Murder, detective work and forensic chemistry– this potent combination set against the backdrop of Jazz Age New York is the compelling basis for The Poisoner’s Handbook.

Call it a coming-of-age party for forensic toxicology– there in the third-floor laboratory at Bellevue the bubble and hiss of beakers sounded like victory music in the air around them.

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As the story of Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler– pioneers in the fledgling science of forensic chemistry– unfolds and the intrigue deepens, it is hard to remember that this scientific thriller is shelved in the non-fiction section.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

In The Poisoner’s Handbook,  true crime, chemistry, detective work and scientific research combine for a wonderfully geeky mix. What’s also awesome is that each chapter takes its title from a particular poison and includes the chemical formula or symbol.

In addition, we identify with chief toxicologist Alexander Gettler– who I’m pretty sure was a true geek before there was a word for it.

Rating (5 stars)

There are good books and then there are books that cause me to read late into the night until my husband wakes up and begs me to turn off the light. This book falls under the latter category, which I call pure awesomeness.

As the story races through forensic detective work and murder scenes, Blum makes sure to satisfy geeky curiosity with descriptions of the chemistry behind poisons in a way that is informative but accessible. At the same time, the riveting story also manages to provide a rich historical perspective on life in the Roaring Twenties, complete with jazz and speakeasys, almost with the reader realizing it.

Yes, I loved this book.