Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines

. 192p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Crown. Sept. 2017. Tr $23.99. ISBN 9781101932247; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781101932230. POP
Gr 5–8—The author of Poop Happened and Bugged: How Insects Changed History delves into the torrid history of poisons both accidental and purposeful. Albee explains early on that she has chosen to sidestep warfare and genocide and focus primarily on the Western cultures with which she is most familiar, though she doesn't mention how freely she has speculated about historical deaths that occurred before toxicology screens could corroborate suspicions. The author provides a varied and engrossing exploration of toxic substances and their use and misuse throughout millennia. Chapters are roughly in chronological order and overflow with sidebars, photos, and "Tox Boxes," which each highlight a single poison and its properties. The author avoids diving too deeply into chemical and biological minutiae, and the format and content combine for a quick pace. Touching on hazardous occupations, political intrigue, personal vendettas, and tainted food, among many other gruesome situations, Albee tracks the halting scientific advancements that have improved protections and saved lives, often as a result of hideous setbacks. The rapid-fire style and punny captions impose a certain levity, even when death and injury are covered, which may not suit more sensitive readers. But the extensive back matter will surely win the hearts of librarians and other fact-minded folks.
VERDICT Ideal for readers, including reluctant ones, who delight in the science and scare factor of poisons or grotesque medicine.

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