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Antidote to Venom

(Inspector French #17)

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  391 ratings  ·  91 reviews
George Surridge, director of the Birmington Zoo, is a man with many worries: his marriage is collapsing; his finances are insecure; and an outbreak of disease threatens the animals in his care.

As Surridges debts mount and the pressure on him increases, he begins to dream of miracle solutions. But is he cunning enough to turn his dreams into reality and could he commit the
Paperback, 278 pages
Published July 7th 2015 by Poisoned Pen Press (first published 1938)
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Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an unconventional Golden Age crime story, which starts with a long build-up to murder. Then, once the killing has happened, it's slightly like Columbo, as we follow a policeman (Crofts' series detective Inspector French) in his efforts to bring the culprit to justice. Even though by this point we know whodunit, we don't know exactly how, and there is still a fiendishly complicated riddle to unravel.

The book has an intriguing setting, in and around a zoo, and author Crofts did a lot of
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is without doubt one of the most intriguing crime novels I have read for a long time. Freeman Wills Crofts called it 'an inverted story' as the events are initially seen through the eyes of the culprit(s). Only late into the novel, when Chief Inspector French enters the fray, do the usual police investigations take over. And the method works wonderfully well.

The setting is unusual in that it revolves around Birmington Zoo where one of the protagonists, George Surridge, is director. Surridge
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most interesting feature of Antidote to Venom is its structure: as an inverted detective novel, it starts out following the criminals and not the detective, dealing with the prelude to murder from the eyes of the guilty. In this case, the guilty is one George Surridge, director of the Birmington Zoo and desperate for money. His marriage is dry and loveless, all due to his perpetual lack of funds. He's scraped by for years waiting for an inheritance from a wealthy aunt. And when he falls for ...more
Lou Robinson
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I totally love this series of British Crime Classics....and this one was a cracker. Set in the city of Birmington (I assume it's supposed to be Brum), it's a tale of how love and money are usually at the root of a good old fashioned poisoning. And although we are clear from the outset who the killer is....will they get away with it? Not revealed until the final chapter. Excellent writing style too, I shall read more from Mr Crofts.
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, borrowed
Another crime author from the dim and distant past that I wasn't aware of - but according to the blurb it sounds like someone we probably should have - I guess reading this book fixes that. The author provide us with a pretty unconventional murder mystery though - we know who the murderers are up front, for example, as he is our narrator for the first half of the book. Previously I've only seen this where the murderer is an unreliable narrator, but here he his quite honest about his actions (if ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-interested
Gave up after 100 pages of a thoroughly unpleasant "protagonist" rationalizing immoral actions, while the people around him did same. Blech.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Murder Mystery Addicts Looking for Something DIFFERENT
Dame Agatha Christie and Her Peers
BOOK 46 - 1938
In the introduction, Martin Edwards tells us that this "is an ambitious and unusual detective novel." It is. And we learn that Crofts "was widely regarded as one of the leading crime writers of the day" and had among his admirers T.S. Eliot and Raymond Chandler! Why, then, did this author virtually disappear? Is it true that Agatha Christie was just better, or perhaps more prolific, or both, or did she maybe have Hercule and Marple and Tommy and
Sonnet Fitzgerald
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another editor turned me on to this little gem, and Wow! It's always such a pleasure when a forgotten classic turns out to be so well-crafted and accessible today.

Antidote to Venom was written in the late 1920s, the heyday of literary mystery. In fact, Freeman Crofts was a contemporary of the young Agatha Christie (and at the time his books outsold hers!) Antidote to Venom is a unique murder mystery in that it is inverted: We see the buildup and crime as they occur through the eyes of the
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think Freeman Wills Crofts was better at writing the traditional whodunnit than these would-be psychological crime stories. I've come to this straight after 12.30 From Croydon and liked it even less. It doesn't help that the author put a note at the start explaining that he had made "an effort to tell a story of crime positively", an endeavour at which he completely failed. The motive for the murder is that the protagonist dislikes being poor and wants to support his mistress. Not exactly ...more
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an intriguing study of a crime and what led up to it. The reader knows from the start who was involved in the murder and why it was carried out but it is still interesting to read about how circumstances seem to conspire to lead otherwise law abiding people into crime. What is equally fascinating is the way Inspector French - coming to the case late and at first reluctantly - reasons that there was something strange about the death.

