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Before the Poison

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  5,967 ratings  ·  705 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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Average rating 3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,967 ratings  ·  705 reviews

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Mar 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Thomas Strömquist
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A long-time expat buys a large house in his native Yorkshire following the death of his wife. The plan is to compose a classical piece of music (as opposed to film scores that has been his livelihood) in his semi-retirement. With lots of time to spare, he finds out that the house was the location of great drama in the early 50's. The man in the house died and days later it was deduced he was poisoned, something he wife was later convicted of. But was she guilty? Our composer-cum-amateur detectiv ...more
Jun 01, 2013 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
Dana Stabenow
Aug 27, 2014 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
Nancy Martin
May 17, 2012 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
Gloria Feit
Mar 01, 2012 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
May 28, 2014 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
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.
Rachel Piper
Feb 29, 2012 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
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This novel is rich in depth but also replete with detail and requires a chunk of time for concentrated reading. A good snowstorm comes to mind first, but I did not have that. Peter Robinson has shown himself to be a person interested in music in his Inspector Banks series, and here he is allowed the freedom to paint the pages with a variety of musical references. The main character has done well writing musical scores for Hollywood and has set out on a new path he hopes will allow him to write m ...more
Cleopatra  Pullen
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Famous trials: Grace Elizabeth Fox, April 1953, by Sir Charles Hamilton Morley

Grace Elizabeth Fox rose from her bed and dressed with the aid of her young Attending Officer Mary Swann at 6.30 AM on the morning of 23 April, 1953. She ate a light breakfast of toast, marmalade and tea, then she busied herself writing letters to her family and friends. After a small brandy to steady her nerves shortly before 8.00 AM, she spent the following hour alone with the Chaplain.
So starts Before the Poison th
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Re-read this book, and have nothing more to say beyond my original review, still a very good read.
Read January 2012, re-read August 2017

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
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
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Before the Poison by Peter Robinson.

This was definitely not an Inspector Banks mystery! My mistake.

A long, drawn out, monotonous story that could have been so much shorter. I was more than half way through it and had to stop.
May 22, 2012 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
May 29, 2012 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
Mar 05, 2012 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 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 07, 2012 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
Feb 05, 2013 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, & the owner of ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-challenge
A pleasant change from the DCI Alan Banks novels.

In "Before the Poison" a writer of Hollywood movie scores returns to Yorkshire and buys an old house. He becomes interested in the murder that occurred there and the execution of the murderess.

I'm unsure as how to describe the book. It isn't a crime novel. It isn't a thriller. It's not even a ghost story, though it has a few spooky moments. It's just a gentle story about one man's search for the truth.

A gentle, absorbing read.

Jun 11, 2016 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
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, gothic
Love Gothic novels; love British authors.

Most of the Gothics I've read (Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, the Brontes, and my favorite, Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier) have female MCs. That's great with me, but I was pleased to discover a modern Gothic novel by a British male author with a male MC.

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson has all the things I like in a Gothic novel: creepy old house, atmospheric location, isolated MC, bad weather, old records and journals and rumors and gossip, bittersweet me
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I read one of Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks mysteries some years ago (In a Dry Season), I confess that I don't remember much about it, other than that it concerned a crime in the past. Before the Poison is a stand-alone, and what attracted me to it was that same kind crime-in-the-past setting. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch proclaims that Robinson is “The equal of legends in the genre such as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell,” and it’s obvious from the first chapter alone that Robinson h ...more
Mar 08, 2012 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
May 18, 2012 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
Sep 01, 2011 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
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime, abandoned
This is not a DCI Banks. It's about a Hollywood film composer who returns to his native Yorkshire in his retirement after his wife dies. Determined to write some real music, a sonata, he gets side tracked by the story of murder committed fifty years ago in the house he just bought. I just didn't care about the characters or the plot. ...more
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
I meant to grab a book by Robotham and got this one instead. Interesting twist at the end but not a book to keep me glued to my chair. Man buys house; sees ghost?; investigates her hanging; solves mystery to his satisfaction. Not enough ghost. Not enough mystery.
Martie Nees Record
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
A ghost story without any ghosts yet still remains a haunting novel.
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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

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