Plot Summary: Lord Peter Wimsey is thoroughly engrossed in the case of accused murderess Harriet Vane. He knows she didn’t do it– now he has to find the proof! With a few well-placed friends at his disposal, he sets about proving the young woman’s innocence. But time is ticking, and perhaps the murdered man committed suicide in order to take revenge out on his ex? This makes the mystery even harder to solve.
My Book Review: The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries have been around for a great while. I remember trying to read them on the recommendation of my Aunt E when I was teenager, but never could get a hang for the characters and their dialogue. It does take a little bit of getting used to. I think this was one of those rare cases where watching the movie first helped to read the book later. I never knew I wanted to try any more Wimsey until I watched Dorothy L. Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey: Strong Poison [this BBC series was made into a trilogy, all featuring Harriet Vane]. Although the Wimsey mysteries are available in short stories and novels, and Strong Poison is the 6th novel in the series, it really can be read standalone as the beginning of a miniseries within the series—the trilogy surrounding Wimsey and Vane’s romance. These are the only books I am currently interested in reading by Sayers.
As I remarked earlier, Sayer’s writing style is hard for me get used to, being that it is very old-fashioned British and upper class conversations with very little description and action. It’s also why I prefer to watch Jeeves and Wooster over reading the books. But once you get the swing of the spirit of the thing, it can be accessible. It has its own flavor: dry and witty.
I think because this book is #6, I am not as well acquainted with the main character (Lord Wimsey) than I might be if having started at the beginning. That was a drawback and hard to get to like him. It felt unbelievable that he would so quickly fall head over heels for a woman practically on death row without any proof, and on top of that there is no explanation provided for his attraction to her.
I enjoyed the suspense and the treasure hunt-aspect of the plot. It’s been a long time since I felt excited over such a mystery—probably since Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys! And there are lots of different characters to make each chapter interesting. It makes one feel that any normal person (with observational skills and a little guts) could be a sleuth!
If you’re looking for a bit of English fun and excitement, I think you’ll enjoy trying this one. …And then go ahead and watch the BBC movies, starring Harriet Walters and Edward Petherbridge. They are highly recommended and some of my favorites!
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