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Before the Poison: A Novel

Before the Poison: A Novel

Written by Peter Robinson

Narrated by Susan Lyons and Toby Lennet Moore


Before the Poison: A Novel

Written by Peter Robinson

Narrated by Susan Lyons and Toby Lennet Moore

ratings:
4/5 (28 ratings)
Length:
13 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 21, 2012
ISBN:
9780062116253
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Chris Lowndes built a comfortable career composing scores for films in Hollywood. But after twenty-five years abroad, and still quietly reeling from the death of his beloved wife, he decides to return to the Yorkshire dales of his youth. To ease the move, he buys Kilnsgate House, a rambling old mansion deep in the country.

Although Chris finds Kilnsgate charming, something about the house disturbs him, a vague sensation that the long-empty rooms have been waiting for him—feelings made ever stronger when he learns that the house was the scene of a murder more than fifty years before. The former owner, a prominent doctor named Ernest Arthur Fox, was supposedly poisoned by his beautiful and much younger wife, Grace. Arrested and brought to trial, Grace was found guilty and hanged for the crime.

His curiosity piqued, Chris talks to the locals and searches through archives for information about the case. But the more he discovers, the more convinced he becomes that Grace may have been innocent. Ignoring warnings to leave it alone, he sets out to discover what really happened over half a century ago—a quest that takes him deep into the past and into a web of secrets that lie all too close to the present.

Publisher:
Released:
Feb 21, 2012
ISBN:
9780062116253
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

One of the world’s most popular and acclaimed writers, Peter Robinson is the best-selling, award-winning author of the DCI Banks series; he has also written two short-story collections and three stand-alone novels, which combined have sold more than ten million copies around the world. Among his many honors and prizes are the Edgar Award, the CWA (UK) Dagger in the Library Award, and the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Martin Beck Award.


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What people think about Before the Poison

