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A Very Good Popular History Of The New York Medical Examiner's Office In The Jazz Age
on January 29, 2014
I first became aware of this book after seeing a documentary called "The Poisoner's Handbook" on the PBS program, American Experience.
The American Experience documentary was based on this book and the author was one of those interviewed in the program. The documentary was very interesting, so I bought the book after watching the documentary.
This is a well written popular history of the development of the New York City Medical Examiner's Office in the early 20th century with particular emphasis on the 1920s and early 1930s, up to the repeal of Prohibition.
The author focuses on Doctors Norris and Gettler, the Medical Examiner's Office chief pathologist and head toxicologist respectively, and details the many political battles between the New York City Mayor's office and the Medical Examiner's Office along with fascinating details of the Medical Examiner's investigations into crime, industrial accidents, working conditions which lead to the deaths of workers and other very interesting subjects.
Apart from the criminal investigations, this book also goes into the New York Medical Examiners' Office investigation of several cases of industrial and workplace incidents. In those pre-Workers Compensation Board times, these New York cases were dealt with by the NY Medical Examiners' Office and the investigation of those cases makes interesting reading. Anyone interested in workplace health and safety issues should find the book's descriptions of these cases to be very informative reading.
The author's bio in the book says she is a science writer but several scientists have left some fairly scathing critiques on Amazon's US site about the flawed scientific details throughout the book. I found the book very interesting but these critiques raise some concerns about the author's credibility and the credibility of the history in the book.
I'm no scientist so I can't respond knowledgeably to their critiques. But I've done a quick check (I emphasize "quick" check; I haven't done any major fact checking here)on some of the historical details in the book and the history seems accurate enough based on a few quick checks on some major details.
This book is aimed at a more general audience. The author writes well and, despite the major critiques of the book's scientific details written on Amazon's US site by scientists, the historical information in the book is very interesting throughout.
Overall, a worthwhile book, although the scientists' critiques mentioned above create some doubt about the book's credibility on scientific details.