Before the Poison: Book summary and reviews of Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

Before the Poison

by Peter Robinson

Before the Poison
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2012
    368 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

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Book Summary

Chris Lowndes built a comfortable career composing scores for films in Hollywood. But after twenty-five years abroad, and still quietly reeling from the death of his beloved wife, he decides to return to the Yorkshire dales of his youth. To ease the move, he buys Kilnsgate House, a rambling old mansion deep in the country. Involved in a massive work project before he left L.A., Chris had no time to view the property, relying on his capable real estate agent to handle the details.

Though he finds Kilnsgate charming, something about the house disturbs him, a vague sensation that the long empty rooms have been waiting for him - feelings made ever stronger when he learns that the house was the scene of a murder more than fifty years before. The former owner, a prominent doctor named Ernest Arthur Fox, was supposedly poisoned by his beautiful and much younger wife, Grace. Arrested and brought to trial, Grace was found guilty and hanged for the crime.

His curiosity piqued, Chris talks to the locals and searches through archives for information about the case. But the more he discovers, the more convinced he becomes that Grace may have been innocent. Ignoring warnings to leave it alone, he sets out to find the truth - a quest that takes him deep into the past and into a dark web of deadly secrets that is all too close to the present.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Robinson has done swimmingly with his Inspector Banks novels, which routinely make best sellers lists and have won a bushel of key mystery awards, but this standalone could win him new readers - especially those looking for dark and twisty psychological thrillers." - Library Journal

"Robinson manages a melancholy tone without veering into the maudlin, and the presence of Grace Fox permeates every page." - Publishers Weekly

"[I]t has an exciting quest culminating in a shocking climax, underpinned with big issues of evil, punishment, retribution and self-sacrifice." - Oxford Times

"If Robinson is to turn out one-off novels as assured as this perhaps we wouldn't mind too much if Alan Banks was to retire and take up beekeeping in Sussex." - Daily Express

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Reader Reviews

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Juli S. (Portland, OR)

A change of pace from the author's Inspector Banks series.
Having been a fan of Robinson’s Inspector Banks series for years, I expected to like this standalone mystery. I was not disappointed at all. The format of telling the story of the present day investigation while telling the historical part of the story through excerpts from books and from Elizabeth Fox’s own diary works well. It’s a mystery but it’s also about relationships, guilt, and a bit of a history lesson added to the mix.

Robinson takes a break from procedurals and scores a win with this one. The story kept me guessing and the musical references made me wish there was a playlist available.

Rosemary K. (Saginaw, MI)

a delectable mystery
Peter Robinson's Before the Poison is an old-fashioned mystery that had me entranced from the first page. A recently widowed composer purchases Kilnsgate House, an isolated mansion in the English countryside, where a murder had been committed years before. The man, convinced that the wrong person had been accused, becomes obsessed with the story.

The book is skillfully written, going between the early journals of Grace Fox, the alleged murderer, and the challenges she faced as a nurse in World War II, and the contemporary account of the man who now owns her home. As he travels to Paris and England to unravel the mystery, the reader is completely drawn into the story. I read at a leisurely pace, savoring the Gothic elements and attention to detail.

I plan to purchase several copies of this book for friends who appreciate fine writing and a well-told mystery. I give Before the Poison my highest recommendation!

David V. (Wayside, NJ)

Before The Poison
This was an interesting blend of mystery and a love story. Although the fate of one of the main characters was evident from the begining, the author used some clever flashback techniques to keep the reader in suspense and involved in the plot. A key element was the English manor which the protagonist had recently acquired. I could almost feel the drafts, mysterious noises and long-dead inhabitants of the huge, isolated mansion. The characters were interesting and realistic, some quite intriguing and eccentric. I recommend this book for fans of interesting plots, WWII history and English landscapes.

Colleen T. (Lakewood, CO)

Before the Poison
“Before the Poison” is a first-rate book. Robinson has told a mesmerizing story weaving the present and the past together in such a way that I could not put the book down. I was enthralled with the way the author brought the murder mystery from the past into the present and how it affected the current characters and their lives. I loved the descriptions of England and Paris and especially the descriptions of the English nurses and their perils through WWII. I highly recommend this book.

Hilary H. (Tucson, AZ)

Before the Poison
I've been a fan of Peter Robinson for sometime having read almost all of the Inspector Banks novels. The setting was familiar - Yorkshire, but the main character (Chris Lowndes) is quite different from Insp. Banks though charming, thoughtful and a musician. The alternating story lines of the present day and the past (around WW II) work very well. I particularly liked the use of Grace's journal to reflect her WW II experiences (horrendous) as a nurse and her thoughts. The plot builds slowly but satisfyingly. I was engaged from the first few pages.

Betty B. (Irving, TX)

Before The Poison
Over the years I have read a number of Robinson's Inspector Banks' mysteries and have always enjoyed them. However, this book exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed the setting and the historical background. I liked the structure of the novel, and the weaving back and forth between The Famous Trials and Grace's journal and the present. Grace's journal was especially touching. Robinson brought everything together at the end and this is one of those books that I really hated to finish. Maybe there might be a sequel telling us more about Chris' Yorkshire adventures in Kilnsgate?

...21 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Peter Robinson Author Biography

Photo: Marion Ettlinger

Peter Robinson is a Canadian crime writer born in Britain. He is best known for his crime novels set in Yorkshire featuring Inspector Alan Banks.

He has also published a number of other novels and short stories as well as some poems and two articles on writing. He is the winner of numerous awards in the United States, Britain and Canada, and in 2002 he won the CWA Dagger in the Library.

Fourteen of his sixteen novels to date have featured Detective Inspector Alan Banks.Since 2010 several of the novels have been adapted for television under the series title DCI Banks.



Bibliography

  1. Gallows View (1987)
  2. A Dedicated Man (1988)
  3. A Necessary End (1989)
  4. The Hanging Valley (1989)
  5. Past Reason Hated (1990)
  6. Final Account (1995)
  7. Wednesday's Child (1994)
  8. Innocent Graves (1996)
  9. ...

Full Biography
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