3.9
28 ratings / 26 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Actually, I really enjoyed this novel. I have mostly read Robinson's DI Banks books, so this was a nice change of pace. The back and forth from current day to the past was interesting and kept my interest.
  • (4/5)
    A film music composer moves to Yorkshire following the death of his beloved wife, and becomes fascinated by the story of Grace, a previous inhabitant of his home, who was accused of murdering her husband in the 1950's.The novel moves between the composer getting to grips with his new life and investigating the story of Grace, interspersed with Grace's wartime diary entries as a nurse working in the Far East. Enjoyable read, especially the historical detail, but found the modern day sections slightly too slow-paced and padded out with mundane detail.
  • (2/5)
    I wish this book would have been from Grace's point of view and not Chris. I didn't really like Chris at all and a hard time caring enough about him to want to follow his story. I also hated his relationship with Heather. I could have without having to read about Heather. The part that I loved most about this book were Grace's journal entries. Her journal entries were compelling and I loved getting to read from her point of view. I would have rather read about the events that happened in her life when they were happening and not after 50 years had passed. Overall I felt that Grace's story was interesting but Chris' journey to uncover it was just boring and annoying.
  • (5/5)
    Probably one of the best books I have read in years!! Story is split in two (ish) with alternate chapters covering now and half a century earlier. As I assumed that the 'earlier' chapters would explain and give away what Chris (the main character) was trying to establish I purposely read only the 'now' chapters first. What a great story! All the characters, however small, are excellenty portrayed. The description of the area in Yorkshire is beautifully done, an area I am very familiar with. Cannot recommend this highly enough!
  • (5/5)
    BEFORE THE POISON is Peter Robinson's third stand alone novel, and is set near Richmond, Yorkshire where he spends much of his time.The death of his wife from cancer in the USA prompts Chris Lowndes, successful film music composer, to return to England. He has always promised himself he would return home when he was sixty. He buys Kilnsgate, an old house in the North Riding and is fascinated to learn of its connection to a woman hanged in 1953 for murdering her husband.Lowndes' determination to know what led to Grace Fox committing murder gives the author the scope to do what he does so well - explore a facet of an historical period, this time World War II, and connect it with the current time. The fact too that Lowndes is a wealthy retiree allows the author to "grow" the plot, as Lowndes explores "leads" about Grace Fox's past, by travelling to France and South Africa. For much of the time Chris Lowndes is determined to prove that Grace could not have committed murder, but doubts creep in, as one theory after another is shattered.I like the skilful combination of historical and mystery elements and BEFORE THE POISON is mapped against a rich canvas, with plenty to keep the reader thinking. Lowndes feels an affinity with Grace Fox right from the start, feels her presence in the house, and even begins to write music for her, and to envisage a film about her story. There are moments of harsh reality too, about the war in the Far East, and about war crimes on all sides.The story is told through an interesting format: narration set in 2010 and 2011 by Chris Lowndes; interspersed with passages from a book called Famous Trials giving details about Grace Fox's trial and execution; and a journal written by Grace Fox 1940-1945 recording her experiences as a Queen Alexandra nurse. While the reader is given the story from all three angles, the main characters only gain access to Famous Trials and Grace's journal a littler later. So by the time Chris Lowndes reads these to items, we the reader, already know what he is going to find.Very enjoyable read.
  • (5/5)
    This was the first Peter Robinson book I have read, and it was great!!From the beginning to the end I couldn't put it down. Since I am a nurse, I could so identifiy with Grace Fox and understood her dilemma.I would really recommend this book to friends. Since I have yet to read more of Peter Robinson, I dont know if this is typical of his writing, but if it is I am hooked!
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Read from April 29 to 30, 2012Received for ReviewOverall Rating: 4.00Story Rating: 4.25Character Rating: 3.75First thought when Finished: That last half of this book was really well done and kept me riveted!What I Loved: I can't really go into detail about what I loved about Before the Poison or the review would be full of spoilers. I will say there is a distinct point in the middle of the book where we start reading parts of Grace's journal that really, in my opinion, made the book start to sparkle. I was riveted and intrigued. I couldn't turn pages fast enough in an effort to learn what really happened!What I Liked: I liked that there was a twist with the main protagonist that I just didn't seem coming. It did explain much of his behavior that I did not quite understand. The twist also tied together some things that I had been questioning the whole book.What made me go HUH?: There were a few parts of the story I didn't like: the affair was a big one. I just didn't see the need for it but it didn't distract from the story for me. It did make me like the characters a little less though.Final Thought: I think if you are a fan of Peter Robinson, you will like this stand alone novel. I also think if you are history/true crime buff you will enjoy it too. The crime isn't real but the way he hunts down the story reminds of investigation discovery.
  • (4/5)
    Author Peter Robinson is best known for his Alan Bank series, so let's start by saying that this is NOT part of this series. This is a standalone, and in my opinion a quite good one.But if you are a fan of this series and pick this up expecting another, as it seems many reviewers were, you may be disappointed.I love the feel of this book, in ways harkening back to mysteries of an early time. The atmosphere of the house, the Yorkshire setting, and especially the interspersed excerpts from the account of Grace's trial and her journal when she was a nurse in the heart of the horrors of WWII, make this a book with one foot firmly in the present and the other firmly in the world of the Second World War and it's aftermath in England. Chris is a great, very likable character...not so much his realtor girlfriend...but maybe the real star of this book is the executed Grace. She starts out an enigma, not testifying in her own defense, walking quietly to her death. But once we get to the excerpts from her wartime journals, her account of her horrible experience in the South Pacific and later in the battlefields of Europe, a very different woman emerges...and yes, one that might be capable of murder if she felt there was cause. And cause there might be.The ending was very good, even if it felt a bit rushed. And most of the book was very interesting, even if it it took a big of a lag in the middle before we get started on Grace's journals. This is largely a character driven book. Not a great deal happens, much of the present day story consisting of Chris driving around and even flying to distant lands to interview people who knew Grace, a lot more talking than doing. Luckily, we have a successful amateur investigator, with the resources to pursue the leads that open up. And happily, the look back is much more eventful, creating a nice balance overall.I think fans of Mr. Robinson will enjoy this book if they go into it not expecting it to be something it is not, part of the Bank's series, and readers new to his work, like myself, will find an author they will want to take a further look at.
  • (4/5)
    another reviewer didn't like the narrator's constant talk of music and wine. i guess inspector banks is not for her. wasn't crazy about heather. her "zany" sense of humour didn't even get a smile from me but she wasn't in it that much. why was she in it at all? the solution was plausible but kind of a let down.also the book was too long. i think if you can't tell your story in 250 pages you aren't a writer. this was 434.
  • (4/5)
