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Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

Strong Poison (original 1930; edition 1958)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

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Title:Strong Poison
Authors:Dorothy L. Sayers (Author)
Collections:Read but unowned, Fiction
Tags:broken subject headings, fiction, mystery, @ 823, @ PR

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Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers (1930)

Recently added bynsenger, jvpearce, nospi, ChristinasBookshelf, Kaethe, JGL, private library, perennialreader
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English (65)  Danish (2)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
The Mystery section of our library has run out of space, so they've been doing a succession of special promotions to show off parts of the collection, up at the front with new books. Previously, they did crime novels of or about the Depression, to tie in with the Steinbeck Big Read.
Now they're doing mysteries set in the UK. I've checked out two of the Christie's I had been meaning to reread, in their pretty new dustjackets, and I also picked up this one. Even though I know there's at least one copy in the house, I checked it out, because they need the room.
So far, 26 pages in, I'm loving it.


Perhaps November is best spent reading mysteries from the 30s and 40s. I can't help comparing Wimsey's courtship of Harriet Vane to Charles' endless pining for Mallory in the books by O'Connell.
Anyway, a fine, traditional sort of whodunnit, enlivened by Sayers' humorous tone. Sweet, really. ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 17, 2016 |
On my second foray into the series I think I can say now with some certainty that Sayers…or at least Wimsey…is never going to become a firm favourite for me.

Some of this is undoubtedly due to confirmation bias. I am the granddaughter of somewhat militant Irish immigrants and both my parents were at one time shop stewards for their respective unions. On what I have seen to date Lord Peter Wimsey embodies everything I innately find…irksome about the aristocracy (that’s much softer language than my family would use). He’s even more annoying than Downton Abbey‘s Lady Mary. But there’s also the fact that he displays the preposterous brilliance in all avenues of human endeavour that is popular among fictional sleuths and his preponderance for making up words (someone calls it piffling in the book). I know some people find this delightful and I wish I did (as happened whenever Douglas Adams engaged in the same practice) but somehow it all combines to make him tiresome to me. Even his Achilles’ heel, only hinted at during the text proper but revealed in an end note to be shell shock brought on by his war service, has a kind of self-serving ring to it. Like a job candidate who answers “unbridled perfectionism” when asked what their weakness is.

Putting aside for a moment my disdain for the ‘wealthy chap with the luxury of choosing how he spends his time and money’ character I did actually enjoy the read much more than my earlier foray into the series.

STRONG POISON opens with a Judge providing his instructions to the jury in the murder trial of a woman writer called Harriet Vane. She is accused of poisoning Phillip Boyes, a man she had lived with until a year or so before his death. At first I thought this an odd and potentially dull way to start a story but actually it works well. Not only does it provide a good summary of how things stand – bringing the reader immediately into the heart of the story – but gives a clear sense of how dire things are for Harriet Vane. It looks impossible that she will avoid the hangman’s noose and the reader can’t help but want to know how the seemingly impenetrable case will be turned on its head (as we all know it is sure to be).

Which is where our master sleuth enters the fray. For reasons that I don’t think are ever provided (or if so I missed them) Wimsey has been watching the trial. He is convinced of Vane’s innocence and reveals, when he wrangles a visit to the prisoner, that he has also fallen for her. As far as this goes he is rebuffed fairly stiffly, being the 47th person to propose marriage since Vane has been accused of the murder, but he does not let that dissuade him from his quest to prove her innocence. With the aid of his butler, a sympathetic police inspector of his acquaintance and his own typing agency of women who can turn their hand to many things, the impossible task is tackled with vigour and creativity.

What follows is a little uneven. For example we spend, for my liking, way too much time learning how one of Wimsey’s agency women inveigles her way into a key player’s life by pretending to speak to (or for?) the dead, but for the most part the story is engaging in the way it picks apart each of the pillars of the prosecution’s case. Sayers has managed to make this suspenseful even though no one can be in any doubt that Vane isn’t going to die at the end of it all and that is not an accomplishment to be sneezed at.

There is also a strong sense of Sayers’ undoubted feminist streak. I’m not convinced that Wimsey is really as enlightened as we are presumably meant to believe. When he proposes marriage for example he does so on the basis that Harriet would be different from the “ordinary kind [of wife] that is only keen on clothes and people“. But the women of this story make their presence felt despite Wimsey’s near-omnipotence. Although she hardly appears Harriet herself is a strong character – not only making her way in the world without the aid of a man – but failing to succumb to Wimsey’s charms. I was quite pleased that this thread did not resolve in the way that might have been expected and not only due to my dislike of Wimsey.

English actress Jane McDowell read this story to me very entertainingly and I must admit I am tempted to let her read me the next instalment of the Wimsey/Vane storyline even though I don’t particularly like the man himself. There is much delight in hearing great dialogue spoken properly and Sayers does have some terrific passages here (mostly the ones without the made up words). So perhaps I it turns out I can enjoy a book even if I don’t like its main character.
  bsquaredinoz | Sep 9, 2016 |
I probably should've read these in order, but my book club picked out a couple to read, so this was one of them.

'Strong Poison' is a solid, old-fashioned mystery. I thought it was a little bit predictable, but Sayers being influential on the development of the mystery genre probably has a lot to do with that.

Harriet Vane, mystery writer, is accused of the murder of her ex-lover. The evidence against her seems pretty damning - but Lord Peter Wimsey, dilettante investigator, is convinced of her innocence, and will commit his not-insignificant resources to clear her name. But is he blinded by his romantic infatuation with the accused?

The sequences with Miss Climpson and the faux-seances were the highlight of the book, for me.
( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Nicely written Golden Age mystery where Harriet Vane is first introduced into Peter Wimsey's world. It seems quite obvious that she's guilty of having murdered her former lover, but Lord Peter is not convinced and tries to work out what actually did happen. The mystery is peeled back bit by bit with strong input from some interesting minor characters. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
This of course is the Wimsey novel in which he meets his future wife Harriet Vane by seeing her on trial for the murder of her former lover. There is some quite good dialog between them, but the story is not my favorite since the victim was poisoned by arsenic and Sayers (like Vane, and unlike some mystery writers of the period) knew enough about arsenic poisoning to make clear it is very unpleasant (though not as nasty as the poison in The Documents in the Case). ( )
  antiquary | Jan 1, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sayers, Dorothy L.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayer, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bleck, CathieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brand, ChristiannaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carmichael, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffini, Grazia MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehtonen, PaavoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michal,MarieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061043508, Mass Market Paperback)

Mystery novelist Harriet Vane knew all about poisons, and when her fiancÉ died in the manner prescribed in one of her books, a jury of her peers had a hangman's noose in mind. But Lord Peter Wimsey was determined to find her innocent--as determined as he was to make her his wife.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:31 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Dashing detective Lord Peter Wimsey is caught up in the murder trial of mystery writer Harriet Vane. Her fiance has died of poisoning exactly as described in one of Harriet's novels -- so naturally she is the prime suspect. As Peter looks on, he not only falls in love with the accused but eagerly helps with Harriet's defense when the first trial ends in a hung jury. Will she be convicted and executed for the crime, or can he save her life and win her hand in marriage?… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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