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Before the Fact

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Lina McLaidlaw waits until she is 30 before accepting a marriage proposal from the feckless and irresponsible Johnnie Aysgarth. As head of a fine household and guardian of both the morals and finances of the man she chose to marry, she finds her husband was, and perhaps still is, a killer.
Paperback, Pan Classic Crime
Published November 12th 1999 by Not Avail (first published 1932)
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"Some women give birth to murderers, some go to bed
with them, and some marry them." First line of a whopper
dark comedy that Christopher Morley tabbed in 1932 as
"a masterpiece of cruelty and wit."

Rich, late 20s-something-virgin Lina succumbs to Johnnie
on the spot and elsewhere. She divines that he's a forger,
thief and an embezzler. Written decades pre-PC, but does it
matter? It'll make you gasp w literary pleasure if there's
an honest bone - any bone, it doesn't matter - in yer body.

"According to
This crime classic is the basis of the Hitchcock masterpiece "Suspicion" and in this case the movie was definitely better than the book.

Lina McLaidlaw a plain spinster approaching 30 recklessly marries the charming Johnny Asygarth even though she suspects he is just marrying her for her money. Johnny's aristocratic family has fallen on bad times due to the spendthrift nature of his father and all the boys in his family seem to have taken after the old man. Johnny is dashing, charming and popular
Francis Iles’ 1932 novel Before the Fact is best known today as the book on which Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie 1941 Suspicion was based. As most fans of the movie are aware, the endings of the novel and the movie differ very significantly, and which you prefer is largely a matter of taste.

Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893-1971) was born in England and wrote detective stories under several names, including Anthony Berkeley, A. Monmouth Platts and Francis Iles.

Before the Fact, like another of his Fra
This book in one sentence: the story of a sociopath and his wife, who happens to be the stupidest woman in the world.

I read this book because I'd seen Alfred Hitchcock's screen version (the movie's called "Suspicion"). I didn't like the end of the movie, so I thought maybe the book would be better. It wasn't. I actually prefer the movie.
Is Lina's popular, carefree and handsome new husband really a crook? Well, yes he is. But is he a murderer? And if he is, will he kill again? Will he kill Lina? This is a masterful study of a true sociopath, a man who simply has no sense of remorse or guilt or anything other than his own needs. And it's all told from the point of view of his increasingly suspicious, increasingly scared but devoted wife. This was the basis of Hitchock's 'Suspicion' but the novel is so much more powerful. The tens ...more
Apr 26, 2013 Laura rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Drama:
Emilia Fox, Ben Caplan and Patricia Hodge star in a dramatisation of the novel that Alfred Hitchcock based his film, 'Suspicion' on.

A study in moral monstrosity. At first it seems pretty clear who is the monster and who is the monstor's victim; Lina's passivity and self-doubt are maddening, but her essential goodness seems clear. But as the story continues, that easy binary--of monster and victim--becomes increasingly troubled. Does she begin good and is her goodness twisted into monstrosity by life with a toxic, sociopathic narcissist? Or is she herself monstrous to the core? And her monstrosity seems awfully similar to ide ...more

If Before the Fact is remembered other than by enthusiasts of the “alternate” murder mysteries that were relatively popular in England in the 1930s it is as the inspiration of Hitchcock’s Suspicion. .

BTF was published in 1932 and for the reader who knows only the England of Marsh, Allingham and Christie it may come as a shock to find a story which deals so openly, if with a somewhat oblique form of openness, with matters of sexuality. The POV character, Lina, is clearly frigid dur
BOTTOM LINE: Sweet woman with money is glommed onto by a ruthless playboy, who proceeds to try, repeatedly, to murder her for her money. The novel is not at all as genteel and sweet as the Hitchcock film version and was extremely dark and far more complex.

A very creepy psychological study from 1932 of a man who might be a murderer, and the victim, who loves him. The basis for Hitchcock's movie SUSPICION with Joan Fontaine as the clueless little wifey and Cary Grant as the conniving husband. Hit
Vanessa Hatcher
AGHHHHH! That is what I yelled when I finished the book. Really? Did the author really believe a woman could be so stupid? Maybe. But I have a hard time swallowing the main character's lack of decision making. Read this book for a book club--or rather got the book for that reason, began it because I had nothing else to read when I took Dan to the hospital in Oct. It is called a mystery, but I'm still not sure what the mystery was--maybe how this woman could be so....stupid, I just can't even thi ...more
A "Golden Age" crime classic. As a Hitchcock fan I have read some of the books that inspired his films, Rebecca and Marnie spring to mind as source material for psychological thrillers and " Suspicion" is based on this book. I found it hard to believe in Cary Grant as a psychopathic murderer but the film's set pieces, especially the fatal glass of milk containing a light bulb to make it glow malevolently remain imprinted. The novel is a study in emotional abuse within marriage in which the victi ...more
Carey Combe
Apr 25, 2013 Carey Combe rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Bettie, Laura Wanda
Really loved this. Didn't know whether to be infuriated by her inability to go and tell him to take a hike or understanding. Definitely psychologically convincing.
May 20, 2011 Daniel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daniel by: Anne Scott
This is required reading for my film class, as it later inspired the Hitchcock film Suspicion, which is a great film. I started off really liking this book, as in my opinion Frances Iles is a much better writer than Raymond Chandler, the last mystery writer I read.

