Monday, January 21, 2013

Before the Poison

Peter Robinson

This stand-alone crime novel by the author of the Inspector Banks series won the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel. Before the Poison explores how the sexist attitudes of 1950s rural England contaminated the inquiry into a local doctor’s death. A murder trial follows, and the physician’s wife is quickly sentenced to hang for the crime.

In 2010, almost sixty years later, the dead clinician’s isolated Kilnsgate House gets a new owner: Chris Lowndes, a Hollywood film composer. Chris becomes fascinated with the long-ago murder trial, and he believes—he’s not sure why—that the doctor’s wife was innocent.

And the woman’s ghost seems to be haunting Kilnsgate House.

Don’t worry, this setup isn’t as clich├ęd as it sounds. In fact, the answer to the mystery plot is one of the most psychologically subtle I’ve ever read. Having said that, I loved the spookiness of Kilnsgate House and Chris’s uncanny experiences in it.

An “escape” in the good sense, Robinson’s strong descriptions brought me right into a chilly English autumn and winter, and into the coziness of sitting by a pub fireplace. And if you want fully-rounded characters in your crime fiction, this novel delivers.


  1. I've been a fan of Robinson's Inspector Banks novels for years. And this will be my next read, for sure. I like that the review gives an interesting overview of the plot but doesn't give away any details!

  2. I tried reading one of the Inspector Banks novels a few years ago, and for some reason it failed to light my fire; I gave up about one-third in. This book, however, made me see just how good a writer Peter Robinson can be.