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

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

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Video From "The Chemist's War" (Slate Magazine), by Deborah Blum
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.

Deborah Blum, writing with the high style and skill for suspense that is characteristic of the very best mystery fiction, shares the untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. In The Poisoner's Handbook Blum draws from highly original research to track the fascinating, perilous days when a pair of forensic scientists began their trailblazing chemical detective work, fighting to end an era when untraceable poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime.

Drama unfolds case by case as the heroes of The Poisoner's Handbook—chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler—investigate a family mysteriously stricken bald, Barnum and Bailey's Famous Blue Man, factory workers with crumbling bones, a diner serving poisoned pies, and many others. Each case presents a deadly new puzzle and Norris and Gettler work with a creativity that rivals that of the most imaginative murderer, creating revolutionary experiments to tease out even the wiliest compounds from human tissue. Yet in the tricky game of toxins, even science can't always be trusted, as proven when one of Gettler's experiments erroneously sets free a suburban housewife later nicknamed "America's Lucretia Borgia" to continue her nefarious work.

From the vantage of Norris and Gettler's laboratory in the infamous Bellevue Hospital it becomes clear that killers aren't the only toxic threat to New Yorkers. Modern life has created a kind of poison playground, and danger lurks around every corner. Automobiles choke the city streets with carbon monoxide; potent compounds, such as morphine, can be found on store shelves in products ranging from pesticides to cosmetics. Prohibition incites a chemist's war between bootleggers and government chemists while in Gotham's crowded speakeasies each round of cocktails becomes a game of Russian roulette. Norris and Gettler triumph over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice during a remarkably deadly time. A beguiling concoction that is equal parts true crime, twentieth-century history, and science thriller, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten New York.

Review:

"Pulitzer Prize — winning science journalist Blum (Ghost Hunters) makes chemistry come alive in her enthralling account of two forensic pioneers in early 20th-century New York. Blum follows the often unglamorous but monumentally important careers of Dr. Charles Norris, Manhattan's first trained chief medical examiner, and Alexander Gettler, its first toxicologist. Moving chronologically from Norris's appointment in 1918 through his death in 1936, Blum cleverly divides her narrative by poison, providing not only a puzzling case for each noxious substance but the ingenious methods devised by the medical examiner's office to detect them. Before the advent of forensic toxicology, which made it possible for the first time to identify poisons in corpses, Gettler learned the telltale signs of everything from cyanide (it leaves a corrosive trail in the digestive system) to the bright pink flush that signals carbon monoxide poisoning. In a particularly illuminating section, Blum examines the dangers of bootleg liquor (commonly known as wood, or methyl, alcohol) produced during Prohibition. With the pacing and rich characterization of a first-rate suspense novelist, Blum makes science accessible and fascinating." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Blum follows New York City's first forensic scientists to discover a fascinating Jazz Age story of chemistry and detection, poison and murder.

Synopsis:

A riveting account of a gruesome triple-homicide at Beekman Place in Depression Era New York, with an intriguing cast of characters including the brilliant but mentally-disturbed sculptor, Robert Irwin.

Synopsis:

Beekman Place, once one of the most exclusive addresses in Manhattan, had a curious way of making it into the tabloids in the 1930s: and#8220;SKYSCRAPER SLAYER,and#8221; and#8220;BEAUTY SLAIN IN BATHTUBand#8221; read the headlines. On Easter Sunday in 1937, the discovery of a grisly triple homicide at Beekman Place would rock the neighborhood yet againand#8212;and enthrall the nation. The young man who committed the murders would come to be known in the annals of American crime as the Mad Sculptor.

and#160;

Caught up in the Easter Sunday slayings was a bizarre and sensationalistic cast of characters, seemingly cooked up in a tabloid editorand#8217;s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Robert Irwin, was a brilliant young sculptor who had studied with some of the masters of the era. But with his genius also came a deeply disturbed psyche; Irwin was obsessed with sexual self-mutilation and was frequently overcome by outbursts of violent rage.

and#160;

