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Before the Poison

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,228 Ratings  ·  551 Reviews
Through years of success in Hollywood composing music for Oscar-winning films, Chris Lowndes always imagined he would come full circle, home to Yorkshire with his beloved wife Laura.

Now he's back in the Yorkshire Dales, but Laura is dead, and Chris needs to make a new life for himself. The isolated house he buys sight unseen should give him the space to come to terms with
Hardcover, 436 pages
Published 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton
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The prison bells tolled. At the next door school the mood was sombre. It was done. Beautiful Grace Fox had been hanged for the murder by poison of her husband Ernest. But was she guilty or not? And why should anyone in 2010 bother to find the answer to what had really happened in 1953? It is not as though Chris Lowndes was related to Grace. So what is the connection?

Having decided to return to Yorkshire after enjoying a long and very successful career as a Hollywood film composer, he purchased (
Mar 31, 2012 Joan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dana Stabenow
Jan 20, 2015 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it
In England in 1953 Grace Fox is hung for poisoning her husband. In 2010 Hollywood composer Chris Lowndes returns to his Yorkshire birthplace and buys a house in Swaledale which once belonged to Grace, and becomes obsessed with finding out if Grace was guilty or innocent of the crime.

Before the Poison reads like a Golden Age classic crime novel, an unhurried, deliberate unraveling of a mystery paralleled by a long, slow reveal of the narrator's own motivation, told with a ratcheting up of tension
Gloria Feit
Mar 01, 2012 Gloria Feit rated it it was amazing
Diverting his attention from the popular and successful Inspector Banks series, the author has written a murder mystery of a different genre. Instead of a police procedural, he has undertaken to use a variety of literary devices to unravel the truth behind a death that took place sixty years ago.

It begins when Chris Lowndes, reeling from the death of his wife, decides to buy a home on the Yorkshire Dales. He purchases Kilnsgate House, a large, bleak, isolated structure in which he hopes to recov
Jun 02, 2014 Penny rated it really liked it
This is my second book by Peter Robinson and I much preferred this one. This is a stand-alone book and does not feature DCI Banks.

We follow a film music composer who returns to Yorkshire after living in California for many years. His wife has recently died and he decides to return to England. He buys a secluded house in the country outside Richmond. An earlier occupant - several decades before - was hung for the murder of her husband. Chris (the music composer) becomes obsessed with Grace's stor
Jun 02, 2013 Sunnie rated it did not like it
Can sum this book succinctly. TMI. Short on plot way too long on description and minutae. Robinson is best known for his Inspector Banks series and perhaps he should stick to those.

In this standalone the protagonist is a successful composer returning to England after 35 years in the USA and the death of his wife. He buys a house in a remote part of Yorkshire and becomes intrigued when he discovers a former owner was hanged for poisoning her husband.

Plot sounds ok, right? Well it probably is but
Just the type of story I love. A Hollywood composer comes back home to the Yorkshire dales after a personal loss and finds himself drawn into trying to find out the details of a notorious crime that was committed in the out of the way country house he purchased. A very well written character driven suspense that had me staying up late to finish.
Jan 15, 2012 Lynn rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, canadian
Peter Robinson writes the Inspector Banks series. He has also written a few stand alone novels and Before the Poison is one of them.

Chris Lowndes is a semi-retired composer who has returned to his native England after his wife's death. Sight unseen, he buys a large home in the Yorkshire countryside. After he moves in, Chris finds out that Kilnsgate was formerly the home of Grace Fox who was hanged for the murder of her husband, Dr Ernest Fox. Chris dives into Grace's history and is soon obsessed
Nancy Martin
May 17, 2012 Nancy Martin rated it liked it
I thoroughly enjoy the "Inspector Banks" series. I have mixed feelings about this one. The characters simply do not ring "true". The storyline is very interesting in those sections dealing with Grace Fox, but Chris seems a sort of a "milk toast" type.