    This was the first book I have read by this author. I picked it up after seeing it mentioned on Book Club Girl's blog and the premise sounded very interesting.The narrator of the novel, Chris Lowndes, is a recent widower who makes a move from LA to England so that he can begin to heal from the loss of his wife. He moves into a house that used to be owned by Grace Fox who was hanged for the murder of her husband Dr. Ernest Fox. Chris makes it his personal mission to investigate the story of Grace and Ernest to see if Grace was indeed guilty of the murder of her husband. The chapters are told in an alternating pattern between the coverage of Grace's trial in a book and Chris's personal investigation. Later on we are able to read Grace's wartime diary written when she was a nurse in WWII in the Pacific and this is when the story held the most interest for me. I enjoyed the historical fiction presented in the journal of Grace Fox but the rest of the book was a bit tedious and I was not compelled to keep reading. It seemed like an exciting premise but I found I didn't really care for the narrator Chris or his new lady love Heather. I also got tired or reading about Chris's constant quest for his next glass of wine. The final murky reveal of whether Grace was indeed guilty or not was a let down as well. In the end I am glad I finished the book but I wouldn't rush out to recommend it to anyone.
  • (4/5)
    Stand alone by Robinson, I started it with trepidation, some authors stand alones I like but many have been big disappointments. Should not have been worried with Robinson because this man can write. Chris is a likable and many faceted character as one could hope to find. He returns to England, the Yorkshire Dales, after many years in California forging a vary successful career. He buys a huge old house, that comes with a mystery and a murder. This is not a big flashy novel with Aha moments, but a slowly unraveling of secrets all leading back to World War II. Very atmospheric, a novel to savor not rush through.
  • (3/5)
    Peter Robinson usually writes the Inspector Alan Banks series set in England. This book is a deviation from Alan Banks. This story involves the hanging of a young wife for the poisoning of her much older husband. Robinson writes two stories: the one set in the 1950;s and the other set in 2010. An old English manor ties the two stories. The 2010 story involves a grieving widower who watched his beloved wife succumb to cancer. Chris Lowndes, a composer of musical scores for American movies, has decided to leave America and return to England after his wife's death. He purchases the Kilnsgate House in the country without ever viewing the house. The house holds many secrets, especially concerning the doctor, Ernest Fox, and Ernest's death in 1953. Robinson does an excellent job balancing the two stories. The story jumps into action when Chris is given a copy of Grace's journal that she kept during her tour of duty as a nurse during WWII. Robinson's biggest detraction is his love of classical music and his constant mention of classic recordings.
  • (5/5)
    The story alternates between the mid-1950's and 2010. It begins with the execution by hanging of Grace Fox,for the murder by poison of her husband. In 2010 a troubled composer of film music. Chris Lowndes,buys the isolated Kilnsgate House. he soon discovers that years ago,this was owned by Grace and her doctor husband. Lowndes soon becomes obsessed with the events leading up to the murder and the trial and hanging of Grace Fox.As the book progresses we learn that all is not as it appeared and that Grace is more complex than she seems at first.This is a one-off ,non-series book for Robinson and one of which he can be justly proud.
  • (4/5)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this modern day mystery!Hollywood composer Chris Lowndes is wounded emotionally from the death of his beloved wife. He decides to take some time off and return to his childhood home in Yorkshire England.He buys a secluded mansion and quickly becomes absorbed in the story of Grace Fox, who was hanged for poisoning her husband over 50 years ago...in the very house Chris just purchased.Chris feels a connection to Grace and would like to prove her innocence. He has both the time and the money, so he begins to piece together Grace's story.The reader is gradually drawn in as well and becomes just as obsessed with discovering the truth about Grace.I loved this book and would recommend it for those who love a good mystery, and as well as those interested in WWII fiction.(I received this book through Amazon's Vine Program.)
  • (4/5)
    I am a big fan of Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series, but this book is a stand-alone and very different. A man moves back to England from California where he has spent most of his life writing background music for films. He buys a big old house and immediately starts wondering about the previous owner, and sometimes feeling a presence in the rooms.The book didn't draw me in at first, and I found the first 100 pages or so rather boring, but I'm glad I persisted, because the story of the woman who used to live in the house was fascinating, especially the excerpts from diaries she kept as a nurse in WW II. The woman, Grace Fox, was convicted of poisoning her husband and hanged for murder in 1953, and as the protagonist, Chris, finds out more about her he becomes convinced she was innocent.This is first rate story-telling, with the character of Grace being very memorable. I could have done with less of Chris and his story, however. The book is bit of a downer, but you won't forget the tragedy of Grace.
  • (4/5)
    This is NOT an Inspector Banks book but a stand alone. First rate story telling. I rather enjoyed the unfolding of the mystery. Had me guessing. Love the inclusion of music titles. I'm off to try some of them, almost wish I'd had them available during the reading.
  • (4/5)
    Peter Robinson has long been one of my favourite authors and I pick up anything with his name on it, knowing I'll be in for a good read. His latest book Before the Poison, is not part of his series featuring Inspector Banks, but is instead, a stand alone work.Chris Lowndes left England when he was younger for the United States. He made quite a name for himself as a movie score composer. When his wife dies, Chris decides it's time to return home to England. He and Laura had planned to retire there. He buys an isolated house, sight unseen. When he arrives at the home, he is curious about the former inhabitants of the house. When he finds that it was the site of the murder of local physician, Dr. Fox and that his wife Grace was hanged for that murder, Chris indulges his curiosity and begins looking further into the trial. Curiosity quickly turns into almost obsession as he begins to doubt the official version of what really happened. " I had a curious sensation that the shy, half-hidden house was waiting for me, that it had been waiting for some time."This was a very different read from the Banks books. The pacing is much slower, taking time to build the layers of the story slowly and carefully. We follow Chris as he becomes increasingly insistent on discovering more about Grace. The story is told from three sources - Chris's inquiries, excerpts from a book called Famous Trials and finally bits from Grace's own journal, kept during her wartime nursing years. I found the journal entries especially poignant and extremely well written.Much time is spent on developing the characters, their reasoning and their emotions. And this absolutely works for this story - anything faster would have ruined the atmospheric, period piece tone and feel of the tale. Some of that atmospheric feel comes from Chris's thinking he's seen something in the mirror of an old wardrobe in the house. There is another 'incident' such as this in Chris's childhood and I wondered if this would be explained or used in the story further. It wasn't, but added another layer to Chris's obsession. A revelation I didn't see coming late in the book does much to explain Chris's behaviour.Robinson has always injected music into the Banks books. The Inspector's music collection and choices always provide a soundtrack for the story. This is continued in Before the Poison as well. Chris's choice of music often sent me online to listen to Robinson's selection of musical background.Although others may find the pacing and lack of action a bit too slow, I enjoyed the change of pace from an author I have followed for many years, but Banks still remains my favourite. Before the Poison deserves to be slowly savoured under a single lamp, by a crackling fire in a house with creaking floors....
  • (3/5)
    Quite a good mystery. Ranging from present day to World War 2 evokes the historical era well.
  • (2/5)
    Read this one for library mystery book group. Had a hard time slogging through this one after the last two reads. This did not inspire and the plot had potential.
  • (3/5)
    Interesting, easy, enjoyable mostly for the many references to music in film. It is very often "the music that nobody listens to" but it makes a huge difference in how much you enjoy what you're watching.
  • (4/5)
    Shortly after the death of his wife, successful film music composer Chris Lowndes returns to his native England. He buys the rather isolated Kilnsgate House. When he learns of the death of the previous owner at the hand of his wife and her subsequent trial and execution, he starts digging into the circumstances of the murder and the trial, all the while he starts to come to grips with the death of his wife.

