Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘forensics’

Once in a while, I like to do crazy things like reading books about stuff that’ll probably give sleepless nights or in the case of Mr. Cook … make me paranoid of ever setting foot in another hospital. So naturally when I came across Robin Cook’s new book, my inner masochist simply threw caution to the wind and said … bloody hell, why not. Of course this is most likely the book that most folks may want to read as this country struggles through the Coronavirus crisis. Fear not, though a medical thriller it has very little to do with pandemics, and yes, I try not to be a complete and insensitive tosser. But enough of the blah-blah and other pleasantries and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?
When twenty-eight-year old social worker, Kera Jacobsen, shows up on the autopsy table at NYC’s Office of City Medical Examiner (OCME) it seems like a typical overdose. Another tragic victim of the opioid crisis. But for ME Laurie Montgomery and her brilliant and enigmatic pathology resident, Dr. Aria Nichols, things are a wee bit off since Kera was never known, by most, to abuse drugs and it was discovered during the autopsy that Kera was ten weeks pregnant. To make things even more interesting, when Kera’s friend (and fellow social worker), Miranda, collaborates with Aria and suggest the use of genealogical DNA databases to track down the mysterious father of the child, things really take an interesting turn … and the shit hits the fan (Miranda is murdered). And so a strange game of cat-and-mouse begins.
Aria is an interesting character (to say the least): a potential forensic prodigy that constantly defy resident protocols, a possible sociopath, and has an aversion to anything male and bearing a penis.But what she lacks in social graces, emotions or following rules she makes up for quite skillfully in forensic investigations and autopsies. On the other hand ME Laurie Montgomery aside from being an astute and consummate professional has to deal with Aria as a subordinate, and then there is the fact that she has a ticking time bomb inside her (she’s diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutations) and two children that are on the autistic spectrum. Her husband James is also a skilled medical examiner AND her subordinate. Yes, awkward pillow talk and such bollocks but he is seemingly the one thing that balances out the seeming and impending chaos that exist in her life. But paths will intersect as the search for this mysterious man continues in dizzying speed, and somewhere in the midst of the medical labyrinth there is some willing to kill, with undetectable efficiency, to make sure that truth never comes to light. And everything hurtles towards a breathtaking conclusion that may leave some folks with soiled undies … and a reasonable fear of medical institutions.
In a world where genealogical databases offer so much insight to people’s past, Genesis shows the other side of this medical Pandora box offering. In truth, in several cases genealogical databases haven been used to solve unsolved murder cases. Cook, in typical fashion, offers up a thrilling read and cautionary tale into the world of genealogical databases: it may be help you learn about the past … and even the present … in, some cases, very gory details. Use with caution. And enjoy the read.

Read Full Post »

poisonerhb_cvr

Running title: The Poisoner’s Handbook – Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

Chemistry has always been my first love. Yeah, I know … how nerdy of me, but yes there it is. Some of my best memories, spent as a teen, was amidst pipettes, test tubes and Bunsen burners preparing for the General Certificate Examinations O Levels. I think also having a really awesome girlfriend (my true first love …awwww) as a lab partner sort of helped. And of course, having a mum who was a chemist may have factored into that whole equation and my fascination of the chemical world. Alas, I have detoured … and I haven’t even started the review. So on with it … shall we?

So there I was amongst the stacks at work, when this book literally screamed at me. Alright, alright that was a bit melodramatic … I actually caught glimpse of it whilst researching another book and … it … yes screamed at me. A bloodcurdling scream. And so I had no choice but to check it out. Unfortunately, my choice of reading may have raised a few eyebrows from some co-workers and I may have destroyed several dating prospects, whilst reading, on public transit (trust me, several arched eyebrows and judgemental stares from gorgeous women sitting opposite you says a lot). But that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. Oh, the things I do for my reading public.

Poisoner’s Handbook (contrary to its name) is a chronicle of the work of Chief Medical Examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler that basically gave birth to forensic medicine in the 1920s. Yes, surprise, surprise, it is not a book teaching you how to poison people … though …
Though thoroughly enjoyed by chemistry buffs (such as yours truly), it is also a great compilation of crimes and incidents that involved … well … poisoning and some astounding bits of historical facts. Though very scientific in its writing, most non-scientifically inclined readers will still find it a delightful read since Blum doesn’t overwhelm on technicality and is a delightful storyteller. Some disturbing facts include people dying from alcohol poisoning during the Prohibition … even when they were WARNED of the dangers of imbibing treated wood or ethyl alcohol. Even more shocking was the government (i.e. the wonderful folks in Washington) putting forth decrees that required the poisoning of industrial alcohols as a DETERENT to those willing to break the law for a drink. Needless to say, many still kept dying. Ah Prohibition, a time where people were literally dying for a drink. Then there was the radium poisonings of the women that painted radium dials on watches, where the radium (a radioactive element that have a half life of 1600 years) not only penetrated their bones, but caused rapid decay of bones and whilst most people exhaled carbon dioxide, radium victims exhaled radon gas. Aye, makes secondhand smoke sound like aromatherapy. Beyond the alcohol and radium poisonings, there were also those criminal poisonings where, for the most, it was easy to poison someone (in the 1920s) and even when arrested most people walked before David Caruso could put on his dark glasses to the on oncoming strains of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. And boy, did people love their poisons back then. It is good to know that if my future wife serves food that tastes too metallic (arsenic) or desserts that have a hint of almonds (cyanide) even when there is NO almonds present that maybe I might need to reconsider my marital status. This is precisely why I do my own cooking. Yes, the Evil Parrot is full of surprises … and yet he is still single. Pray tell. Also note to self: I’ve got to stop watching too much bollocks on ID, BIO and Oxygen.
So whether you’re reading it for the science, the crime or even a bit of history … or all of the above, Poisoner’s Handbook turns out to be a majestic read. And who knows, some of this information just might save your life someday. Hey, I’m just saying, mates.

Read Full Post »