The character of Chris is the problem for me. I had to keep checking the year of the story, because Chris didn't seem to know about internet use in completing his research, until fairly well into the novel. "Heather" seems like the sort of fantasy l
Rachel Piper
May 02, 2012 Rachel Piper rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
I picked this book up because of its cover and its vintage mystery-sounding plot. The plot itself was fine (except for a few of the subplots, which I’ll get to later) but the main character and the bland writing makes it impossible to give this more than 3 stars, and I found while writing the review that my feelings were more on the 2-star level.

The story is told in the first-person, which is a bad choice—it’s very bland expository stuff, like what someone would write in their “what I did this s
May 29, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
This is the first book I have read by Peter Robinson, and I'm not familiar with his other books. I notice there are many people who enjoy his Inspector Banks novels; he seems to have quite a loyal following. I was impressed by his writing, which was sure and capable. Unlike several other reviewers, I enjoyed the minutiae he included: the protagonist's taste in music, movies, food, and most of all, fine wine and assorted spirits. I also liked the concept - it isn't exactly new territory, an old c ...more
May 22, 2012 Heidi rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
"Before the poison" by Peter Robinson tells the story of Chris Lowndes, a successful Hollywood musical score writer who moves back to his homeland England after the death of his wife after a long and painful illness. Having bought an old mansion in the Yorkshire dales sight unseen, he gets a big surprise to find out that one of the house’s previous mistresses, Grace Fox, was hanged in the 1950’s for allegedly poisoning her husband. Haunted by Grace’s ghostly presence in the house and his own dem ...more
Jan 16, 2012 Lbaker rated it it was amazing
Not a Banks mystery, something different but wonderful.

Peter Robinson shows how versatile his writing can be, but has many constants from his Bank's series to keep readers comfortable. Constant with the hero Chris Lowndes and Inspector Banks are their love of many types of music, movies, and curiousity of why people behave the way they do.

Each chapter is divided into two parts. During the first half of the book the first part was a historical record of Grace Fox's trial in the 1950's, the second
Diane S ☔
Mar 13, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jun 11, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the death of his beloved wife Laura, Oscar-winning score writer Chris Lowndes returns to his native Yorkshire to wait for his wounds to heal. He buys, sight unseen, a rambling house in the remote wilds of Yorkshire, and settles in with his books, his music and his DVD collection. Soon, though, he becomes fascinated by the story of the Foxes, who lived in the house half a century ago. Ernest Fox was a cold, unpopular but highly respected general practitioner; when he died unexpectedly, his ...more
The Just-About-Average Ms M
I really liked the early Inspector Banks books, although I lost track of them after #10, I think. This is a stand-alone novel, rich in imagery, emotion, and proceeded t a lovely, leisurely pace. I didn't even bother to second guess the outcome and instead concentrated on the gradual unfolding of the protagonist's story, and that of his "obsession," a woman hanged for murder more than 60 years ago.

Not a police procedural, not a Hitchcockian mystery, and not a brooding Gothic novel, despite the Y
May 20, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
BEFORE THE POISON. (2012). Peter Robinson. ****.
I’ve been reading Peter Robinson’s series detective novels (Inspector Banks) for a long time. Here he comes with a stand-alone mystery that doesn’t disappoint. It’s about a quest into history that involves a fifty-year-old crime. Chris Lowndes is a successful composer of film scores for Hollywood. He has recently lost his wife to a long illness, and decides he needs some time off to think and compose music that “people actually listen to.” He goes
Mar 26, 2012 Ariel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-crime
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
Mar 05, 2012 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m not much of a mystery reader, but if I do read a mystery I tend to avoid series writers as they often tend to be formulaic. So when an honored mystery writer comes along with a standalone I am more apt to give it a try. In the case of Peter Robinson’s latest Before the Poison I’m glad I took the chance. Best known for his Inspector Banks novels Robinson is indeed a celebrated novelist, and Before the Poison is sure to win him new admirers. Chris Lowndes has spent twenty-five years in the Sta ...more
Apr 30, 2012 TheGeekyBlogger rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-read
Received for Review
Overall Rating: 4.00
Story Rating: 4.25
Character Rating: 3.75

