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Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

Strong Poison (original 1930; edition 1958)

by Dorothy L. Sayers (Author)

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3,210781,731 (4.06)249
Title:Strong Poison
Authors:Dorothy L. Sayers (Author)
Collections:Read but unowned, Fiction
Tags:broken subject headings, fiction, mystery, @ 823, @ PR

Work details

Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers (1930)

  1. 31
    Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (sandykaypax)
  2. 00
    Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (aulsmith)
  3. 11
    Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 by Virginia Nicholson (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: This explains much about Harriet's predicament that I didn't previously understand.

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Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)

So far the only Wimsey book I didn't like was Unnatural Death and that's because there was no Wimsey. He appears in a couple of scenes but the majority of the book is a woman he hired to investigate for him. Well, that was one of the main reasons.

The reason I mention Unnatural death is that here too Miss Climpson is sent to investigate something but in Strong Poison it wasn't too much and she actually does interesting things trying to find the item she came for. She isn't just talking to people. I liked it.

As for Wimsey, he is all over this case because he kind of falls in love with the accused. I loved his attitude towards her, towards marriage in general. He works slower here because this time he has something to lose (no, his brother's problem from one of the previous books is not the same).

The case is not that interesting and there are so few suspects that there is no real surprise in the end, but the way Lord Wimsey, Miss Climpson, the typist who works for her, and many, many others mobilise to solve the case is lovely.
There are, of course, a lot of contemporary issues sprinkled throughout the book (spiritualist and inevitable frauds, communists and artists, feminists and such) and they make this story very colourful. ( )
  Aneris | Feb 15, 2017 |
This Lord Peter Wimsey mystery narrates the beginning of Lord Peter's relationship with Harriet Vane when Peter falls in love with Harriet as she is on trial for her lover's murder. Like all the rest of Sayers that I have read so far, it is not only a well-constructed and amusing mystery, but raises some deeper thought questions, in this case, whether a romantic relationship can grow in a healthy way under the circumstances of Peter having saved Harriet's life and the ongoing social stigma of her having lived with her lover in an era when that is unacceptable. A great read. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Summary: Harriet Vane is accused of murdering her lover with arsenic. Lord Peter Wimsey believes she is innocent despite damning evidence and sets about to prove it.

Harriet Vane is awaiting the jury's verdict. She is on trial for murdering a former lover, Philip Boyes after breaking off their relationship. Both are authors, Vane as a mystery writer the more successful. Her current novel concerns poisoning by arsenic and in her research she obtained samples of arsenic under assumed names. Following several meetings with her, Boyes suffered gastric distress. After going away for his health, he returns, and after dining with his cousin Norman Urquhart, he visits Harriet one more time to plead his case. That night, he falls terribly ill with gastric distress, of which he dies four days later. After a nurse's suspicions are made known, an autopsy uncovers arsenic as the cause of death.

The cousin seems to have an airtight alibi--the two had shared the same food and drink, some of which Boyes himself had prepared. Hence Vane is the only plausible suspect with means, motive, and opportunity. Yet in the end, the jury comes back with a "hung" verdict. Wimsey takes an interest in the case, believing her innocent, and uses the reprieve to investigate. He focuses on Urquhart, whose alibi seems just a bit too perfect.

This leads to what is the most amusing part of the story as Miss Climpson and her typing agency, supported by Lord Peter, go undercover. Miss Murchison goes to work in Urquhart's office. And Miss Climpson cultivates a spiritualist interest in the caregiver of wealthy old Cremorna Garden, an infirm relative of Urquhart and Boyes. And of course, the ever-resourceful Bunter befriends the household staff of Urquhart.

Time is winding down. Suspicions are confirmed. But will Wimsey get the evidence needed to exonerate Harriet? And how will she respond to Lord Peter's proposal of marriage?

This is all great, good fun in what seemed to me one of Sayers' fastest paced mysteries. Sayers introduces in Vane a strong female character who makes one wonder if she is modeled after Sayers herself. She inserts an egalitarian interest as Detective Parker becomes engaged to Lady Mary, Wimsey's younger sister, with his full support. All wrapped up in a great story. ( )
  BobonBooks | Jan 1, 2017 |
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 |
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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)

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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)

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