Friday, July 22, 2011

"Read": "The Poisoner's Handbook" by Deborah Blum

"Read": The Poisoner's Hanbook: murder and the birth of forensic medicine in the Jazz Age in New York, by Deborah Blum, 2010, 9781594202438.

Of course I read this. I was on the committee wasn't I? I wouldn't skip out halfway through. I read every last word. Yes, the definition of "last word" is arguable.

Good book. Lots of research by Blum who neatly wrapped facts into narrative. Following the trailblazing forensic work of the coroner's office in New York City. The Office had to fight against underfunding and political shenanigans but started rigorous scientific work to develop tests to detect poisons and other substances.

I was very interested in the fact that the coroner, and Blum, repeatedly would rail against the deadly effects of illegal liquor. The liquor was often denatured with all sorts of poisonous and deadly substances. The government passed requirements that grain alcohol substitutes used by bootleggers be poisoned as a means of deterring usage. It didn't work; bootleggers used the stuff and people died like flies.

Most illegal booze in the U.S. and NYC was scuzzy poison swill, very little of illegal booze was distilled in the U.S. or smuggled from the Caribbean or Canada.

Sure I read the whole thing. I wouldn't make that up. See, here is the last sentence "I keep asking myself, have I done everything right?"

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