Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Strong Poison (1930)

Strong Poison. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1930/1995. HarperCollins. 272 pages.

There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

I am rereading Dorothy Sayer's mysteries this year. Strong Poison was one of the first mysteries I read, and it was great fun to return to it! Strong Poison introduces Harriet Vane into Lord Peter Wimsey's life. She is on trial for murder, suspected of poisoning an ex-boyfriend. Lord Peter falls in love with her almost instantly, and decides to trust his instincts that she just has to be innocent of the crime. In a very short time, her fate will be decided. So if Lord Peter is to have a chance of a happily ever after, he must get his new love acquitted! He needs to solve this case quickly! He has quite a bit of help in gathering together clues and evidence and building a strong case to prove Harriet's innocence and another person's guilt.

  I really enjoyed this one cover to cover! I love Lord Peter and Bunter and Inspector Charles Parker and the Dowager! I think I was able to appreciate the characters more since I've become familiar with the whole story now.

Favorite quotes:
I have been reading one of her books, really quite good and so well-written, and I didn't guess the murderer till page 200, rather clever, because I usually do it about page 15. So very curious to write books about crimes and then be accused of a crime one's self, some people might say it was a judgment. (27) -- The Dowager to her son
Wimsey sat down and waited, a prey to curious sensations. Presently there was a noise of footsteps, and the prisoner was brought in, attended by a female wardress. She took the chair opposite to Wimsey, the wardress withdrew and the door was shut. Wimsey, who had risen, cleared his throat.
"Good afternoon, Miss Vane," he said unimpressively.
The prisoner looked at him.
"Please sit down," she said in the curious, deep voice which had attracted him in Court. "You are Lord Peter Wimsey, I believe, and have come from Mr. Crofts."
"Yes," said Wimsey. Her steady gaze was unnerving him.
"Yes, I--er--I heard the case and all that, and--er--I thought there might be something I could do, don't you know."
"That was very good of you," said the prisoner.
"Not at all, not at all, dash it! I mean to say, I rather enjoy investigating things, if you know what I mean."
"I know. Being a writer of detective stories, I have naturally studied your career with interest."
She smiled suddenly at him and his heart turned to water.
"Well, that's rather a good thing in a way, because you'll understand that I'm not really such an ass as I'm looking at present."
That made her laugh.
"You're not looking an ass--at least, not more so than any gentleman should under the circumstances. The background doesn't altogether suit your style, but you are a very refreshing sight. And I'm really very grateful to you, though I'm afraid I'm rather a hopeless case." (37)
"I quite see that," said Wimsey. "Such a Victorian attitude, too, for a man with advanced ideas. He for God only, she for God in him, and so on. Well, I'm glad you feel like that about it."
"Are you? It's not going to be exactly helpful in the present crisis."
"No, I was looking beyond that. What I mean to say is, when all this is over, I want to marry you, if you can put up with me and all that."
Harriet Vane, who had been smiling at him, frowned, and an indefinable expression of distaste came into her eyes.
"Oh, are you another of them? That makes forty-seven."
"Forty-seven what?" asked Wimsey, much taken aback.
"Proposals. They come in by every post. I suppose there are a lot of imbeciles who want to marry anybody who's at all notorious."
"Oh," said Wimsey. "Dear me, that makes it very awkward. As a matter of fact, you know, I don't need any notoriety. I can get into the papers off my own bat. It's no treat to me. Perhaps I'd better not mention it again."
His voice sounded hurt, and the girl eyed him rather remorsefully.
"I'm sorry--but one gets rather a bruised sort of feeling in my position. There have been so many beastlinesses."
"I know," said Lord Peter. "It was stupid of me--"
"No, I think it was stupid of me. But why--?"
"Why? Oh, well--I thought you'd be rather an attractive person to marry. That's all. I mean, I sort of took a fancy to you. I can't tell you why. There's no rule about it, you know."
"I see. Well, it's very nice of you."
"I wish you wouldn't sound as if you thought it was rather funny. I know I've got a silly face, but I can't help that. As a matter of fact, I'd like somebody I could talk sensibly to, who would make life interesting. And I could give you a lot of plots for your books, if that's any inducement."
"But you wouldn't want a wife who wrote books, would you?"
"But I should; it would be great fun. So much more interesting than the ordinary kind that is only keen on clothes and people. Though of course, clothes and people are all right too, in moderation. I don't mean to say I object to clothes."
"And how about the old oaks and the family plate?"
"Oh, you wouldn't be bothered with them. My brother does all that…" (39-40)
"What a clear mind you have," said Miss Climpson.
"When I die you will find 'Efficiency' written on my heart. (47)
"Oh, and Bunter."
"My lord?"
"It seems that I am being obvious. I have no wish to be anything of the kind. If you see me being obvious, will you drop me a hint?"
"Certainly, my lord." (70)
It was natural that the conversation should turn to the subject of murder. Nothing goes so well with a hot fire and buttered crumpets as a wet day without and a good dose of comfortable horrors within. (85) 
"If anybody ever marries you, it will be for the pleasure of hearing you talk piffle," said Harriet, severely. (111)
"Damn it, she writes detective stories and in detective stories virtue is always triumphant. They're the purest literature we have." (115)
"Oh, God! Shall I ever live down this disastrous reputation for tom-foolery?" (150)
"Anything a Wimsey does is is right and heaven help the person who gets in the way. We've even got a damned old family motto about it…" (213)


© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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