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Strong Poison Mass Market Paperback – March 16, 1995

4.4 out of 5 stars 219 customer reviews
Book 6 of 14 in the Lord Peter Wimsey Series

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Mass Market Paperback, March 16, 1995
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“FitzSimmons has come up with a doozy of a sociopath.” —The Washington Post Learn More
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Editorial Reviews


“A model detective story. . . . fascinating.” (New York Times)

“Here is unquestionably a shining star in the mystery story firmament and the best of all the Lord peter Wimsey stories—until the next comes along.” (Saturday Review of Literature)

“The end of this story is as ingenious as any solution could be.” (Times Literary Supplement (London))

From the Publisher

Ian Carmichael is a veteran British actor. His lengthy career includes several portrayals of Lord Peter Wimsey for BBC Television, as well as appearances in other TV series, stage productions, and feature films. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch (March 16, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061043508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061043505
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (219 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 8, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In public life, Dorothy L. Sayers was a scholar, writer, and woman of impeccable morals. In private life, however, she had a torrid love affair and bore a child out of wedlock. In her literature, Sayers expressed the schism between these aspects of her personality via the character of Harriet Vane, who makes her first appearance in the Lord Peter series in STRONG POISON as a fallen woman on trial for her life.

Published in 1930, the novel opens with Harriet Vane in the dock, listening as the judge presiding over trial sums up against her. She is a writer of mildly popular mysteries who has had a liaison with Philip Boyes, a rather pretentious author better know to critics than to the public. Their acrimonious separation is quickly followed by Boyes' death from arsenic--and it seems that Harriet, and Harriet only, had both motive and opportunity.

But the judge reckons without juror Miss Climpson, employee of the celebrated Lord Peter Wimsey, who derails what would seem an open and shut case--and gives Lord Peter the opportunity to unravel the crime. And, not incidentally, to fall in love with the accused. With an infamous actress of the Victorian age lurking in the background and a sizable inheritance on the line, Wimsey rushes to sort out the mystery and save the woman he loves before the case can be retried.

STRONG POISON is not really among Sayer's greatest novels, which combine a unique literary style, memorable characters, and complex plots to remarkable effect. The opening description of the trial, with its detailed account of the judge's comments, feels excessive; the solution to the crime is tricksy and relies heavily on coincidence; and Harriet Vane stands out less effectively than such supporting characters as Miss Climpson.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Dorothy L. Sayers remains the finest of the early 20th century mystery writers: unusually erudite, she earned one of the first english degrees awarded to a woman at Oxford University. Eclectic enough to have written a definitive translation of Dante's Divina Comedia, her detective novels are shot through with quotations from a who's who of english literature.
Sayers loved language and her characters display this love with brilliance. In this novel, her favorite sleuth, the curiously human Lord Peter Wimsey, engages himself for the first time with Harriet Vane, whom he discovers on trial for her life for murdering her lover. Convinced at once of her innocence, he sets out to prove it. A hung jury gives him the opportunity, and Sayer's great skill in plotting brings Miss Vane out of prison, but unfortunately for Wimsey not (yet) into his arms. He has, of course, become hopelessly besotted with her.
Some reviewers describe Harriet Vane as unlikable -- there's little douibt that Sayers put much of her own sometimes awkward personality into Harriet. However, she is a genuinely interesting and surprisingly real character, and without question an early feminist.
The book is entirely satisfying in its own right, with particularly telling passages about spiritualism (an obsession of the time). Sayers' Miss Climpson, another fascinating character, a spinster who aids Wimsey in his detective work and philanthropy, uses spiritualism to elicit the motive for the murder and ultimately the responsible party.
It is also noteworthy for introducing the series of novels about Wimsey and Harriet Vane that includes Have His Carcase (the least satisfying), Gaudy Night (the first great feminist novel of the 20th century) and Busman's Honeymoon.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Strong Poison" is a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, the first of four that feature his relationship with Harriet Vane, so if you are new to Sayers, this is a good one with which to start. Sayers was one of the authors of mystery's "Golden Age", following the pioneers - Poe, Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle - and preceding the hardboiled school of Hammett and Chandler. She was thus a contemporary of Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen.
Her style is perhaps the most literary and polished of any mystery writer. (For further evidence of her skills, read her superb translation of "The Song of Roland"). She handles dialogue and human interaction extremely well and convincingly portrays a wide range of character types. Also notable is the occasional flash of ironic, rather dark, humor. I have to say however, that her penchant for bizarre names can be rather off-putting. We meet two jounalists called Salcombe Hardy and Waffles Newton, a lawyer called Sir Impey Biggs and an actress called - would you believe? - Cremorna Garden.
The plot is not as strong as the poison; it is too linear, with no twists and turns, although the central idea is quite good. It is more interesting as a literary portrait of 1930 English society than as a crime puzzle. But a good read, nonetheless.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Few would argue with the contention that no better writer has ever tried her hand at writing detective fiction than Dorothy L Sayers. I happen to like good writing, and I don't mind if it features more strongly than the puzzle component in a mystery novel.
"Strong Poison" abounds in wit, charm, characterization, and literary excellence. This is the one that begins with two whole chapters of a judge's summing up. On trial is Harriet Vane, accused of killing her lover by administering arsenic. All believe she is guilty except one jury member, Miss Murchison, who prevents the jury from bringing in a "guilty" verdict, and someone attending the trial, Lord Peter Wimsey, who determines to prove Harriet's innocence and make her his wife.
Dorothy L Sayers then makes little pretence at hiding the identity of the killer. Instead she unfolds a fascinating investigation into how the crime was committed and how Lord Peter and one or two helpers collected the evidence to convict.
Neither as long nor as long-winded as some of Miss Sayers' later detective fiction, this one offers rich and pure pleasure all the way. The additional luxury of hearing it read by Ian Carmichael in audio book form is well worth investigating.
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