I’m ashamed to say this was the first Sayers novel I have read. I can’t imagine why, other than I assumed them to be like Agatha Christie and there were already so many of hers to read. And I don’t remember my childhood library having any of her books, (they may have) but there was a endless row of black-bound, gold-embossed Christie titles. So with these rereleases I decided to turn a new leaf as well and include her mysteries.
Strong Poison is a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, featuring Harriet Vane. Based on her character it appears that there were more later. Wimsey (as suggested by his name) is the kind of person who goes where the wind takes him. As a friend of barristers and with a particular penchant for sitting in on trials, Wimsey takes it upon himself to solve a confusing case. Harriet Vane, a crime novelist, has been accused of poisoning her fiancé, but Wimsey is unconvinced. While the trial is on hold, he investigates his hunches.
Wimsey and the tale are a blend of Nero Wolfe and Jeeves and Wooster. In the heady of days of the Bright Young Things, where it seems nothing can touch the sparkling upper echelons of society, Lord Peter amuses himself among the working class. His character at first seems selfish and flighty, but although he wants to occupy his time, he truly does believe in her innocence and wants to see her acquitted.
The prose is light and playful, and glides along over the marbled halls of justice and entryways of grand houses. The dialogue, too, reflects this whimsical time.
“You don’t mean to say you admired her, Frank?”
“Oh, well, I dunno. But she didn’t look to me like a murderess.”
“And how do you know what a murderess looks like? Have you ever met one?”
“Well, I’ve seen them at Madame Tussaud’s.”
“Oh, wax-works. Everybody looks like a murderer in a wax-works.” ~Pg. 33
And no good detective is anywhere without his sidekick. Lord Peter Wimsey has his invaluable valet, Mr. Bunter.
By what ingratiating means Mr. Bunter had contrived to turn the delivery of a note into the acceptance of an invitation to tea was best known only to himself. At half-past four on the day which ended to cheerfully for Lord Peter, he was seated in the kitchen of Mr. Urquart’s house, toasting crumpets. He had been trained to a great pitch of dexterity in the preparation of crumpets and if he was somewhat lavish is the matter of butter, that hurt nobody except Mr. Urquart. ~Pg. 101
The book is jaunty and fast-paced. Readers who enjoy quick, fluid cozies, should snuggle up with a cup of tea and give it a read.
Thank you so much to Regina at Bourbon Street Books / HarperCollins for the review copy.
Imprint: Harper Paperbacks
On Sale: 10/16/2012
Format: Trade PB
Trimsize: 5 5/16 x 8
Pages: 288; $14.99
Ages: 18 and Up