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Before the Poison: A Novel
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Before the Poison: A Novel

4.1 14
by Peter Robinson

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From New York Times bestselling author Peter Robinson comes this mesmerizing story-within-a-story about a man pulled into a murder from the past—and his quest to uncover the truth.

Quietly reeling from the death of his beloved wife, Chris Lowndes decides to return to the Yorkshire Dales after twenty-five successful years spent in Hollywood


From New York Times bestselling author Peter Robinson comes this mesmerizing story-within-a-story about a man pulled into a murder from the past—and his quest to uncover the truth.

Quietly reeling from the death of his beloved wife, Chris Lowndes decides to return to the Yorkshire Dales after twenty-five successful years spent in Hollywood composing film scores. He purchases Kilnsgate House, a charming old mansion deep in the country, but something about the place disturbs him. His unease intensifies when he learns Kilnsgate was once the scene of a sensational murder. More than fifty years earlier, prominent doctor Ernest Arthur Fox was poisoned there, allegedly by his beautiful and much younger wife, Grace, who was subsequently tried, condemned, and hanged for the crime.

His curiosity piqued, Chris decides to investigate, and the more he discovers, the more convinced he becomes of Grace's innocence. Despite warnings to leave it be, his quest for the truth is soon leading him through dark shadows of the past . . . and into a strange web of secrets that lie perilously close to the present.

A complex, multi-layered thriller, Before the Poison is one of Peter Robinson’s most brilliant novels—and one readers won’t soon forget.

“A gripping tale that brings to mind not only old-time Hollywood but also British ‘golden age’ storytelling in the Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier tradition.”—Wall Street Journal




Editorial Reviews

Globe and Mail on Before the Poison
Globe & Mail on Before the Poison
Publishers Weekly
At the outset of this haunting stand-alone from Arthur Ellis Award–winner Robinson (No Cure for Love), British film composer Chris Lowndes, a recent widower, leaves California after more than 30 years for the peace and quiet of the Yorkshire countryside. He buys isolated Kilnsgate House, which the estate agent neglects to mention was the site of a sensational crime. Intercut are passages from a fictional true crime book, Famous Trials, depicting the 1953 case against Grace Fox, who was convicted of poisoning her husband, Dr. Ernest Fox, at Kilnsgate, and hanged. While Chris’s initial interest is simple curiosity, the more he learns about Grace, the more his interest veers toward obsession. In piecing together the murder case and Grace’s extraordinary life as a nurse during WWII, Chris discovers as much about himself as he does about her. Robinson manages a melancholy tone without veering into the maudlin, and the presence of Grace Fox permeates every page. Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. (Feb.)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
5.42(w) x 7.78(h) x 0.92(d)

Meet the Author

One of the world’s most popular and acclaimed writers, Peter Robinson is the bestselling, award-winning author of the Inspector Banks series; he has also written two short-story collections and three standalone novels, which combined have sold more than ten million copies around the world. Among his many honors and prizes are the Edgar Award, the CWA (UK) Dagger in the Library Award, and Sweden’s Martin Beck Award. He divides his time between Toronto and England.

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Before the Poison 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This mystery involves an expat Hollywood movie composer returning to Yorkshire to live in a rambling farm house he discovers was the home of a woman who was executed for murdering her husband in 1953. The mystery continues with a dual narrative of the woman's diary as a nurse in the Far East during the Second World War, and the composer's investigation of persons and facts pertaining to her case, with the view of proving her innocence. There are some twists and turns to the investigation but the composer comes up with solution he is satisfied with, but possibly not the reader. There are many references to classical and some to rock music which readers may not be familiar with.
bookwalker More than 1 year ago
Chris Lowndes, a recent widow, escapes Los Angeles for the isolation of a mansion in Yorkshire. Soon after buying Kilnsgate he delves into its past which stems from a murder/hanging. He becomes obsessed with proving the hanged wife, Grace Fox, innocent, and in doing so meets many people from her past. In an unexpected twist, Chris discovers a link between Grace's life and his own. This book gives lots of detail of Yorkshire, which I visited more than ten years ago. Besides a murder mystery, you will discover history from the 1930's, 40's and 50's. The ending was a complete surprise to me in many ways. A truly satisfying read!
cubicleblindnessKM More than 1 year ago
Chris is a widower and now, later in life has decided to return home to settle down, purchasing a house out in the country for a quite place to work on a new project. He becomes obsessed with the story of the past owners’ of the house, which turns out to be a famous recent murder cases. Everywhere he looks in the house he feels Grace’s presence and cannot escape the nagging feeling there was more to her life than being accused of murdering her husband. The writing is so atmospheric and really takes the reader to a relaxing and sometimes melancholy world. The descriptions of the house and the land were breath-taking. It gives the reader the feeling of really being there, in this gorgeous mansion, expansive lands and quaint local stores and pubs. This is my first read from author Peter Robinson. I loved the writing style and feelings that the story evoked. I must admit that I was expecting for the story to be more edgy as the clues began to unravel but it was like reading a classic crime novel; a slow unraveling of details and not much of a “big” moment, but an ending that lingers with you. There are times when we are taken deep into the aftermath of World War II as Chris learns more about Grace’s life as a nurse; inlcuding pages of historical information about the process of war and the use of poisons and gas testing. About halfway through, we are introduced to Grace more directly through her old writings and get to see her life from her own perspective which was interesting and really puts us in her head. I had to take the book in sections and didn’t experience a lot of gasping, or moments that caught me off-guard. Through his research and travels to find out about Grace’s life, Chris learns many things, solving more than one mystery along the way. These side stories held more of the “edge” I was looking for in the main narrative. It is very much a character driven story, not only revolving around the obsession Chris has with Grace, but about his own life as well. He’s distracted from the events of his past. Moving to this quiet house was supposed to give him the space and time he needed for his new project, but he cannot concentrate and finds these distractions welcome. The time he takes to learn about Grace lets him come to terms with events from his own life. If you’re looking for a read that is light on the crime and mystery with a slower moving plot line and a gradual revelation of secrets from the past (as well as travels from England to France to Southern Africa), this is your book. It will take you all over the world through the eyes of both Chris and Grace. Before the Poison is a novel of great writing that is both visually aesthetic and emotionally atmospheric.
GreenEyedReader More than 1 year ago
Very good read. Widowed musical score writer moves back to England from the US to an old, isolated house with a past. Protagonist gets involved trying to investigate this history while trying to recover from the death of his wife and writing his own sonata.WW2 connection. Well written. Good storyline with good characters and an unexpected revelation toward the end.
BusyProfessional More than 1 year ago
Wow, what a terrific book. I expected a mystery, but Robinson delves into pieces of history I never knew about. Blew me away. Read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CandyBoo More than 1 year ago
This book kept my attention and it wasn't bad, it was just slower then I expected. Thought the story was going to have more of a take you back in time and learn the real truth kind of setting. Don't get me wrong it was a good book and kept me reading, but just wasn't what I was looking for going into the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MJaneTX More than 1 year ago
It is wonderful to be back in the Yorkshire Dales, for better or worse, with Peter Robinson. I've enjoyed his Inspector Banks series and was prepared to like this one from the start. More standalones if you please Mr. Robinson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
whatsnew More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Mr. Robinsons novels. All of his Inspector Banks series,and I have always thouroughlly enjoyed every thing hes written Dont you forget me and when another novel is written ,please notify me..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book was interesting but hard to keep your interest sometimes.....