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Antidote to Venom

(Inspector French #17)

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  507 ratings  ·  111 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 Surridge’s 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 t
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 re
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
So for anyone interested in reading old British Library Crime Classics, Kindle Unlimited has added a huge majority of them to their platform!

Antidote to Venom is a classic 1930s published novel (since to be honest, I've been craving more books from this era lately, no idea why!) This isn't your speedy thriller novel, nor a slow textbook read. Rather somewhere in the middle. We follow Inspector French who is called to investigate a murder. However, the novel is mainly told from the culprit's poin
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. ...more
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. ...more
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 Tu
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 murder
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
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysteries
Despite not liking the ending, I thoroughly enjoyed this reverse mystery. Though the pace is languid and the killer is known from the beginning (thus the "reverse" mystery), something about it kept me riveted. Maybe it was the setting of England in the 1930s; maybe it was the occupation of the main character--a zoo keeper--but whatever it was, I found the book to be a wonderful escape. ...more
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 calc ...more
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 twist—the reader doesn’t 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. ...more
Naim Frewat
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Loved it! If only he had given George a past...
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 Claris
tom bomp
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
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 wr
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 wor
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 18
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 re ...more
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 myste
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
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
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-books-read
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 c
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
Darius Ostrowski
Sep 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Well, this one took me a long while to get through. Mostly because the build-up to the murder was extremely long, it felt like the first 3/4ths of the book involved the scheming and explanation of why the victim had to die. And for this long intro, there were (almost) no redeeming characters at all.

The main character, George Surridge, has an unhappy marriage, wishes to kill his aunt to get her money, and finds a mistress. His wife despises him and is no picnic herself. George's eventual partner
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!

I’m glad that Britain has gotten rid of capital punishment—I found the ending sickly disturbing.

I wouldn’t recommend this book. I’m not even going to classify this as a mystery, because there’s no mystery here—we know who the murderers are and why they’ve 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 woe
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 auth ...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 en

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