Strong Poison (Dorothy Sayers)

This might be the most objective book review I’ve written. I didn’t actually like the story, but I must confess that Sayers did everything properly in writing a detective story. Here is what I think the problem might be: Lord Peter is such an overwhelming character that one cares more for him than for the “whodunit.” I really didn’t care whether Harriet Vane was acquitted or not. The times she did appear she was self-absorbed and moping (understanding, of course, that she was on death row). Further, what makes Sayers’ novels so good are the side characters Bunter and the Duchess, both of whom are always superb. Yet side characters cannot carry a plot by themselves.

The story is quite good and Peter is always dashing and suave. Lord Peter is growing up in these stories and the youthful innocence must eventually fade away. Also, there are some outstanding jabs against communism and nihilism (but I repeat myself).

Like all of Sayers’ works, the prose is sheer delight and few can match Lord Peter.

“There is something about wills which brings out the worst side of human nature. People who under ordinary circumstances are perfectly upright and amiable, go as curly as corkscrews and foam at the mouth, whenever they hear the words ‘I devise and bequeath.”

Manners,” said a bearded gentleman suddenly and loudly, “are for the bourgeois.”

“Quite right,” said Wimsey. “Beastly bad form, and gives you repressions in the what-not. Come on, Marjorie, or we shall all be getting polite.”


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