Poison by Galt Niederhoffer


Poison starts out sort of slow and typical. The woman is a journalist who focuses on women’s rights type stories. She is now a professor in the Seattle area where she lives with her professional husband, her toddler and two children from her first, deceased husband. As the book progresses, it is clear her husband is gaslighting her. Every concern or question she has (Are you having an affair? Why weren’t you at work when I tried to drop off our child? Can I have your business trip itinerary?) is somehow turned around on her: she’s crazy, she’s paranoid etc and she starts to doubt herself. They have a lot of fights and some turn physical.

Anyway, at one point in the first part of the book they go out to breakfast and go to a place where the sign says that the whitefish salad is the best this side of Coney Island. This made me wonder if she was familiar with NYC because this statement is an odd one. 1. Everything is west of Coney island as it is on the Atlantic Ocean. 2. Coney Island is not known for whitefish salad, lox or bagels particularly. Hot dogs, yes. I’ll even give you Russian food but not deli!

Anyway, I googled the author and it turns out not only did she live in Brooklyn, the whole story seems to be rooted in facts! As part of Niederhoffer’s bitter custody battle with her philandering boyfriend in which her own father testifies against her, it came out that she had been found to have high levels of arsenic in her bloodstream due to…poisoned whitefish salad!! Truth may be stranger than fiction!

In the second part of the book, Cass, the main character does eat some bitter whitefish salad and goes to the hospital to be tested for poison. Initially, they try to put her in the psych ward because she is saying her husband told her he was going to kill her, poison her, dismember her etc and that seemed illogical on his part (who warns their victims) but she finally gets a doctor to order the tests. Rather than wait a few hours for them, she decided to have them done privately, which to me, made zero sense. Just get it done! Maybe the hospital can help her get out of this situation! Where does she have to be? Her kids are with her friend so they are safe.

Throughout the book, Cass keeps insisting that she is not mentally ill and that her husband is out to kill her. This is true but just because someone is out to get you doesn’t mean you might not have some issues that would be well suited to a trip to a therapist. She not only married the man, comes up with a hairbrained scheme to trap him, had two parents who testify against her in a custody hearing but she trusts two people who give off major red flags from the beginning and who end up exposed as part of the plot against her! Not that she deserved it but some reflection on how she ignored what even she thought of as red flags might be in order. Not everyone who goes to therapy is “crazy” or will be institutionalized.

The book itself isn’t the most well-written but I can’t imagine stopping reading it knowing that it is ripped from the headlines of her own life! I’m reading an ARC so Poison doesn’t come out until November so I look forward to seeing what else comes out upon publication.


Small annoyance: I don’t think the author knows how rat poison works, at one point Cass wonders if there could be poison on the ground like what is used to kill rats. I don’t think she (or her editor who should have caught this) understand that the rats are eating the scattered poison, not being poisoned from the soles of their feet.

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