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Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers

Even though I’ve had a number of Ms Sayers’ books in my TBR mountain for a while now, this novel is the first of her books that I’ve read. And now that I have, I’ll be sure to remedy the lack in my reading post haste! Strong Poison is actually the sixth Lord Peter Wimsey book published.

Lord Peter is the youngest sibling of the current Duke Denver, and he has developed a few unusual habits as he grows older. He collects first editions and books printed before 1501, and spends the rest of his spare time investigating (and solving) crimes. Most often, Lord Peter works with the police, in the person of his close friend Chief-Inspector Charles Parker, but in this case he has to prove the police made a terrible mistake.

The (very short) back cover blurb gives us the bare bones of the story:

Mystery novelist Harriet Vane knew all about poisons, and when her fiancé died in the manner described 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.

The novel starts, perhaps a bit slowly for some readers, with a judge giving the jury his summation of the evidence in the trial of Ms Harriet Vane for the murder of one Philip Boyes. If the language weren’t enough of an indication of the time during which this novel was written, the tone of the summation would make it clear. The year is 1929, and Harriet Vane is on trial as much on circumstantial evidence as she is on moral grounds—after all, for over a year she lived with the deceased as a married couple without the benefit of a ceremony. Egads, the horror of it all. (more…)