First 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 intrig
Apr 30, 2016 Sherie rated it it was ok
Our protagonist, Chris, is presented as a 60 year old grieving widower who decides to return to the area where he was reared. To do this he purchases a house, sight unseen. Because he has a successful career in musical composition, we must assume that he's rolling dough. The writer gives us a detailed list, throughout the book, of what music he listens to, what he eats, what movies he watches and which are his favorites. Although he professes to be deeply grieving the recent death of his beloved ...more
May 21, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-reads
Before the Poison was a book chosen to be read for my mystery book club and is the first book that I have read by Robinson. I have to say that I really enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. Most of the story takes place in England, but the main character does do some traveling in his search for the truth about whether or not Grace Fox murdered her husband. Robinson did such an amazing job with his world building that I could really picture these places and especially Kilnsgate. Robins ...more
Feb 05, 2013 Merelyn rated it it was amazing
LOved this book! So well written. Peter Robinson also writes the DCI Banks mysteries, but this book is a stand alone. A successful music writer for Hollywood movies decides to move back to his native Yorkshire, England. He buys an old country estate, & the mystery begins. The writing is so descriptive you can see the country, & the home. Main character is so very charming. This is an intelligent story, but has suspense too. A hanging occured many years ago by charge of the court, & t ...more
Jun 01, 2013 Karen rated it really liked it
Though this book was somewhat slow moving and not a book I would label as hard to put down, nevertheless it was chillingly real and beautiful. As I read, I, I kept thinking it reminded me of another book. I finally figured that book was Rebecca. I know Rebecca is a favorite of many and a majority would not agree, but for me it fit. It just made me feel like I felt with reading that book; finding a why and a what happened in the past with an enigma. This book will stay with me for some time. The ...more
Aug 05, 2015 Maggie rated it it was amazing
As a devoted Peter Robinson fan this was my first non DCI Banks read and I also used the audio format and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the story( especially during a long flight!). This was an engaging storyline - the plot focus around the purchase of an old house in North Yorkshire that held a dark secret. I loved the range of characters telling the story and the use of narrative from different sources and times. Graces journal was particularly interesting. The ending was satisfying and not ...more
Jun 18, 2016 Wendy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 21, 2015 Laini rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A friend of mine recommended this to me and then lent it to me, but unfortunately I did not enjoy it as she thought I would. This was my first Peter Robinson, and it will be my last.

{{warning: spoilers}}

The plot wouldn't have been bad if he had stuck to it. But the length could have been HALVED. There is so much extra information here that you're wondering WHY he's included it. WHY are his friends over from Hollywood? Their visit seemed to have no bearing on the plot. And I'm usually very big o
Jan 26, 2015 Peter rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a different Peter Robinson than the one who wrote "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life". This Peter Robinson is a Canadian crime fiction writer.
The story is of a successful movie music composer who returns to his roots in Yorkshire England. He had expected to return there with his beloved wife, Laura, but cancer got in the way. She is dead. He returns alone. He buys a house which turns out to have a disturbing past. Through investigating this past (a mere sixty years ago) he sheds light on
Luanne Ollivier
Oct 11, 2011 Luanne Ollivier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ther
Apr 05, 2012 Felice rated it really liked it
Before The Poison
How many years has Peter Robinson been writing exceptional mysteries? I don’t know but his new book, Before The Poison is a perfect example of why he’s a master crime novelist. Once you have recovered from the grief caused by realizing that Robinson’s new mystery is not a DCI Banks novel take a deep breath and climb aboard.

Before The Poison follows newly widowed Chris Lowndes as he leaves a long, successful career as a composer for films and returns to Britain. Since the death
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Peter Robinson was born in Yorkshire. After getting his BA Honours Degree in English Literature at the University of Leeds, he came to Canada and took his MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, with Joyce Carol Oates as his tutor, then a PhD in En
More about Peter Robinson...

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“The only difference was, you could play the music again and again; a life plays only once.” 13 likes
“You can’t let someone you love suffer an agony that gets worse every day and has no possibility of ever abating or ending, except in an even more drawn-out and painful death. Would” 0 likes
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