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 clichéd 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.