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The Poison Tree Paperback – August 10, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dell (August 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440614023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440614029
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,900,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sex, murder, and academics are the strange bedfellows in The Poison Tree, a first novel by Tony Strong. Set in Oxford, where protagonist Terry Williams has come to get a doctorate in detective fiction, the story revolves around crimes committed before Terry's arrival, namely a horrifying murder that occurred in the very house into which she has moved. Soon history seems to be repeating itself: poison-pen letters start arriving, a murderous stalker roams the streets, and Terry begins to uncover the ugly secrets that lie just beneath the surface of Oxford's seemingly idyllic environment. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

Fleeing her divorce and the lesbian affair it's tumbled her into, ad executive Theresa Williams returns to Oxford to pick up her postgraduate work in detective fiction. But the house she purchases was the site of a grisly murder--undergrad Hugh Scott was burned to death by a soldering iron--whose consequences keep spreading like a contagion. Someone is still prowling the streets of Oxford raping and killing young men. Ensconced in her new home, Terry can't even plaster her bathroom wall without being visited, in rapid succession, by Emily Harris, Hugh's undergraduate lover; Carla Eden, a neighboring don's wife who'd also taken Hugh to bed, and is willing to do the same with Terry; Giles Chawker, a narcissistic stalwart of the Oxford crew equally intent on seducing Terry; Julia Van Glught, whose marriage to a children's-book author hasn't kept her away from Carla's husband Brian; and Brian Eden himself, the magnetic biographer Terry becomes rapidly convinced was Hugh's killer. When her rehabbing uncovers a cache of floridly pornographic letters, Terry's driven to put her interpretive skills to work, since le style, c'est l'homme. The punishing rounds of stylistic analysis that follow will drive a wedge between Terry and her latest lover, the police inspector in charge of the case, before finally revealing the whole sordid plot. Even more brutally than recent work by Peter Robinson and Ruth Rendell, Strong's debut mocks the age-old distinction between cozy and nasty, producing the lowest revelations about higher education you've ever seen. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne on June 27, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The plot line of this book had such potential, which is what kept me reading past the first few chapters. I very much identified, however, with the main character's students, who were falling asleep during her lectures.
The grotesque and the sexually explicit does not bother me very much when I am reading a good book. This was not a good book. It was oh-so-obvious that this was written by a man, and one who really doesn't know women at that.
The most unnecessary part of the whole book was the epilogue. It added nothing to the storyline and leaves the reader with only negative feelings towards the book as a whole.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is less mystery than thriller, and it's not very thrilling. I found the characters neither interesting nor likeable, and prefer criminals to have some motivation other than psychosis. One book jacket blurb says something like "the classic English mystery meets the American thriller;" if so, the classic English mystery is badly beaten and raped in the encounter. Even the sexual relations seem to lack plausibility. I think that Tony Strong relies a little too much on brutality against a cat and various people, and too much on the coarse titilation of fantasy sex letters, instead of creating convincing motivation.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read Strong's second novel The Death Pit before I started The Poison Tree and I really liked it. And I'll admit that at first I liked this one as well.
I read it with interest right up until the big climactic scene when the whole plot fell apart. The solution made very little sense to me- it almost seemed as though the author had just tacked it on at the last minute to have an ending- any ending! That leads to a thoroughly disgusting and nauseating spate of animal cruelty that I find unforgivable. The author seems to be hoping that these atrocities will make the reader forget that the so-called solution to his mystery was ludicrous and wholly unbelievable. It didn't work- I was so furious by the end that I vowed never to read anything else by Mr. Strong. That's unfortunate because as I stated before, I did like The Death Pit. Makes me wish that I'd never looked for The Poison Tree.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
One of the characters in Tony Strong's The Poison Tree states that, "The dectective novel has become the crime thriller, pandering to the public's taste for the grotesque...a living literary form is dead...Who killed the detective novel? We did." I couldn't agree more and wish Strong had kept to this line of thought when writing his book. He is obviously not an unintelligent writer; a shame he settled for the cheap shots. The violence is exactly what we have come to know and deplore in recent years. The sex is at times uninteresting, at times repellent and too locker-room to be tolerated in such high doses. It is obvious this was all to be considered central to the plot, but it became a tiresome turn-off.
Writers such as Deane Koontz have already brought us every imaginable form of cruel human depravity. I suppose it was only a matter of time until someone started in with grotesqueries having to do with animals. At one point we get a cat devouring the afterbirth and one of its offspring. The book ends with the protagonist's neighbor drowning kittens to feed to their carnivorous mother. I rest my case.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 8, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I thought this book was awful - the main character showed a lot of promise initially but degenerated into an irrational, obnoxious stalker and there were no other characters in the book who were at all likeable. The main character's relationship with the police and her access to confidential police files were improbable at best. The author telegraphed the identity of the killer but had the main character so side-tracked by her obsessions that she couldn't figure it out. (personally, when I'm reading a mystery I want to be the one who gets side-tracked - I spent the second half of the book wanting to shake the main character and say "It's ____, you idiot) The ending felt like it was tacked on. Finally the book was full of gratuitous and ultimately not very interesting sex scenes. Subplots about Penthouse Forum-type letters and the main character's sexuality seem to have been thrown in for the sole purpose of giving the author a chance to include as many different people in as many different positions as possible. Overall very disappointing!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CRAIG KNOX on June 7, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book slightly out of turn (his second book 'The Death Pit' has the same main character) so I went into it already having an affection for the main character. Nonetheless, this book begins on an eerie note with a great murder, and leaves the reader suspended, constantly guessing and turning the pages. I think the characters are extremely well developed, and the book is paced very well. I never got ahead of the story in regards to figuring out whodunnit, which is rare. Tony Strong is a great author, and I recommend all his books. His last two are just coming out now in the states (I bought them in Canada because I couldnt wait to read them) and they are also both fantastic. I can't recommend his work enough.
His storytelling gives new life to the tired old mystery.
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