonists' achievements. This book was was so smart and witty--not to mention diabolically fun--that I challenge that there are few activities more enjoyable than reading (or listening on my ipad) this book on a carefree afternoon.
  • Must read!

    By Martinwuff
    If you like forensics, this is a must read. A well written look into the history of American forensic medicine and its early days in New York City. Fantastically written, easy to read. You don't need a chemistry background or science degree to enjoy this book!
  • Poisoners handbook

    By Garyjsimm
    Fantastic ! If you like light chemistry and heavy history this book is for you.