George Sturridge has what for him is the perfect job. He
Oct 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries, library
The director of an English city zoo is gradually tempted into crime, leading to murder. This is another reverse mystery where the reader knows who from the beginning of the book, but with a cleverly plotted twistthe reader doesnt know until the end how the murder was committed.
Nick Duretta
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
This is one of those "Oh, what a tangled web we weave!" mysteries where the hapless protagonist, concerned only by bringing a bit of joy into his life, ensnares himself in a murder plot that seems doomed from the start. The attraction here is the method of the murder itself--intricately planned (there's even a diagram!) but incredibly far-fetched. Also of note is the very human and sympathetic portrayal of the murderer.
tom bomp
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, fiction
Pretty good book. Nothing super exciting but it messes with the traditional format in a neat way while still having a satisfying and interesting actual mystery.

It's set up sort of like a "reverse whodunnit" but even stronger - it takes a long time for you to find out who's going to get murdered with multiple false hints as to who the victim will be and things only really get going like... halfwayish through? It works well, things get set up nicely and the build-up is well done. His character
John Frankham
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-detective
This Inspector French whodunnit has to be persevered-with, and will reward those who do so.

A slow, meticulous unfolding of the way in which an upright citizen is drawn into considering actions he would not believe he might carry out. Then a slow, meticulous unfolding of the way in which Inspector French's procedural skills try to solve the case.

An unusual and morality-affirming conclusion/denouement makes a satisfactory end.

"George Surridge, director of the Birmington Zoo, is a man with many
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it

Although FWC is one of my very favourite authors, I felt that this inverted mystery was a bit too long. In Martin Edwards' forward he explains that Crofts was trying to show how an otherwise decent person can be drawn into temptation and allowing his (Crofts) faith to show through. While I take this on board I still feel that the build up detailing how George Surridge gradually turns from a decent man into a murderer was so long it began to get boring. When French eventually turns up on page
May 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
None of his characters are ever likable
Ben Taylor
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm working my way through the British Library Crime Classics, and Antidote to Venom was a fun change of pace. I hadn't experienced the "inverted" mystery before. As the foreword hints, we experience much of the novel from a guilty party's perspective. The first 150 pages actually reminded me of the hit TV series Breaking Bad: a generally good man keeps making small bad decisions, each of which get him in further trouble.

Because of its unique structure, the book does a better job than most
John Lee
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
After reading "The 12-30 from Croydon" by this author I came across this one and started it immediately. Maybe that was a mistake.

I would imagine that this story must have been a bit of a ground breaker in the way that it is told back when it was written in 1938. I wonder if the readers back in the days just before the outbreak of WWll were as surprised at the ending as I was. I think that I can honestly say that I have never read one like it before.

I found it a little strange that the Detective
Tracy Shephard
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a crime novel with a difference..

From the start we know who the murderer is, we know why the murder has taken place and we know how the murder was committed.

George is a man who has money problems. His wife Clarissa, who has money of her own but never spends it in anyone but herself, doesn't know of George's financial state. When George starts an affair with a beautiful young woman he meets at the zoo where is the Director, his money worries become of a burden.

George's  marriage to
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This "inverted" mystery begins by following George Surridge, director of the Birmington Zoo. He is short on cash, due mostly to bad decisions on his part, and finds himself contemplating the unthinkable as a means to alleviate his difficulties. The reader waits for the inevitable to happen, as Surridge gets in deeper and deeper, with the suspense being where and how he would commit murder.

Once the deed is done, it comes to the notice of Scotland Yard detective, Inspector French, who notices a
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Continuing reading through the British Library Crime Classics series. I just finished another book by Freeman Wills Croft, "Antidote to Venom". A very good read, never boring. This author writes detective stories with a clear moral purpose behind them. The format is what is known as an inverted detective novel. Instead of reading to figure out who committed the crime, the story begins from the soon-to-be murderer's point of view. We meet George Surridge, director of the Birmingham Zoo and learn ...more
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it
A good yarn, back to front, in that we know who dunnit, not how or how the police catch up with the culprit.

