Fun, suspenseful, informative, and easily read. What more could you want from a book about the history of forensics in the United States? If you enjoy TV shows like Bones or House, get up on Blum’s book. She’s written us science at its most glamorous.
Each chapter is a mini-story, organized by poison. It’s rather like a rack of test tubes, each one brimming with arsenic, radium, wood alcohol, mercury, or one of their vicious peers. Manipulating the test tubes are our heroes, Charles Norris, Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, and Alexander Gettler, visionary chemist. They worked together in the 1920s, when the city was swirling with political corruption, Prohibition-spawned “beverages” laced with poisons, and plenty of crime. Industrial advances pumped deadly materials into society without any testing or inspection. Together, this scientific duo fought corruption, upheld justice, and pioneered the field of forensic toxicology.
The organization-by-poison leads to some chronological confusion, but I didn’t mind, because the real thrill for me was the Norris and Gettler story. They were brilliant, gritty scientists propelling the field forward in leaps and bounds. As a young researcher, I got starry-eyed imagining a life at the frontier of knowledge, inventing experimental procedures and making life-saving discoveries. Plus, I learned a lot about poison. What a rush!
The 215 in 2015 series chronicles every book I read in 2015. Each review contains exactly 215 words, because 2015 words is too long and 2015 characters is too dang short. And yes, this review is backlogged from 2015.
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