Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Poisoner's Handbook

I have wanted to read Deborah Blum's The Poisoner's Handbook since hearing an interview with her on the Scientific American podcast. The book does not disappoint: Blum is a very talented writer, and the book is full of surprises. I had not known, for instance, that so many people in the United States died from drinking denatured alcohol during the Prohibition era, and that the federal government's response was to try to make denatured alcohol even more poisonous. I was unaware that companies touted newly discovered radioisotopes as health products, even selling water laced with radium as a rejuvenating drink. And none of this even gets us into the many murder stories or tales of science versus politics centering upon the book's two heroes. If you think you will not be able to enjoy a book which is fundamentally about forensic chemistry, guess again.


Steelman said...

I've heard Ms. Blum interviewed on a couple of different podcasts. Fascinating stuff. Made me glad to be living in a time when we are much wiser about the effects of certain chemical substances...and depressed that there's an aisle-full of herbal and homeopathic nostrums in practically every supermarket. The snake oil zombie rises again and shuffles on.

BTW, no trouble posting comments from home. Elements of blogspot pages are now blocked at work. And I was only ever commenting during my coffee break, elevenses, lunch hour, siesta, or tea time!

Mark Vuletic said...

Guess you'll have to leave your commenting for second breakfast!