Irwinand#8217;s primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, was a figure from the world of pulp fantasyand#8212;a stunning photographer's model whose scandalous seminude pinups would titillate the public for weeks after her death. Irwinand#8217;s defense attorney, Samuel Leibowitz, was a courtroom celebrity with an unmatched record of acquittals and clients ranging from Al Capone to the Scottsboro Boys. And Dr. Fredric Wertham, psychiatrist and forensic scientist, befriended Irwin years before the murders and had predicted them in a public lecture months before the crime.

and#160;

Based on extensive research and archival records, The Mad Sculptor recounts the chilling story of the Easter Sunday murdersand#8212;a case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and endures as one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century. Harold Schechterand#8217;s masterful prose evokes the faded glory of post-depression New York and the singular madness of a brilliant mind turned against itself. It will keep you riveted until the very last page.

Synopsis:

***PBS's AMERICAN EXPERIENCE released a film based on The Poisoner's Handbook in January 2014***

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.

About the Author

Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum is a professor of science journalism at the University of Wisconsin. She worked as a newspaper science writer for twenty years, winning the Pulitzer in 1992 for her writing about primate research, which she turned into a book, The Monkey Wars (Oxford, 1994). Her other books include Sex on the Brain (Viking, 1997) and Love at Goon Park (Perseus, 2002). She has written about scientific research for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Discover, Health, Psychology Today, and Mother Jones. She is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers and now serves on an advisory board to the World Federation of Science Journalists and the National Academy of Sciences.

Table of Contents

and#160;and#160;and#160; Cast of Charactersand#160;and#160;and#160;ix

and#160;and#160;and#160; Prologue: 268 East 52nd Street, New York Cityand#160;and#160;and#160;xiii

Part I: Beekman Place

and#160;and#160;and#160; Dead Endand#160;and#160;and#160;3

and#160;and#160;and#160; Vera and Fritzand#160;and#160;and#160;7

and#160;and#160;and#160; and#8220;Beauty Slain in Bathtuband#8221;and#160;and#160;and#160;29

