BEFORE THE POISON by Peter Robinson
William Morrow (February 21, 2012), 368 pages
The author of the excellent Alan Banks series, “takes a break” from his protagonist – but not the Yorkshire, England locale – with Before The Poison. I didn’t know what to expect after reading the brief plot outlines available, i.e. revisiting an old crime with new eyes – but had faith that even with this well-worn storyline, in Robinson’s hands I wouldn’t be disappointed. And I wasn’t. Well-written, expertly paced with a cast of very real characters this novel very subtly, yet very effectively, draws the reader in and I found myself unable to put this book down.
Chris Lowndes is a 60 year old successful film score composer. After the death of his wife he leaves the environs of Hollywood, buying and moving to an old isolated mansion near his birthplace in Yorkshire, England. Literally before settling in, he learns the history of his new home – a murder occurred under its roof 50+ years earlier – and Chris becomes curious, puzzled and maybe even obsessed with the crime. He starts his own investigation meeting a wealth of characters, both past and present, including the “villain”, as he “unravels” the mystery. So the race for the truth begins, yet it is not a sprint, but a marathon, albeit well-paced rather than tiresome.
And although the mystery is the catalyst, Chris’ personal journey is the key driving force here. His quest rejuvenates him, even if it has his friends and family scratching their heads in concern, with our “hero” learning much about himself along the way. The narrative jumps back and forth time, there are many culinary digressions – including libations – and much discussion of music – particularly classical – and movies. These literary quirks may or may not titillate – they worked for me. I thoroughly enjoyed Before The Poison – even though it’s a little different. I also found it very reminiscent of Ward Just’s Forgetfulness. Highly recommended.
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