Before The Poison
by Peter Robinson
Over the past year or so, I’ve been sucked into non-American crime, spy, and mystery stories, though more in my Netflix-provided series binging, and a little less so in my reading. MI-5/Spooks, Prime Suspect, Wallander (both Swedish and English versions), and a smattering of other similar shows have filled my time while I wait for new episodes of Doctor Who (March 30!). So even though my usual reading habits fall into that vaguely defined genre of “literary fiction,” I’ve decided to occasionally venture out into other word neighborhoods, this time with British mystery writer Peter Robinson.
Before The Poison is the story of Chris Lowndes, a well-off film score composer who has just returned to England after the death of his wife. He’s lived in the States for twenty-five years, and he feels like he needs a change and the space to work on some non-film related music. Just outside a small Yorkshire town, he buys an old mansion, Kilnsgate House. The remoteness of it feels both fitting and unsettling, even more so when he discovers that a man was supposedly murdered there fifty years before.
Grace Fox was tried and hanged for poisoning her doctor husband, Ernest, despite there being only circumstantial evidence for her guilt. This story, for a number of reasons, makes Chris curious about what really might have happened, and finding out becomes a project for him. Is it a distraction from his grief? Yes. Is he okay with that? For now. However, the strange feelings he’s having about Grace Fox’s case and his wife are leaving him unable to get a good night’s rest.