    The book is told on two levels: the recounting of the trials and later extracts of the war diary of Grace Elizabeth Fox, who spent the war as a Queen Alexandra nurse and the journey of discovery Chris Lowndes undertakes to get to the bottom of her actions. Though the resolution comes as a surprise, it is totally fitting with the tale. A bit less plausible is the chain of people introduced to reveal their piece of the puzzle up to the rounded picture that finally shows the consistent story of Grace.
  • (2/5)
    Drags badly. There just isn't enough here to justify the time (and pages) spent in getting it.
  • (4/5)
    Often, when I'm very fond of an author's series characters, I'm a bit resistant when that author surprises me with a standalone. But Peter Robinson's BEFORE THE POISON hooked me from the first page. As in several of his Alan Banks stories, a long-past case is involved. When a recently widowed Hollywood film score composer decides to return to his native England, he discovers that the house he has bought was the site of a famous murder that took place during his childhood -- one about which he begins to have doubts. The story of his investigation into, not only what happened, but why, kept me fascinated to the end. Highly recommended.
  • (3/5)
    I am a huge Peter Robinson fan having read all his Banks series. I did not love this book. I was in fact disappointed not by the absence of Banks but with the story (stories) told. The story of nurses in WW II was the best part. Aside from a personal connection with the main character and Grace's journal, which kept me reafing I can only hope Alan Banks comes back in the next book.
  • (4/5)
    Peter Robinson is known for his Inspector Alan Banks British mysteries. However, Before the Poison, is a stand alone book, somewhat mysterious, but not your typical procedural mystery. Chris Lowndes is obsessed with two women: his wife, Laura, who succumbed to cancer a year ago and Grace Elizabeth Fox. Chris, a transplanted Brit, moved back to Britain from L.A. and purchased Grace’s secluded estate. It had been vacant for some time. His real estate broker failed to mention one key fact, until after the deal was consummated. Grace was convicted in the murder of her husband and was hanged in 1953. Upon hearing this, Chris becomes obsessed with Grace, her trial and whether indeed she was guilty. Before the Poison bounces back and forth between the current day and an account of the 1953 drama in the form of a segment of a book Famous Trials or a segment of Grace’s journal written during World War II. Each chapter starts with a short segment of the book or journal and continues as Chris attempts to uncover the truth. It’s funny, because my first Peter Robinson novel, In a Dry Season, also alternated between the 1940s and the present. While, indeed, there is a murder in this book, I would not call it a mystery. I would call it an engrossing tale of a man obsessed. Robinson is a marvelous writer, more literary than most mystery writers. As such, one reads his books for the details and descriptions and use of language. Whether or not Chris solves the ‘crime’ is irrelevant because you get caught up in his life and feelings and actions. Robinson has written over 20 books, too many for me to catch up on from the beginning. However, I am an avid fan of his and will read all his forthcoming books, as should you. Mystery or mysterious, Robinson is on my reading list for sure.