Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers: B+

From the back cover:
The Crown’s case was watertight. The police were adamant that the right person was on trial. The judge’s summing up was also clear. ‘The prisoner had the means—the arsenic. She had the opportunity to administer it.’ Harriet Vane was guilty. And Harriet Vane should hang. But the jury disagreed. And so did Lord Peter Wimsey—he had to prove that Harriet hadn’t murdered her lover with arsenic—and he also had to find out who had.

Alas, I was rather disappointed in Strong Poison. True, it addressed one of the complaints I had early on in the series and featured loads of personal drama for the investigators. I liked the turn Peter took here—in love and accepting rejection with grace and angst—and I liked Harriet, too, though there wasn’t enough of her. Miss Climpson and another enterprising spinster were also entertaining and made valuable contributions to the case.

But! I just about tore my hair out when another confounded will entered the picture. There was a twist involved that made it slightly different than a matter of mere inheritance, but just once, I’d like to read a Sayers book that mentions neither a testatrix nor a legatee! There was also a certain clue that, by the randomness of its inclusion, enabled me to immediately guess the method in which the arsenic was administered.

Despite not being everything I’d hoped for, it was still probably the best of the Sayers so far.

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  1. The mystery in this book was ok (I find Sayers very weak on the mystery side of things), but I thought the whole Peter in love thing just irritating in the extreme. It’s developed far more successfully over later books, but I didn’t feel it was handled well at all in this book. It was forced and it was obvious that it was forced.

  2. I did have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, I liked seeing Peter experience some sort of personal anguish, but we definitely did not see any of the how he came to be in love with her. I think that he professed a desire to marry her in their first meeting, inf act. I also thought that suddenly bringing up Parker’s thing for Mary (from, like, 4 books ago) and getting them together was VERY forced.

    I was thinking that perhaps I’d have liked this mystery better if it were my first Sayers and I hadn’t just read all those other ones with a similar plot. It’s kind of hard to envision it being my first exposure to her, but I suspect I would’ve enjoyed it at least somewhat better.


  1. […] her belief that she has so thoroughly messed up attempts at love (Peter first meets her in Strong Poison when she is on trial for killing her lover) that she had better give up, and, most strongly, the […]

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