Thursday, December 19, 2013

Before the Poison, by Peter Robinson

Image from Peter Robinson's Official website

Listening to this book was quite a surprise to one accustomed to reading one Inspector Banks novel after the other.

A successful movie score composer, protagonist Chris Lowndes has plenty of money. His son and daughter have grown up. His American wife is dead, and he's writing her a piano concerto.

Hoping to come to terms with his grief over the loss of his beloved Laura, Chris leaves California and returns to his native Yorkshire to take up residence in a house he has never seen.

Located in a remote Yorkshire dale, Kilnsgate House, purchased by long distance arrangements, seems to welcome him. So does red-haired Heather, the real estate agent who arranged the sale.

Along with the mystery, this novel has snippets of history from WWII and the Cold War. Scenes take place from Yorkshire to London to rural France, to Cape Town. And that's just in the present time frame. Indirectly, we get to Santa Monica, Minneapolis and even the infamous secret military facility of Porton Down.

The Grace Fox we get to know from her wartime journals, kept during her service as a member of Queen Alexandra Nursing Corps does not seem to jibe with the one who was later hanged for poisoning her doctor husband.

Along with the protagonist, the reader keeps wondering why someone who did so much to save lives in Singapore and Malaya and Normandy would kill her husband Ernest.

As Lowndes manages to track down more of the story of Grace, he has a few secrets of his own to come to terms with. This gives the reader the double payoff of a surprise ending for him as well as the solution to the mysterious conundrum of Grace Fox.

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