Strong Poison (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery)

( 11 )

Overview

Mystery novelist Harriet Vane knew all about poisons, and when her fianc? died in the manner prescribed in one of her books, a jury of her peers had a hangman's noose in mind. But Lord Peter Wimsey was determined to find her innocent?as determined as he was to make her his wife.

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Strong Poison

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Overview

Mystery novelist Harriet Vane knew all about poisons, and when her fiancé died in the manner prescribed in one of her books, a jury of her peers had a hangman's noose in mind. But Lord Peter Wimsey was determined to find her innocent—as determined as he was to make her his wife.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061043505
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Series: Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy L. Sayers
A refined author with a talent for wry mysteries spiced with quotations of verse and observations about English society, Dorothy L. Sayers created aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. Though best known for her entertaining crime novels, the lively minded Sayers also wrote plays, poetry and essays on Christianity.

Biography

Dorothy L. Sayers, the greatest of the golden age detective novelists, was born in Oxford in 1893. She was one of the first women to be awarded a degree by Oxford University and worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency from 1921 to 1932. Her aristocratic detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, became one of the most popular fictional heroes of the twentieth century. Dorothy L. Sayers also became famous for her religious plays, notably The Man Born to be King, which was broadcast controversially during the war years, but she considered her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy to be her best work. She died in 1957.

Author biography courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Dorothy Leigh Sayers (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 13, 1893
    2. Place of Birth:
      Oxford, England
    1. Date of Death:
      December 17, 1957

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

The judge was an old man; so old, he seemed to have outlived time- and change and death. His parrot-face and parrot-voice were dry, like his old, heavily-veined hands. His scarlet robe clashed harshly with the crimson of the roses. He had sat for three days in the stuffy court, but he showed no sign of fatigue.

He did not look at the prisoner as he gathered his notes into a neat sheaf and turned to address the jury, but the prisoner looked at him. Her eyes, like dark smudges under the heavy square brows, seemed equally without fear and without hope. They waited.

"Members of the jury--"

The patient old eyes seemed to sum them up and take stock of their united intelligence. Three respectable tradesmen--a tall, argumentative one, a stout, embarrassed one with a drooping moustache, and an unhappy one with a bad cold; a director of a large company, anxious not to waste valuable time; a publican, incongruously cheerful; two youngish men of the artisan class; a nondescript, elderly man, of educated appearance, who might have been anything; an artist with a red beard disguising a weak chin; three women--an elderly spinster, a stout capable woman who kept a sweet-shop, and a harassed wife and mother whose thoughts seemed to be continually straying to her abandoned hearth.

"Members of the jury-you have listened with great patience and attention to the evidence in this very distressing case, and it is now my duty to sum up the facts and arguments which ha' been put before you by the learned Attorney-General and by the learned Counsel for theDefense, and to put them in order as clearly as possible, so as to help you in forming your decision.

"But first of all, perhaps I ought to say a few words with regard to that decision itself. You know, I am sure, that it is a great principle of English law that every accused person is held to be innocent unless and until he is proved otherwise. It is not necessary for him, or her, to prove innocence; it is, in the modern slang phrase, 'up to' the Crown to prove guilt, and unless you are quite satisfied that the Crown has done this beyond all reasonable doubt, it is your duty to return a verdict of 'Not Guilty.' That does not necessarily mean that the prisoner has established her innocence by proof, it simply means that the Crown has failed to produce in your minds an undoubted conviction of her guilt."

Salcombe Hardy, lifting his drowned-violet eyes for a moment from his reporter's note-book, scribbled two words on a slip of paper and pushed them over to Waffles Newton. "Judge hostile." Waffles nodded. They were old hounds on this blood-trail.

The judge creaked on.

