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Before the Poison Paperback – Jun 5 2012

18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (June 5 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 077107624X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771076244
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.9 x 22.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #134,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Praise for Peter Robinson:

"Robinson, actually seems to grow in front of our eyes, delivering books of greater complexity each time." 
— Otto Penzler

"Robinson is incapable of writing a dull sentence." 
— People Magazine

"Robinson quietly and methodically stretches the boundries of crime fiction." 
— National Post

"Robinson, of course, is among the upper elite of crime writers...."
— Hamilton Spectator

From the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

Chris Lowndes built a comfortable career composing scores for films in Hollywood. But after twenty-five years abroad, and still quietly reeling from the death of his beloved wife, he decides to return to the Yorkshire dales of his youth. To ease the move, he buys Kilnsgate House, a rambling old mansion deep in the country.

Although Chris finds Kilnsgate charming, something about the house disturbs him, a vague sensation that the long-empty rooms have been waiting for him—feelings made ever stronger when he learns that the house was the scene of a murder more than fifty years before. The former owner, a prominent doctor named Ernest Arthur Fox, was supposedly poisoned by his beautiful and much younger wife, Grace. Arrested and brought to trial, Grace was found guilty and hanged for the crime.

His curiosity piqued, Chris talks to the locals and searches through archives for information about the case. But the more he discovers, the more convinced he becomes that Grace may have been innocent. Ignoring warnings to leave it alone, he sets out to discover what really happened over half a century ago—a quest that takes him deep into the past and into a web of secrets that lie all too close to the present.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Oct. 11 2011
Format: Hardcover
Peter Robinson has long been one of my favourite authors and I pick up anything with his name on it, knowing I'll be in for a good read. His latest book Before the Poison, is not part of his series featuring Inspector Banks, but is instead, a stand alone work.

Chris Lowndes left England when he was younger for the United States. He made quite a name for himself as a movie score composer. When his wife dies, Chris decides it's time to return home to England. He and Laura had planned to retire there. He buys an isolated house, sight unseen. When he arrives at the home, he is curious about the former inhabitants of the house. When he finds that it was the site of the murder of local physician, Dr. Fox and that his wife Grace was hanged for that murder, Chris indulges his curiosity and begins looking further into the trial. Curiosity quickly turns into almost obsession as he begins to doubt the official version of what really happened.

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

This was a very different read from the Banks books. The pacing is much slower, taking time to build the layers of the story slowly and carefully. We follow Chris as he becomes increasingly insistent on discovering more about Grace. The story is told from three sources - Chris's inquiries, excerpts from a book called Famous Trials and finally bits from Grace's own journal, kept during her wartime nursing years. I found the journal entries especially poignant and extremely well written.

Much time is spent on developing the characters, their reasoning and their emotions. And this absolutely works for this story - anything faster would have ruined the atmospheric, period piece tone and feel of the tale.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anna Penney on Oct. 27 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I always preorder Peter Robinson's books as I want to read them as soon as they become available.
This book was excellent, I won't reiterate what the previous reviewer said as I agree with him. The book was slow paced but you didn't become impatient with the writing. I do admit, I did drink more wine than usual reading the book because Chris always seemed to be sipping a glass of red.
The fact that Mr. Robinson can leave his Inspector Banks series and write such a well developed book, only speaks of how talented he is.
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Format: Hardcover
There is no doubting Peter Robinson's talent and ability to write more than just the Inspector Banks novels. Two things made an impact on me. What stood out most in this book for me was the commentary on how terrible the judicial system in the 1950's UK was with Grace guilty in the eyes of everyone at the time simply because she had an affair. Unbelievable to take a jump to her being a murderess based on no evidence.
The second was an excellent history lesson on how the nurses and indeed other women were treated and subsequently ignored in WW2 who endured terrible atrocities and sadly were told to go home and return to the role of wife and mother and not talk about the lives they endured. I like to think that women in most parts of the world have made tremendous advances since to assure their true roles in history. The only parts I found somewhat boring were the selections of the book about the trial which I think could have been condensed considerably.
I hope Robinson will work on more Inspector Banks novels in the near future.
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By Ted Feit TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Dec 7 2011
Format: Hardcover
Diverting his attention from the popular and successful Inspector Banks series, the author has written a murder mystery of a different genre. Instead of a police procedural, he has undertaken to use a variety of literary devices to unravel the truth behind a death that took place sixty years ago.

It begins when Chris Lowndes, reeling from the death of his wife, decides to buy a home on the Yorkshire Dales. He purchases Kilnsgate House, a large, bleak, isolated structure in which he hopes to recover from his depression, and, perhaps write a sonata instead of the incidental music for motion pictures which he did for many years on the West Coast of the US. No sooner does he take possession than he becomes haunted by its past: Grace Fox, the former owner, was accused and convicted of poisoning her husband, a respected local physician. And she was hanged for it.

Chris becomes so obsessed that he endeavors to 'discover' the truth, initially convinced that she was innocent of the charge. The author leads the reader (and Chris) from supposition to fact, alternating excerpts of Grace's wartime diary (she was a nurse, first in Singapore, then escaping the Japanese, suffering a series of devastating experiences, finally serving in France before returning to her husband at Kilnsgate House) and various interviews with aged characters, including her younger lover now living in Paris and a man who as a seven-year-old lived with the Foxes for a time as an evacuee at the beginning of World War II.

The shifts in the plot, as Chris conducts his 'investigation,' are truly ingenious, keeping the reader off balance to a fare-thee-well. The characters are well-drawn, and the author undertook deep research to create Grace's diary. While the novel may seem at times somewhat dry and slow to read, it constantly draws the reader forward and is well worth reading, and it is highly recommended.
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