Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey #6) ★★★✬☆

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Title: Strong Poison
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #6
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 215
Words: 78K


From Wikipedia

The novel opens with mystery author Harriet Vane on trial for the murder of her former lover, Phillip Boyes: a writer with strong views on atheism, anarchy, and free love. Publicly professing to disapprove of marriage, he had persuaded a reluctant Harriet to live with him, only to renounce his principles a year later and to propose. Harriet, outraged at being deceived, had broken off the relationship.

Following the separation, the former couple met occasionally, and the evidence at trial points to Boyes suffering from repeated bouts of gastric illness at around the time that Harriet was buying poisons under assumed names, to demonstrate – so she says – a plot point of her novel then in progress.

Returning from a holiday in North Wales in better health, Boyes dined with his cousin, the solicitor Norman Urquhart, before going to Harriet’s flat to discuss reconciliation, where he accepted a cup of coffee. That night he was taken fatally ill, apparently with gastritis. Foul play was eventually suspected, and a post-mortem revealed that Boyes died from acute arsenic poisoning. Apart from Harriet’s coffee and the evening meal with his cousin (in which every item had been shared by two or more people), the victim appears to have taken nothing else that evening.

The trial results in a hung jury. As a unanimous verdict is required, the judge orders a re-trial. Lord Peter Wimsey visits Harriet in prison, declares his conviction of her innocence and promises to catch the real murderer. Wimsey also announces that he wishes to marry her, a suggestion that Harriet politely but firmly declines.

Working against time before the new trial, Wimsey first explores the possibility that Boyes took his own life. Wimsey’s friend, Detective Inspector Charles Parker, disproves that theory. The rich great-aunt of the cousins Urquhart and Boyes, Rosanna Wrayburn, is old and senile, and according to Urquhart (who is acting as her family solicitor) when she dies most of her fortune will pass to him, with very little going to Boyes. Wimsey suspects that to be a lie, and sends his enquiry agent Miss Climpson to get hold of Rosanna’s original will, which she does in a comic scene exposing the practices of fraudulent mediums. The will in fact names Boyes as principal beneficiary.

Wimsey plants a spy, Miss Joan Murchison, in Urquhart’s office where she finds a hidden packet of arsenic. She also discovers that Urquhart had abused his position as Rosanna’s solicitor, embezzled her investments, then lost the money on the stock market. Urquhart realised that he would face inevitable exposure should Rosanna die and Boyes claim his inheritance. However, Boyes was unaware of the will’s contents and Urquhart reasoned that if Boyes were to die first, nobody could challenge him as sole remaining beneficiary, and his fraud would not be revealed.

After perusing A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad (in which the poet likens the reading of serious poetry to King Mithridates’ self-immunization against poisons) Wimsey suddenly understands what had happened: Urquhart had administered the arsenic in an omelette which Boyes himself had cooked. Although Boyes and Urquhart had shared the dish, the latter had been unaffected as he had carefully built up his own immunity beforehand by taking small doses of the poison over a long period. Wimsey tricks Urquhart into an admission before witnesses.

At Harriet’s retrial, the prosecution presents no case and she is freed. Exhausted by her ordeal, she again rejects Wimsey’s proposal of marriage. Wimsey persuades Parker to propose to his sister, Lady Mary, whom he has long admired. The Hon. Freddy Arbuthnot, Wimsey’s friend and stock market contact, finds a long-delayed domestic bliss with Rachel Levy, the daughter of the murder victim in Whose Body?

My Thoughts:

Another solid entry in the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series.

My two issues were the romance and how ga-ga Peter gets over Harriet. He’s in his late 30’s or early 40’s and has shown nothing like this in previous books, so it’s hard to take it in this one. He mopes for goodness sake! Second, and almost more importantly, the first 10-20% of the book was the Judge reading all of the notes to the Jury, ie, a huge ass info dump. If I wanted to read that, I’d go read some other series. I hope Sayers doesn’t do this again, it was NOT appreciated.

