Monday, February 13, 2006

Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey finds love in a courtroom when he determines to prove the falsely accused mystery author, Harriet Vane, innocent. Unfortunately, her boyfriend, the demised, was poisoned in a manner which coincidentally was the subject of her latest book. When absolutely everybody, including Harriet's defense, is convinced of her guilt how will Lord Peter Wimsey prove otherwise?

Why would I read this book when I was so unimpressed with the first Dorothy L. Sayers book, "Whose Body?"? Mostly because I wanted to see how much she had improved. "Strong Poison" was written a decade later and is a vast improvement over Sayers first offering. I'm still not a big fan of detective novels. I especially didn't like fractured narrative where we're introduced to a secretary who becomes the main character for a short while 3/4th through the story. However, I really liked Peter Wimsey this time around. Sayers didn't feel compelled to write him as an eccentric. His quirky character felt more natural and believable comparitively. If you can make it through the first four chapters with the windy judge and his non-stop stream of exposition you may find yourself mildly entertained.

Why you should read this book: Written in the realistic British style, no detail is left undescribed. Non mystery fans may find this style of writing a tad tedious, but mystery fans will no doubt feel differently. If you are a fan of Sayers character Harriet Vane and her odd dispassionate romance with Lord Peter Wimsey this is the book that threw them together. I also found the "bohemian" section of the artworld very interesting and not dissimilar to the artworld of the sixties, or of today.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Lots of exposition chokes the narrative, especially during the courtroom scenes. In addition, this is a mystery about stuffy British socialites acting proper or indignant around each other. Some of you may rather have a root canal than read about the British elite in the late 1920's.

Perhaps murder mysteries are not my cup of tea. I can't say I'm inspired to learn more about Lord Peter Wimsey nor am I interested in reading anything else Dorothy L. Sayers may have to say about murder.
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