I’ve heard from a few of you that this book was a quick read for you and I’ve found the same thing! I’m enjoying it a lot and can’t wait to hear what you all think. Here are some questions to get the discussion going.
1. How are you liking the book (the organization by poison, the way the science is written, etc)?
As you can probably tell already, I’m enjoying it a lot. I don’t think the organization is perfect. The author goes on many long tangents and not every story connects directly to the poison the chapter is about. It’s written very clearly though and with the engaging mysteries, it has been a fast, fun read for me. The science is presented in a way that seems fairly accessible to me. Something that drives me crazy though is that the author keeps describing the chemicals that make up a compound in words. I’d much rather have a picture of the compound instead or in addition.
2. What’s your favorite fun fact or story so far?
I’ve particularly been admiring Norris. After the frustration of the corruption and bad science in the first chapter, I found it very satisfying to see Norris come in and passionately work to make things better. The part where he told the mayor that he suggested they try organization, since they clearly hadn’t yet, was one of my favorites.
3. Do you check out the citations in narrative nonfiction like this? If so, did you find the citations in this book satisfactory?
I wish I did more often! In this case, I only noticed the citations at the back when I was writing this post, after reading half the book. It drives me a little crazy that there aren’t numbers in the text corresponding to the citations to alert the read to their existence. However, I typically don’t find the citations in narrative nonfiction anywhere near thorough enough. After reading scientific papers, the standards for citing things in narrative nonfiction seem bizarrely lax to me.
4. Did you know anything about early forensic science before reading this book? Did anything surprise you?
Not I. I was surprised by how recent “early forensic science” is! I was also surprised by the amount of corruption and incompetence in the criminal justice system of the time
Feel free to answer the questions or just discuss the book in the comments or to link up to a post on your own blog.