Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #6
Publisher: BBC WW
Pub date: 26 Feb 2009
Source: Personal copy
Narrator: Ian Carmichael
Length: 7 hrs and 34 mins
Mystery writer Harriet Vane has been accused of murdering her ex-lover Phillip Boyes by poisoning him with arsenic. Harriet does know an awful lot about arsenic since she has been doing research for her next book. All the evidence seems to support the accusation, but Lord Peter Wimsey is convinced of Harriet’s innocence. When the jury is unable to come to a unanimous verdict, Lord Peter gets a chance to put his sleuthing skills to the test.
Set in the 1930s, Strong Poison is a classic murder mystery from the Golden Age.
Dorothy Sayers books are not easily found in book shops here, so I haven’t been able to find the very first of the series (Whose Body?) But this one is a beginning of sorts – with the beginning of the romance storyline between Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey.
The wit and satire combined with the sleuthing makes think of this series as sort of Wodehouse meets Conan Doyle. But, let’s face it, the mystery in Strong Poison was practically non-existent. In fact, the story starts with a long social commentary on the sins of men and women living together without the sanction of holy matrimony. And anyone who reads crime fiction will figure out the mystery almost right in the beginning.
So if not for the mystery, this book kicks ass because of the female power in it. Harriet Vane is herself strong woman. She is a writer of murder mysteries – an unusual occupation for a woman. She openly lived with her lover and declined his offer of marriage. She is an intriguing character and I completely understand Lord Peter’s attraction to her.
And while Lord Peter’s belief and connections help solve the mystery, it is the other women in this story who really do the heavy lifting by gathering irrefutable evidence.
Miss Climpton and Miss Murchison both go undercover to get information and proof. While Miss Murchison gets a job as a typist for prime suspect, lawyer and cousin of the victim, Miss Climpton has a much more exciting time. She befriends a nurse who takes care of an old actress (Boyes’ great-aunt) to uncover the truth about her will. Interesting because it does lead to a rather improbable situation with a seance, which could have been a lot funnier if it was a lot shorter.
The romance in the story is the sweetest kind. Both Lord Peter and Harriet are very practical people. And I loved that Wimsey was attracted to Harriet for her intelligence, independence and her love of mysteries.
The audiobook: I listened to this as an audiobook and the drama of the story was great fun in this format. I didn’t especially love the narrator, but overall, the audiobook was fun.
Recommended for fans of the Golden Age of mysteries. I can’t suggest the audiobook for this one unfortunately, but the book should be a quick and fun read.
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