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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson ($14.99)

Not part of the Inspector Alan Banks series, Peter Robinson has gone in for Yorkshire gothic with his award-winning Before the Poison.

Movie music composer Chris Lowndes buys a home in an isolated part of Yorkshire, leaving his Hollywood life behind. He is still grieving for his wife who died of cancer a year before. Although he was born and raised in England, he hasn't really lived there for decades. His children are grown with lives and families of their own. Now is the time, he thinks, to begin work on a musical work not associated with any movie.

As Lowndes wanders around the countryside and within his own vast home, he senses that there is a story behind the house. And indeed, there is.

Grace Fox was hanged for the murder of her husband, the local doctor, by poison in that very house. She had a young lover, and the supposition is that she did not want to leave him to move to another town with her husband.

Juxtaposed with Lowndes investigation into Grace's misfortune are an account by a sympathetic writer of Grace's trial and a look into the journal Grace kept while a nurse in World War II.

If I were giving Robinson an award for this book, it would be for only part of the book, the story of Grace's WWII experience. That piece was truly stunning. Lowndes' present-time story is rather bland, with the exception of the character of Grace's granddaughter, Louise, a watered-down version of Lizbeth Salander.

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