Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Before the Poison – Peter Robinson #20booksofsummer

Crime Fiction
4*s

Famous trials: Grace Elizabeth Fox, April 1953, by Sir Charles Hamilton Morley

Grace Elizabeth Fox rose from her bed and dressed with the aid of her young Attending Officer Mary Swann at 6.30 AM on the morning of 23 April, 1953. She ate a light breakfast of toast, marmalade and tea, then she busied herself writing letters to her family and friends. After a small brandy to steady her nerves shortly before 8.00 AM, she spent the following hour alone with the Chaplain.

 

So starts Before the Poison the tale of a fictional murder trial in 1950s England as seen through the eyes of Chris Lowndes a composer for films, who has returned to his native Yorkshire after decades living in the US. Recently bereaved he buys the remote Kilnsgate House unseen as somewhere to compose music and to recover from the loss of his beloved wife Laura.

It doesn’t take Chris long to discover that Kilnsgate House was the scene of a murder some fifty plus years before. On 1 January 1953 Dr Ernest Fox and his younger wife Grace, aged forty, were entertaining two old friends, waited on by their maid Hetty Larkin. The fire was roaring and despite rationing the menu comprised of roast beef, mashed potatoes, roast parsnips and Brussel sprouts followed by that very English desert rhubarb pie and custard. Outside the snow began falling and it didn’t stop, the party was going nowhere and the guest bedroom was made up for Jeremy and Alice Lambert. That night Ernest died and the remaining four inhabitants waited with his body two days until the police and the mortuary van could get to the house. With what he gleans from Grace’s life and learning that his brother was at school, next door to the prison when Grace was hanged, her life and perhaps more importantly the question of her guilt, or innocence, becomes something of an obsession.

With my love of historical crime, this fictionalised account of a murder trial in the 1950s hit just the right note with the details about the key players really coming alive, it was hard to believe that all this was fictional perhaps because the author had clearly done his research so the details were spot on with key references such as Albert Pierrepoint, the most famous of hangmen, adding hooks to hang the case on. With our protagonist being a composer the numerous references to music are completely in sync with the story unfolding and provide a gentrified backdrop to a story that delves into the past to a time where perception was everything. Fictional this may be, but Peter Robinson makes good points about why a woman may be suspected of murder, particularly if it was thought that the woman didn’t hold the highest of morals.

The story is of Chris in 2010 researching the crime, the details of the murder and the trial are presented in excerpts from the book, Greatest Trials and later on some diary excerpts that give further context to the key player’s life. This made for tantalising reading with the details forming a natural part of the story-telling, a clever device that allowed Chris’s narrative to focus on his next step in his discovery.

I haven’t read any of the Inspector Banks books but if they are anywhere near as absorbing as I found Before the Poison to be, I need to check them out sooner rather than later.

Before the Poison fourteenth read in my 20 Books of Summer 2017 Challenge.

First Published UK: 2011
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
No of Pages: 488
Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

28 thoughts on “Before the Poison – Peter Robinson #20booksofsummer

  1. Oh, this does sound fantastic, Cleo. Like you, I enjoy historical fiction, and Peter Robinson is such a talented author. I like his Alan Banks books, and I do recommend them when you get the chance. I’ve not (yet) read this standalone, but I will have to.

    Like

    1. I do think you’ll enjoy this one Margot if you get around to reading it. I bought it on a whim because of the poison angle but it did offer far more than I expected especially on my other favourite element the role and view of women through the ages.

      Like

    1. I would definitely urge you to pull this one down from the shelf Guy. Not only is it a story that is easy to get drawn into it is also clearly underpinned by some solid research says she who is fascinated by the view of women by the ‘authorities’ through the ages.

      Like

  2. The past story sounds fascinating but I’m not so keen on the idea of the present strand. However, like you I haven’t read any of the Inspector Banks books and really must try them some day. ‘Cos what our TBRs really need is another long series… 😉

    Like

  3. Everything about this sounds fantastic. And I love it when the story also is told with excerpts and stuff. Makes it feel so genuine. I’d love to read it. Great review!

    Like

Leave a Reply, I love hearing what you have to say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.