Other than that, this was fun and it was good to see Peter stymied time and time again. He’s had it entirely too easy so far and a bit of “roughing” it is good for him. I like my characters to suffer a bit if I feel like they’ve had it too easy. If I have to suffer while I live, then the characters I read about had better suffer too or by gum, I’ll take it up with my elected officials!

On the romance side, Peter’s detective friend Parker finally gets the nerve up to ask Peter’s sister to marry him and I DID like that. Parker is a hard worker, salt of the earth and an industrious man. I just hope this development won’t sideline him as a side character.

Outside of the starting “Judge’s notes to the jury/readers”, Sayers kept me interested. With my waning interest in Epic Fantasy, it would appear that the Mystery genre is slowling replacing it or at least taking a large chunk out of it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

34 thoughts on “Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey #6) ★★★✬☆

          1. It starred Ian Carmichael, he’d be perfect for it too. We can get a boxed set of DVD’s, there are 10 discs, but they wouldn’t play in the USA, different region. It has excellent reviews. Can’t find it on streaming anywhere.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. I have learned a very important lesson though. Don’t put more than 10 books from a long running series onto my kindle at once. Break it up.
      I am implementing that process now. You’d think I’d have enough reading experience under my belt by now to have this kind of thing already figured out, but noooooooo…..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 😂😂😂 I like to go one at a time with series – too many read in a quick succession and I get fed up with the whole series 😉 but one at a time is just the right amount to still be able to enjoy it!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sorry, I was referring to an annual basis 😀

          I’m with you 100% though about not reading books in a series back to back. Unless it’s a trilogy that is the best. But even then, better to play it safe!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I had this one omnibus on Cadfael and felt somehow obliged to get through as many of the books as I could in the three months I had the omnibus on lease, which turned out to be a mistake – I got bored with repetition by the book 3. I’ll return to Cadfael at some point, it’s nice enough cozy mystery, but yeah, too much of a good thing just stops being so good 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tales. For me, the change of pace from SFF and manga is what makes the mystery genre so appealing. But I’m trying to keep the amount small so I don’t burn out.

      Definitely worth trying out if you’re in a reading slump 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too! I was reading this Big Time blog and some awesome commentors were going on about them.
      I hear that sporrans are a great accessory if you feel the need for a 3rd monocle. Personally, I’m not a fan of sporrans, prefer a holster myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have noticed a renewed interest in the crime/thriller genre myself: once upon a time I read much more of it, and it seems to be making a huge comeback, not so much because I’m getting tired of my usual diet of SFF, but rather because I think I need more variety in my reading material.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mystery took up my usual SF space this last year. I like it because of the satisfying justice at the end. Also, one of my favorite new authors writes comedic mysteries (Emily Organ). Justice and comedy make a good pairing when the world is going completely insane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had not thought of that particular aspect, but I suspect you’re on the right track. Fantasy used to be about Good triumphing over Evil. Now, there is no Good 😦

      I’ve got Nero Wolfe, Lord Peter Wimsey and Father Brown all on tap. Any recommendations? How “girly” is this Emily Organ?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been working my way through the complete Father Brown this last year, too. I do love Chesterton.
        Emily Organ has female protagonists, so her books are a bit girly. One, a 19th C journalist, is young and slightly feminist but very interesting. I’m really in love with her Churchill series, though. Churchill is an old lady and the classic English bumbling idiot. She is wonderful. It is not great literature I guess, but it’s fun in the vein of Wodehouse or Christie.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t mind female protaginists, I’m just leery of 21st century feminism creeping in and pretending to be something else.

          The Churchill series sounds interesting. Thanks.


    1. Mystery also seems to deal with more mature people or situations. I’ve got Sanderson’s original Mistborn trilogy on tap and I’m looking forward to reading it to see how my thoughts have changed.

      It’s also like another commentor said, modern fantasy has gotten away from Right and Wrong. It’s turned to Social Justice and moral relativism instead. Maybe modern mysteries have as well, which is why I’m reading the old stuff 😀

      Liked by 2 people

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