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Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
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Strong Poison (original 1930; edition 1985)

by Dorothy L. Sayers (Author), Christianna Brand (Introduction)

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3,226761,719 (4.06)249
Member:MsCellophane
Title:Strong Poison
Authors:Dorothy L. Sayers (Author)
Other authors:Christianna Brand (Introduction)
Info:Bantam Books (1985), Hardcover, 212 pages
Collections:Your library, Illinois library, Read
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Tags:fiction

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Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers (1930)

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    Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (aulsmith)
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    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 70 (next | show all)
Strong Poison is the fifth of Dorothy L. Sayers' full-length murder-mystery novels featuring aristocratic amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey. This is the novel in which he meets the love of his life, Harriet Vane, under adverse circumstances - she is being tried for the murder of her lover.

Lord Peter is convinced that Harriet is innocent, but unfortunately he is the only person (other than Harriet herself) to think so; indeed, the evidence is overwhelming. But Lord Peter is determined to prove Harriet innocent, and to woo her at the same time.

Both of this objectives turn out to be rather difficult; the real murderer is diabolically clever, and Harriet herself has been hurt by her appalling lover (a young man whom I consider to be very much better off dead) and by her ordeal. Lord Peter's proposal falls sadly flat: it's only one of many she's had since she was arrested, since notoriety is attractive to some. Her opinion of men, therefore, would require deep-shaft mining equipment to be lower, and her opinion of herself is hardly better.

I've read this book many times; it's one of my favourites in the series. Not only is Sayers' plotting beautifully, devilishly, clever, but she is an excellent writer of character. Lord Peter comes across as rather dramatic and affected, but as you get to know him, you realise it's mostly a pose to hide his real feelings from the world. After all, if the world is going to laugh at him, he is damn well going to be in control of what they laugh at, and when.

Harriet, on the other hand, is a clever, middle-class young woman who got involved with a young man who tricked her into becoming his lover - in a society where sex before marriage was still shocking - by declaring that he, an avant garde novelist, didn't believe in marriage. Now she's agreed, and damned herself into the eyes of society thereby, he is ready to reward her sacrifice with marriage. She sees right through his hypocrisy and dumps him, thus beginning the chain of events that ends with her in the dock.

The pair of them are real, complex people. They've both been hurt in the past; they're both ferociously intelligent (Sayers herself was one of the first female Oxford graduates, and she does the reader the courtesy of assuming they are just as intelligent as she and her characters are) and they're both proud, although of different things. They are clearly drawn to each other, but Harriet can't bring herself to trust anyone, certainly not someone to whom she owes a debt of gratitude. Right from the beginning, though, you know that they are meant for each other - it's a union of minds, not a union of bodies. It's a refreshing change from so many of today's novels where lust takes the place of love, and authors write characters who are physically attracted to each other but seem to pay no attention to each other's personalities.

Anyone, moreover, who expects that Harriet will fall into Peter's arms at the end of the book is doomed to disappointment: why would she? She has her life back, given to her by Peter, but does that mean that he now has the right to dictate how she will spend it? No, it does not, and Harriet is determined to make sure he - and everyone else - knows that. Poor Peter is going to have to do a lot more digging, and Harriet is going to have to forgive him for being the person to get her out of a humiliating hole - and forgive herself for being fool enough to fall in love with an unworthy man, which got her into the hole in the first place - before she can regain the emotional strength and equilibrium to make a new start.

Harriet and Peter are real; they are hurt, and they occasionally hurt each other, either intentionally or accidentally. They each want what the relationship promises, but they are also afraid of it. Their relationship begins badly on both sides, and it takes a long time for them to repair the damage. And we get to see it happen, not in one book, because it's too complex a process for that - such problems are not so easy to solve. It takes several books, but the wait is worth it.

The Lord Peter Wimsey books are classics of detective fiction; it was first published in 1930 and is still in print. How many of today's novels will still be in print in seventy years' time? But unlike many classics, Lord Peter has stood the test of time. Yes, in some ways he is dated - the way he speaks, the way he dresses, his whole world, is gone. But his humanity, the relationships he has with his beloved (eccentric) mother the Dowager Duchess, his huntin', shootin' and fishin' older brother the Duke of Denver and the appalling Helen, the Duchess; his valet - not only manservant but also right-hand-man and, in a way, trusted friend - these are still very relevant.

The Lord Peter Wimsey books are some of my favourites; I've read all of them over and over. If you like a well-written story with excellent characterisation and some fiendish plotting, then you will enjoy these books too. ( )
  T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers is the fifth featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, a nobleman and an amateur detective.

The story takes place in 1930 London. Mystery author Harriet Vane is on trial for the murder of her lover, Philip Boyes. The trial ends with a hung jury and is scheduled to be heard again in a month. Following the trial, Lord Peter visits Harriet in prison and declares his belief in her innocence and promises to catch the real murderer. He also announces his intention to marry her - which she rejects. Lord Peter enlists his friends and associates in his endeavor - DI Charles Parker, Hon. Freddy Arbuthnot and a highly entertaining "spy", Miss Murchison.

To be honest, it took me a bit to get into the book. The original crime is presented by the judge at the trial summarizing the case before sending the jury out for deliberation. In both book and audio format, this setup was slow and ponderous. However, once Wimsey starts investigating the crime, the pace picks up and the story becomes more interesting. There is a seance scene with Miss Murchison which is laugh-out-loud in parts. The crime is, of course, solved.

Rating: 4 stars. ( )
  bhabeck | Feb 26, 2017 |
3.5

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 |
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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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There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.
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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)

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