The plot is an interesting one: a woman begins to suspect that her gambling-addicted husband is trying to kill her. If you have ever seen the movie, you should know now that this book differs significantly. In the movie, Lina is a some
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It took me a while to get through it. It isn't my cup of tea, but I had to finish it. Short reads got me through.

Francis Illes style is of the psychological thriller rather than the outright who-done-it. There are no police, no outright victim, but there is crime. Tension is the primary mood in this story of two co-dependent people.

Lina is in love with Johnnie. Even though she has been told by those who know that Johnnie is bad news, she marries him. After a few years she realizes how bad an app
Grace Rostoker
Oct 29, 2013 Grace Rostoker rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mystery fans
On publication in 1932 Before the Fact was described as "one of the finest studies of murder ever written", and I have to agree.

I read this because I like the Alfred Hitchcock movie 'Suspicion' which is based on the book, and was curious about how Hitchcock had adapted the story. I think the book is far superior. Most notably because it is much darker than the movie, and does not have the contrived happy ending the studio insisted on. The main characters have far more depth and complexity, and I
While this novel is the basis of a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie, Suspicion, this novel really is maddening in a way that Hitchcock never portrayed in his film. This novel is tale of a wife's suspicion of her husband -- infidelity, thievery, embezzlement, and murder. Yet despite all this, she loved this man and was actually sorry for him. Frankly after a while, it became almost unreal how enabling she was of her husband and the horrible way he took advantage of her. There was simply no redeemin ...more
Inconceivably stupid woman marries scoundrel with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, puts up with lies, theft and infidelity, begins to suspect her husband wants her dead, does nothing about it. Did not enjoy.
one of the best books i have read. this is the book where Hitchcock got his movie "Suspicion" from. as with all books that have been made into movies i could not help but compare the two and Hitchcock did a wonderful job... it's just too bad the acting was horrendous. it's easy to read in the book what Hitchcock put into the movie. the book of course has so much more than the movie does and what was not put into the movie was really good. Before the Fact is one of those books where the main char ...more
Great mystery. Having seen the movie it was based on, I was curious to see how closely they matched. The book was well worth the time.
Agatha West
How much you will like this book will likely depend on how long you can put up with Lina, the main female character, for. She is a character who appears smart and intelligent, and yet spends almost the entire story falling for her husband Johnny's excuses. To be fair, Iles does a good job of building suspense and manages to keep the reader interested for most of the book. I stuck with the book to the end and found that while I understand the ending used, it made me feel frustrated. If Iles had s ...more
I accept that this was a pioneering effort in the 1930s to write a psychological suspense novel, and I respect that Alfred Hitchcock found something here to inspire his very successful film, "Suspicion." All that conceded, this book is a complete bore. I shouldn't say "complete," because it manages to be both boring and irritating. I could talk about the flat writing and the dawdling plot, but the main problem is the heroine, Lina McLaidlaw, who is so profoundly stupid - even more stupid than he ...more
Emmett J.
This is a very well-written, haunting book. Not at all what I had been expecting.
Why? Why? Why? Oh, Lina, Lina...I went from really liking her in the beginning to feeling sorry for her towards the middle of the book. By the time I finished reading it I thought of probably a hundred ways of how I would have killed her off. And I would have enjoyed every second of it.
I absolutely loved how this book was written. Even though I couldn't stand either Lina of Johnnie and normally it would make me simply abandon the book altogether, I couldn't stop reading "Before the Fact". What a
This book was great. I think Lina might just be the most annoying and tiresome character in any mystery novel. I don't know what kind of "intelligence" she was supposed to have so much of, but she didn't show any evidence of it, ever. She just seemed dim-witted. She was extremely adept at rationalization, though. By the end of the novel, I was convinced that Lina was just too stupid and weak-willed to live. I would like to see "Suspicion" now that I've read this book, even though I know how diff ...more
Harry Casey
Classically boring. Don't bother.
Heather Letalien Costa
Surprise surprise...........the book better than the movie! I knew he was a dirtier dog than they let him be in the movie. Hollywood wouldn't let precious Cary Grant couldn't be the bad guy.
Christine Sinclair
Lina, Lina, Lina! So many character flaws you can't count them all, and yet I still had a lot of sympathy for her. Who among us wouldn't overlook a few minor moral issues to be with Johnnie Aysgarth? (Especially as played by Cary Grant, of course, in the movie version, Suspicion.) A very good read, with several major differences from Alfred Hitchcock's (and Hollywood's) take on it. Makes me want to watch the movie again to compare them.
While I understand why some may find fault with Iles's portrayal of Lina, to think her stupid is to miss the point. Her descent into further depths of foolishness or irrationality is the major theme of the novel. Iles is a wonderful stylist, and I would count the book among the best written mysteries I have read. His prose gives the plot momentum and plausibility. It is touched by a peculiarly strong note of melancholy.
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Francis Iles is a pseudonym of Anthony Berkeley Cox who also wrote under the pseudonyms Anthony Berkeley and A Monmouth Platts.

Cox was born in Watford and was educated at Sherborne School and University College London.

He served in the Army in World War I and thereafter worked as a journalist, contributing s series of humourous sketches to the magazine 'Punch'. These were later published collective
More about Francis Iles...
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“Suspicion is a tenuous thing, so impalpable that the exact moment of its birth is not easy to determine.” 0 likes
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