The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum.

Before Gil Grissom first looked down a microscope in Las Vegas, before Temperance Brennan dug up bones in Montreal there was Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler. In an era when cynanide and arsenic could be bought at the local drugstore, when death was a wood alcohol cocktail away at the corner speakeasy, death by poison was nearly the perfect crime.

At least it was until Charles Norris was appointed Chief Medical Examiner of New York City and hired Alexander Gettler to work as toxicologist. Together the pair began a trailblazing crusade not only to create tests to detect the deadly compounds used by criminal poisoners, but also worked tirelessly to raise public awareness concerning the many toxic compounds that accidentally killed hundreds each year.

In a time when nightclubs served homicidal hooch, where houswives used arsenic to give their skin that special glow, and where angry rivals sent cyanide through the mail poison was everywhere. But even though poison was everywhere there were those ready and willing to fight against it, to prove once and for all that there is no such thing as the perfect crime.

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