Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

"I had a curious sensation that the shy half-hidden house was waiting for me, that it had been waiting for some time."

Christopher Lowndes left England as a young man and became a success in Hollywood composing music for Oscar-winning films but always imagined he would come circle, home to Yorkshire with his beloved wife Laura. 

Now he is back in the Yorkshire Dales, but Laura is dead, and Chris needs to make a new life for himself. The isolated house he buys sight unseen should give him the space to come to terms with his grief and the quiet to allow him to work. 

Kilnsgate House turns out to be rather more than he expected, however. A man died there sixty years ago. His wife was convicted of murder. And something is pulling Chris deeper and deeper into the story of Grace Elizabeth Fox, who was hanged by the neck until she was dead.........

I've read a lot of crime fiction this year but this has to be one of the best - I loved it! I picked the book up randomly at the library and noticed that Peter Robinson is the author of nineteen police procedural books in a series featuring DI Banks - I've read none of them but as the cover mentioned this was a stand-alone I thought I'd try it, and very glad I did.

The bleak winter landscape of the Yorkshire Dales and the isolation of an old house create a haunting atmosphere amidst which a grieving man sits alone with his memories, his music and vintage movies. I really enjoyed the references to music that moved from classical to jazz to modern and recognising the titles of wonderful old  films.
Gradually Chris becomes more involved with the life of Grace Fox , wanting to know more of the murder and then becoming determined to prove her innocence.

Extracts from "Famous Trials' which Chris is reading are used between his narrative and provide an account of the murder and the trial of Grace Fox. Later , when Grace's journals from WWII come to light , the real Grace emerges from her experiences as a Queen Alexandra's nurse suffering the horrors of the Japanese invasion of Singapore followed by further service in France.

Not for those who like fast-paced action but an intriguing mystery with a quiet revelation bringing a stunning and unexpected climax to a story that is more a study of loss, grief and guilt than it is a crime novel.
Excellent reading - I recommend!

1 comment:

  1. I don't really read much crime fiction but I think I should start- it seems like a lot of it is really well written and compelling reading.