"You may perhaps wish to hear from me exactly what is meant by those words 'reasonable doubt.' They mean, just so much doubt as you might have in every-day life about an ordinary matter of business. This is a case of murder, and it might be natural for you to think that, in such a case, the words mean more than this. But that is not so. They do not mean that you must cast about for fantastical solutions of what seems to you plain, and simple. They do not mean. those nightmare doubts which sometimes torment us at four o'clock in the morning when we have not slept very well. They only mean that the proof must be such as you would accept about a plain matter of buying and selling, or some such commonplace transaction. You must not strain your belief in favour of the prisoner any more, of course, than you must accept proof of her guilt without the most careful scrutiny.

"Having said just these few words, go that you may not feel too much overwhelmed by the heavy responsibility laid upon you by your duty to, the State, I will now begin at the beginning and try to place the story that we have heard, as clearly as possible before you.

"The case for the Crown is that the prisoner, Harriet Vane, murdered Philip Boyes by poisoning him with arsenic. I need not detain you by going through the proof offered by Sir James Lubbock and the other doctors who have given evidence as to the cause of death. The Crown say he died of arsenical poisoning, and the defence do not dispute it. The evidence is, therefore, that the death was due to arsenic, and you must accept that as a fact. The only question that remains for you is whether, in fact, that arsenic was deliberately administered by the prisoner with intent to murder.

"The deceased, Philip Boyes, was, as you have heard, a writer. He was thirty-six years old, and he had published five novels and a large number of essays and articles. All these literary works were of what is sometimes called an 'advanced' type. They preached doctrines which may seem to some of us immoral or seditious, such as atheism, and anarchy, and what is known as free love. His private life appears to have been conducted, for some time at least, in accordance with these doctrines.

"At any rate, at some time in the year 1927, he became acquainted with Harriet Vane. They met in some of those artistic and literary circles where 'advanced' topics are discussed, and after a time they became very friendly. The prisoner is also a novelist by profession, and it is very important to remember that she is a writer of so-called 'mystery' or 'detective' stories, such as deal with various ingenious methods of committing murder and other crimes.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2004

    Predictable but Splendid

    It seems that Sayers only conjures up a detective plot for total absence of structure. She has a wonderful assortment of characters and conflicts outside of the dully predictable mystery (your's truly guessed the murder, motive, and means by page 15, much like the Dowager Duchess) but can't very well write a pointless book about only them and their captivating allusions and habits. The mstery is therefore introduced to hold everyone together with a common goal. This isn't for connoisseurs of the detective novel, only for those of mood and educated comedy. I personally prefer Poirot's 'little grey cells' method to Wimsey's active sleuthing, but it helps to think that Wimsey's sleuthing isn't nearly everything Sayers's books focus on.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    If you like English murder mysteries, you will truly like Dorothy Sayers

    Not only a good murder mystery, but also a close look at a bygone era of manners, behavior, and the old-fashioned sense of honor

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    Wow

    Very good

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  • Posted August 30, 2013

    Lord Peter meets Harriet Vane - fireworks

    This first meeting between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane sets the stage for 3 more mysterious and romantic adventures. If you love Lord Peter, his real story begins with Harriet. Read on!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 3, 2013

    Complicated and clever mystery...

    Well, I wrote an in-depth and thoughtful review about this story, written by one of my favorite authors. Unfortunately, the website ate it without warning. I do not think I can duplicate it again.

    Suffice to say that the Lord Peter Wimsey novels are one of the few mysteries that I can re-read over and over again. Strong Poison introduces the character of mystery novelist Harriet Vane, whom Lord Peter falls in love with on first sight. Problem is, his first sight of her is when she's in court on trial for murdering her former lover. It will take all his ingenuity, intelligence, and charm to save Harriet's life--and convince her his feelings for her are real.

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  • Posted September 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Strong Woman

    This is the first Lord Peter novel to feature Harriet Vane. Try to start with this one if you can. There are other Lord Peter books without her, including the first one, Whose Body? Sayers is right up there with Christie, so give her a try.

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  • Posted February 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A New Wrinkle

    In this installment it is not necessarily the mystery that grips or holds the reader, but once again the singularly enjoyable experience of observing Lord Wimsey, especially within the new wrinkle of his determination to rescue the damsel from the gallows and win her hand in marriage. Another great and enjoyable read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

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    Posted November 9, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

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