Tuesday, May 11, 2010

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

I really don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this book looked intriguing enough I decided to give it a try.

This book is more about the first medical examiner, Dr. Charles Norris, in New York City to actually hold a medical degree, and the first toxicologist, Alexander Gettler. Each chapter is about a different poison and how the two working together figured out what effects the poison had on the body and in what levels. Before their time, forensic science was not considered to be reliable or even usable in a court of law--Norris and Gettler changed all that.

This is a fascinating work about poisons, chemistry, science, and how it has changed and shaped our lives. I learned so much from this book about Prohibition and the people who died of wood alcohol, the women who died from radiation poisoning and taught us that radium was not beneficial. There is a lot of chemistry and science in the book, which is hard to get through, but the story woven through the pages makes it all worth it. I enjoyed each chapter focusing on a different poison and how Gettler and Norris worked to get forensic science into the 20th century.

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Stolarz

Camelia is your typical junior in high school. She has good friends, gets along with her parents, and has, to this point, not caused any trouble. Then Ben, the new guy, saves her life. And she can't stop thinking about him.

So when the first picture appears in her mailbox, she shrugs it off as a joke. Then a gift appears on the window sill of her second story bedroom. Then the phone calls. And even more pictures appear. Her friends all suspect Ben, who has a mysterious past including the suspicious death of his last girlfriend. But Camelia isn't so sure. And the stalker isn't willing to wait for her for long.

Lots of suspense and romance thrown together to balance nicely. You aren't sure who Camelia can trust through most of the book. Every few chapters you get insight into the stalker's mind, but the author is careful to give hints about who it could be without throwing suspicion on anyone specifically. There is some paranormal stuff thrown in here as well with Ben's gift. A well-written suspenseful novel--I can't wait to read Deadly Little Lies.

Taken by Norah McClintock

Stephanie hasn't gotten along with her mom since her dad died and Gregg came into their lives. Her mom seems happy with Gregg but Stephanie can't stop comparing him to her father. She doesn't understand how her mom could have moved on so soon.

But that isn't the only thing going on in Stephanie's life. Two girls matching her description have gone missing, one soon after the other. The first girl's body is found and it's only a matter of time before the second one is too. Everyone has been warned to go nowhere alone, but Stephanie figures the walk home from the bus stop is populated and nothing will happen.

Turns out she was wrong. Finding herself tied up in the middle of unfamiliar woods with no food or water, Stephanie knows she doesn't have long before the serial killer comes back to finish her off. She has to keep her wits about her, escape, and find someone to help. What if she can't find help before the serial killer finds her?

A short but engrossing book. I'm not one much for suspense, but this book pulls it off well. Stephanie does have some wilderness survival training, so most of the book is about her traveling through the woods to find help. The story ends with a twist that isn't all that unexpected, but still works with the story. Lots of action.