Brian Corrigan

On the one-year anniversary of his kidnapping by Somali pirates and a subsequent headline-grabbing rescue, Captain Richard Phillips revisits his harrowing high-seas adventure in a riveting book, A Captain’s Duty.

In early 2009, as he prepared to depart for the African coast helming the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, Captain Phillips—a native of Vermont and lifelong merchant marine—bade an emotional farewell to his wife, Andrea, reassuring her with a promise to return home safely from his time at sea. It was a promise he had made many times before, and had always somehow managed to keep. This time, however, Phillips was quietly, yet all too keenly, aware of the danger awaiting him and his crew in the increasingly pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast.

As the Maersk began its journey, Phillips worked tirelessly to prepare his men for the worst—and when the worst indeed happened, his diligence paid off almost immediately. Within hours of the heavily armed pirates’ boarding and commandeering of the Maersk, Phillips successfully managed to separate the ship, crew and cargo under his command from their would-be captors, thereby fulfilling his captain’s duty. Unfortunately for Phillips, he accomplished this objective only at the expense of his own freedom. For five long days, he remained at sea as the pirates’ prized American hostage, floating with them on a ramshackle lifeboat in the unrelenting heat of the open ocean.

A Captain’s Duty begins with Phillips’ seemingly routine departure on board the Maersk Alabama and ends weeks later with his dramatic rescue and emotional homecoming. But Phillips does more than simply recount the details of his tense, and often terrifying, week of captivity. Through the numerous flashbacks and historical anecdotes that pepper his narrative, he paints vivid and touching portraits of both the merchant mariner’s life at sea and the family life he leaves behind—a life to which he was ultimately fortunate enough to return, with a renewed appreciation and sense of purpose.

Brian P. Corrigan lives and writes in Florence, Alabama.

On the one-year anniversary of his kidnapping by Somali pirates and a subsequent headline-grabbing rescue, Captain Richard Phillips revisits his harrowing high-seas adventure in a riveting book, A Captain’s Duty. In early 2009, as he prepared to depart for the African coast helming the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, Captain Phillips—a native of Vermont and lifelong […]

Fans of television’s “CSI” and its myriad spin-offs will no doubt find much of morbid interest in Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, a lushly detailed account of how the discipline and profession of forensic science emerged from the “poison playground” of 1920s New York to become an indispensable argumentative tool in the modern-day crime-fighter’s arsenal. In particular, Blum focuses on the turbulent lives and trailblazing careers of the city’s chief medical examiner, Charles Norris, and his trusty toxicologist, Alexander Gettler. Through their diligence, persistence and selfless devotion to the cause, Norris and Gettler laid the intellectual groundwork for a new—and potentially invaluable—field of study in the span of a few short decades. All the while, the pair waged an uphill battle against popular (and political) scientific ignorance and faced resistance, often fierce, from clueless city-hall bureaucrats and budget-cutters.

Known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning work as a journalist and science writer, Blum displays a remarkable gift for narrative storytelling in The Poisoner’s Handbook, weaving together, from seemingly disparate elements, an old-fashioned tale of suspense that is as readable as it is densely informative. Each chapter of the book takes its title from a particular periodic element or compound, introducing the reader to these lethal substances in the kind of vivid language novelists often utilize to introduce their main characters. While the pages are populated with plenty of human villains, these killer compounds are the book’s real antagonists. Whether used as a murder weapon or ingested accidentally, each poses a unique and complex puzzle for Norris and Gettler, prompting the pair to devise ever more cunning procedures for the detection, in human tissue, of lethal quantities and trace amounts alike. They work tirelessly, selflessly, even courageously at fine-tuning and perfecting their craft, using their own meager salaries to cover laboratory expenses and generally learning as they go—at times from their own deadly mistakes.

The Poisoner’s Handbook is that rare nonfiction book that has something for everyone, whether you are a true-crime aficionado, a political-history buff, a science geek or simply a fan of well-written narrative suspense.

Brian Corrigan lives and writes in Florence, Alabama.

Fans of television’s “CSI” and its myriad spin-offs will no doubt find much of morbid interest in Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, a lushly detailed account of how the discipline and profession of forensic science emerged from the “poison playground” of 1920s New York to become an indispensable argumentative tool in the modern-day crime-fighter’s arsenal. […]

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!