The topic - zoo, snakes and poison - was interesting, well researched and cleverly told. However, the characters, especially the main one George Surridge, weren't particularly engaging and whilst you could see very well his situational panic, his reactions to unfolding events were somewhat exaggerated. I could see a number of explanations, ways around his situation which would have ended
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Originally published in 1938, this "inverted" murder mystery tells the story mainly from the murderer's point of view. Interestingly, there is continuous discussion of morality and ethics throughout the novel. While the murder initially rationalizes his choices, eventually he becomes convicted of the wrongness of his actions. An interesting physiological study. Refreshingly moral compared to today's dark thrillers.

Lush and rich language. I found myself wanting to live in the narrator's world!

Im glad that Britain has gotten rid of capital punishmentI found the ending sickly disturbing.

I wouldnt recommend this book. Im not even going to classify this as a mystery, because theres no mystery herewe know who the murderers are and why theyve killed. For me, this takes away all of the fun and puzzling aspects of golden age mysteries that I love so much.

This book also changes genres 2/3 of the way through. The first 2/3 is a personal drama about an unhappy marriage with financial woes
Betty Dickie
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oh what a tangled web we weave.... Poor George Surredge, director of the Birmington Zoo, is unhappily married, in debt, and in love with another woman. All could be set right if his wealthy aunt would just die. When she finally does he discovers that her solicitor has gambled away all her money. When he concocts a "fool proof" scheme to recover the money that depends on George's securing a poisonous snake from the zoo, George sees no other way out. All seems to be going their way until Scotland ...more
Harriet Steel
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
The British Library's mission to revive the work of mystery authors who have fallen from fashion usually produces interesting works and this vintage mystery is no exception. It's unusual in that the expected structure is inverted. Rather than needing to work out who the murderer is, the question is whether they will be found out. There's some ingenious plotting, particularly the method of the murder, and the characters are well drawn, if hard to like. There's no graphic violence or sex. The ...more
Kishanlal Katira
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
The 'Columbo' structure worked even better with this book, as Crofts gives even more satisfaction and suspense to having Inspector French figure out what we, the reader, already know. The ending came a little abruptly, being both a benefit and a drawback to this book. The somewhat early ending has made me thirsty for more of Crofts' works - I doubt this will be my last read of his books - yet I couldn't help but finish the book with the belief that there was more to tell here. A smooth summer ...more
Brian's Bookshelves
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This an inverted murder mystery. We know who did it from the start and then follow Inspector French as he investigates.
George Surrage is manager of a zoo and in an unhappy marriage. We follow his decline astemptation crosses his path.
Like an episode of Columbo this book entertains and thrills.
A few twists and turns keep the action going.
This was a 5 star read until the final chapter when all is forgiven when George confessies to God. and he sleeps peacefully.
4.9 stars
Yvonne Davies
I wanted a gentle mystery to relax my brain and this fitted the bill. Whilst it was written in the 30s it didn't feel outdated and was a pleasant read. George was a gentleman, but it all went horribly wrong. As you read, you know who the intended victim and what will kill them but that is it. The police officers in the story were not your blundering fools and I enjoyed watching them try and solve the case. The execution of the murder was ingenious and I would never have guessed how he did it.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime-mystery
I'm on a little bit of a Golden Age of detective novels kick just now, but this one didn't really work for me. It has an interesting structure the first two-thirds or so are told from the point of view of one of the culprits, explaining how he came to take the action he did and only the last third taken up with the investigation. The problem is that the culprit is a selfish and uninteresting little man, while the Scotland Yard detective's investigation is quite interesting (and he is amusingly ...more
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Born in Dublin of English stock, Freeman Wills Crofts was educated at Methodist and Campbell Colleges in Belfast and at age 17 he became a civil engineering pupil, apprenticed to his uncle, Berkeley D Wise who was the chief engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway (BNCR).

In 1899 he became a fully fledged railway engineer before becoming a district engineer and then chief assistant

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Inspector French (1 - 10 of 30 books)
  • Inspector French's Greatest Case (Inspector French #1)
  • Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery
  • Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy
  • The Sea Mystery (Inspector French #4)
  • The Box Office Murders
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