Thursday, April 5, 2012

Before The Poison

How many years has Peter Robinson been writing exceptional mysteries? I don’t know but his new book, Before The Poison is a perfect example of why he’s a master crime novelist. Once you have recovered from the grief caused by realizing that Robinson’s new mystery is not a DCI Banks novel take a deep breath and climb aboard.

Before The Poison follows newly widowed Chris Lowndes as he leaves a long, successful career as a composer for films and returns to Britain. Since the death of his wife he has decided to refocus his career on writing classical music. In an effort to achieve this he has purchased an isolated home in his native Yorkshire that will bring him the peace he needs to create and to grieve.

Luckily for us Lowndes has bought a house with a history. This home was the scene of a sensational murder. Years ago Dr. Ernest Fox was poisoned to death by his wife Grace. After a well publicized trial, Grace was convicted and hanged. Lowndes was unaware of estates’ the lurid past when he purchased it sight unseen. His initial passing interest in the murder quickly becomes obsession. What would have turned a dedicated, Queen Alexandra’s WWII nurse into a murder? How trustworthy are Lowndes a complete amateur detective conclusions? Is his investigation colored by his own desperate grief? By guilt?

Robinson begins each chapter with official documents about the investigation and trial from the book (another Robinson creation) by Sir Morley, Famous Trails: Grace Elizabeth Fox, April 1953 and excerpts from Grace’s own wartime diary about her extraordinary experiences in Dunkirk, Normandy and Singapore. Then he adds the twists, the turns and lots of fun filled big ideas about self-sacrifice, guilt, trust and wickedness.

Setting a character up to solve a decades old murder is nothing new but when Peter Robison does it you don’t care how dusty that initial starting point is. You only need him to get on with it and that he does quite entertainingly in Before The Poison.

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