and#160;and#160;and#160; Sex Fiendsand#160;and#160;and#160;47

Part II: Fenelon

and#160;and#160;and#160; The Firebrandand#160;and#160;and#160;53

and#160;and#160;and#160; The Brothersand#160;and#160;and#160;62

and#160;and#160;and#160; Epiphanyand#160;and#160;and#160;69

and#160;and#160;and#160; Romanelli and Radyand#160;and#160;and#160;81

Part III: The Shadow of Madness

and#160;and#160;and#160; Depressionand#160;and#160;and#160;103

and#160;and#160;and#160; The Gedeonsand#160;and#160;and#160;110

and#160;and#160;and#160; Werthamand#160;and#160;and#160;113

and#160;and#160;and#160; Bug in a Bottleand#160;and#160;and#160;124

and#160;and#160;and#160; The Snake Womanand#160;and#160;and#160;130

and#160;and#160;and#160; Cantonand#160;and#160;and#160;138

and#160;and#160;and#160; Crisisand#160;and#160;and#160;146

Part IV: The Mad Sculptor

and#160;and#160;and#160; Bloody Sundayand#160;and#160;and#160;157

and#160;and#160;and#160; The Party Girland#160;and#160;and#160;169

and#160;and#160;and#160; Murder Sellsand#160;and#160;and#160;182

and#160;and#160;and#160; Prime Suspectand#160;and#160;and#160;203

and#160;and#160;and#160; Manhuntand#160;and#160;and#160;208

Part V: The Defender

and#160;and#160;and#160; Murder in Times Squareand#160;and#160;and#160;223

and#160;and#160;and#160; Henriettaand#160;and#160;and#160;231

and#160;and#160;and#160; The Front Pageand#160;and#160;and#160;237

and#160;and#160;and#160; Confessionand#160;and#160;and#160;243

and#160;and#160;and#160; Celebritiesand#160;and#160;and#160;248

and#160;and#160;and#160; Lunacyand#160;and#160;and#160;267

and#160;and#160;and#160; Pleaand#160;and#160;and#160;277

and#160;and#160;and#160; Aftermathand#160;and#160;and#160;291

and#160;and#160;and#160; Epilogue: The Lonergan Caseand#160;and#160;and#160;303

and#160;and#160;and#160; Acknowledgmentsand#160;and#160;and#160;309

and#160;and#160;and#160; Notesand#160;and#160;and#160;310

and#160;and#160;and#160; Bibliographyand#160;and#160;and#160;334

and#160;and#160;and#160; Indexand#160;and#160;and#160;342

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594202438
Author:
Blum, Deborah
Publisher:
Penguin Press
Author:
Schechter, Harold
Subject:
Toxicology
Subject:
Forensic Medicine
Subject:
United States - State & Local - Middle Atlantic
Subject:
Poisoning - New York (State) - History
Subject:
Forensic toxicology - New York (State) -
Subject:
Health and Medicine-Medical Specialties
Subject:
Pathological Psychology
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20100231
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
23 b/w on 8 page insert
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1.26 lb
Age Level:
18-17

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History and Social Science » World History » General
Science and Mathematics » Chemistry » Chemical Engineering
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The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York Used Hardcover
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Product details 336 pages Penguin Press - English 9781594202438 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Pulitzer Prize — winning science journalist Blum (Ghost Hunters) makes chemistry come alive in her enthralling account of two forensic pioneers in early 20th-century New York. Blum follows the often unglamorous but monumentally important careers of Dr. Charles Norris, Manhattan's first trained chief medical examiner, and Alexander Gettler, its first toxicologist. Moving chronologically from Norris's appointment in 1918 through his death in 1936, Blum cleverly divides her narrative by poison, providing not only a puzzling case for each noxious substance but the ingenious methods devised by the medical examiner's office to detect them. Before the advent of forensic toxicology, which made it possible for the first time to identify poisons in corpses, Gettler learned the telltale signs of everything from cyanide (it leaves a corrosive trail in the digestive system) to the bright pink flush that signals carbon monoxide poisoning. In a particularly illuminating section, Blum examines the dangers of bootleg liquor (commonly known as wood, or methyl, alcohol) produced during Prohibition. With the pacing and rich characterization of a first-rate suspense novelist, Blum makes science accessible and fascinating." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Blum follows New York City's first forensic scientists to discover a fascinating Jazz Age story of chemistry and detection, poison and murder.
"Synopsis" by , A riveting account of a gruesome triple-homicide at Beekman Place in Depression Era New York, with an intriguing cast of characters including the brilliant but mentally-disturbed sculptor, Robert Irwin.
"Synopsis" by , Beekman Place, once one of the most exclusive addresses in Manhattan, had a curious way of making it into the tabloids in the 1930s: and#8220;SKYSCRAPER SLAYER,and#8221; and#8220;BEAUTY SLAIN IN BATHTUBand#8221; read the headlines. On Easter Sunday in 1937, the discovery of a grisly triple homicide at Beekman Place would rock the neighborhood yet againand#8212;and enthrall the nation. The young man who committed the murders would come to be known in the annals of American crime as the Mad Sculptor.

and#160;

Caught up in the Easter Sunday slayings was a bizarre and sensationalistic cast of characters, seemingly cooked up in a tabloid editorand#8217;s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Robert Irwin, was a brilliant young sculptor who had studied with some of the masters of the era. But with his genius also came a deeply disturbed psyche; Irwin was obsessed with sexual self-mutilation and was frequently overcome by outbursts of violent rage.

and#160;

Irwinand#8217;s primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, was a figure from the world of pulp fantasyand#8212;a stunning photographer's model whose scandalous seminude pinups would titillate the public for weeks after her death. Irwinand#8217;s defense attorney, Samuel Leibowitz, was a courtroom celebrity with an unmatched record of acquittals and clients ranging from Al Capone to the Scottsboro Boys. And Dr. Fredric Wertham, psychiatrist and forensic scientist, befriended Irwin years before the murders and had predicted them in a public lecture months before the crime.

and#160;

Based on extensive research and archival records, The Mad Sculptor recounts the chilling story of the Easter Sunday murdersand#8212;a case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and endures as one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century. Harold Schechterand#8217;s masterful prose evokes the faded glory of post-depression New York and the singular madness of a brilliant mind turned against itself. It will keep you riveted until the very last page.

"Synopsis" by ,
***PBS's AMERICAN EXPERIENCE released a film based on The Poisoner's Handbook in January 2014***

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.

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