Monday, March 19, 2012

Alone in a country house...

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson.

A review by Marlyn Beebe.

Chris Lowndes is a successful film score composer, well-known in the business and financially very comfortable.  Having promised himself he'd return home at the age of sixty,  he  buys an isolated country house near the Yorkshire town where he grew up.  He hadn't expected to be doing it without his wife at his side, but she'd died a few months earlier.  He goes anyway, telling himself he needs solitude to work on the piano sonata he's always wanted to compose.

Having completed the purchase well before he returns to England, Lowndes is unsure what to expect when he arrives at the house late one October afternoon.  He certainly doesn't expect to learn that the wife of the original owner, a physician named Ernest Fox, had been convicted of murdering him.

Out of curiosity, Lowndes begins to research the history of the house and it's early inhabitants.   The more he learns about Grace Fox and her family, the more he becomes convinced that she was not guilty of the crime.  Although he knows better than to tell anyone, he thinks he catches glimpses of her around the house.  People begin to accuse him of being obsessed with Grace and her story, and it certainly appears that way, though Chris believes that all he's trying to do is uncover the truth. 

Throughout Lowndes' search, the reader has the uncomfortable feeling that there is some underlying reason for  his investigation.  It's not expressed outright, but extremely subtle hints that this is the case permeate the narrative, very much in the vein of Rebecca

In fact, as in Du Maurier's novel, although the narrative is in the first person from the protagonist's point of view, the central character of the story is a ghost whose history somehow becomes intertwined with that of the narrator. 

As a devotee of Robinson's Inspector Banks, I was at first disappointed that Before the Poison was not part of that series.  But this is such a well-written and well-told tale that the sadness was short-lived.

Peter Robinson is the author of the now 16-book Inspector Alan Banks mystery series, the first of which, Gallows View, was published in 1987.  The next DCI Banks book is set to be released in the UK in August.


  1. Nice review, Marlyn.

    So many books, so little time . . .

  2. This book has earned high praise from many reviewers. Thanks for giving us a few more details. Robinson is on my list of authors to read soon.

  3. Sounds intriguing! Thanks for telling us about this book and its author, Peter Robinson, Marlyn. I'll be looking for his books.


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