English Mysteries Club discussion

56 views
General Archive - current > June 2020 - Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

Comments Showing 1-48 of 48 (48 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bionic Jean (last edited May 26, 2020 01:20PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Here is the thread to to discuss our next group read, which has won the poll for a cosy or classic mystery story. It is Strong Poison, number 6 in the series about the amateur detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Strong Poison was first published in 1930, so now is a great time to read it, for its 90th anniversary. It's also the first one to feature Harriet Vane.

Reading and discussion starts on 1st June, and is current until the end of the month.

Happy reading :)


message 2: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Mclaren | 285 comments I was sure that I have read this before but I can't remember it. Must mean I need to get a copy and read it!


message 3: by Michaela (new)

Michaela | 186 comments Glad about this, as I wanted to read it for a long time. I even got two different editions at home! ;)


message 4: by Emilia (new)

Emilia Barnes | 87 comments Yay looking forward to this!


message 5: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Michaela wrote: "Glad about this, as I wanted to read it for a long time. I even got two different editions at home! ;)"

I find I have it twice on kindle, which I'm quite annoyed about! Amazon could have warned me, but they are different publishers :(


message 6: by France-Andrée (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments I’ll give it a miss, I read the first one in the series and I didn’t like it at all.


message 7: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Aw, never mind. We can't like everything!


message 8: by Michaela (new)

Michaela | 186 comments I also read the first one in the series, and didn´t like it. It was recommended to me to start reading from this book on, when he first meets Harriet Vane, who accompanies him through the other novels.


message 9: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
That's true! Thanks Michaela - l'll add that fact to the first comment.

Does anyone remember nominating this? Was that why you chose it rather than the first one?


message 10: by France-Andrée (last edited May 26, 2020 01:22PM) (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments Michaela, you tempt me, I’ll give it a whirl, I always wondered why people like the series...


message 11: by Michaela (new)

Michaela | 186 comments Yes Jean, that was me, and that was why I gave it another chance. :)

Glad to hear you will join us too France-Andrée! :)


message 12: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 188 comments I prefer the books with Harriet Vane and Lord Peter to those with Lord Peter alone, which are fine, but not as good as those with both of them.


message 13: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Thanks Michaela! Sorry - I was a bit slow there :(


message 14: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 83 comments The kindle version is $1 today in the US, but you have to coose the correct edition Strong Poison


message 15: by France-Andrée (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments I cheated again and read the first chapter today. The judge sounds very biased and it is weird to have all this about her morality because she lived with someone, the 1920s sound harsh about following your heart.

I’m really hoping that Waffles is a nickname or this guy should be the accused in a patricide instead of Harriet.


message 16: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
This read starts today :)


message 17: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jun 01, 2020 04:42AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
France-Andrée wrote: "The judge sounds very biased ..."

I'm surprised Dorothy L. Sayers has spend so long on the summing-up. It sets the scene though, so that we know all the evidence, but seems a dry way of doing it. "Show don't tell" springs to mind.

The morality of the time is spot-in I think. In England at least, the idea of "living together" was still considered immoral until the early 1970s. The 1960s heralded a change, but even then it was still referred to by many as "living in sin".

The two character here justified it by their unconventional philosophical beliefs. When (view spoiler) The conventional view was that opposite sexes living together as man and wife was only something that (as was said) beatniks or Arty types would do, flouting convention, everyone's opinion, and society in general.


message 18: by Emilia (new)

Emilia Barnes | 87 comments Bionic Jean wrote: "I'm surprised Dorothy L. Sayers has spend so long on the summing-up. It sets the scene though, so that we know all the evidence, but seems a dry way of doing it. "Show don't tell" springs to mind."

This is not my first reading of this book, but every time I find this beginning difficult to get through... I do think it's the length of it, rather than the actual quality of the scene. Once we have all the facts laid out before us, it does then kick off promptly. But I agree, it's all very tell and little show and we have little reason to be invested in the case to patiently read through this dry recounting of the facts by a judge.

Bionic Jean wrote: "The morality of the time is spot-in I think. In England at least, the idea of "living together" was still considered immoral until the early 1970s. The 1960s heralded a change, but even then it was still referred to by many as "living in sin"."

I found it interesting that the judge would actually equate her immorality of choosing to live with a man while unmarried to the immorality of murdering her lover. The fact that he is saying that she has shown herself to be of low character and therefore we can't put anything past her is just so shocking, to my millennial eyes. But of course it is accurate as regards attitudes at the time, and of course the way women are treated is a major theme in this novel (and in other of DLS's works).


message 19: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Yes, an excellent point Emilia.


message 20: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 1663 comments I just started this today via the audiobook narrated by Ian Carmichael. I am in the minority of readers who don't really like Harriet Vane so I am hoping that I will change my mind in this reread.

And yay for Miss Climpson! I had forgotten that she was on the jury.


message 21: by France-Andrée (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments The first two chapters were a little bit hard, lots of exposition and in a dry way. Stuck it out though and was surprised by the verdict. (view spoiler) I liked the first meeting between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane, he was arrogant and bashful. The bashful part might make me thaw towards him because the arrogant thing is one of the reason I didn’t like him when I read the first book in the series.


message 22: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
I'd actually forgotten how flip these characters are, especially Lord Peter. At the moment the humour is grating on me, but I might get my mood right. I'm not sure quite how realistic Harriet Vane's behaviour is at the start either.

It is nice to see Miss Climpson and Bunter again :)


message 23: by France-Andrée (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments I like the satellite characters a lot. Just read the chapter about the Rumm family, they reminded me of people I know. For now, I have an idea about one mystery, but I rather think it’s not the principal one.

It’s an easy read, I’m already at 60% and I haven’t read in it that much or the time goes on quickly while I read it.


message 24: by Michaela (new)

Michaela | 186 comments I read it within the last three days. I liked the humour, but thought the book was a bit long in the end, and the solving sudden and based on something the reader couldn´t know. I think I won´t get really warm with the Lord, but hope to hear more from Harriet Vane!


message 25: by France-Andrée (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments I’m done too, I liked it, but I had guessed early on the means and opportunity so much so that I didn’t think that it was the main mystery, but it was. I really enjoyed the lesser character especially Miss Climpson and Miss Murchison, I would read a book with only them as the heroines.

Next mystery for me is Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart, I know she’s is american so not eligible for a group read, but I love her.


message 26: by Emilia (last edited Jun 04, 2020 11:36PM) (new)

Emilia Barnes | 87 comments France-Andrée wrote: "I really enjoyed the lesser character especially Miss Climpson and Miss Murchison, I would read a book with only them as the heroines."

Strong Poison was the first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery I ever read and I fell in love with DLS's work precisely because of Miss Climpson and the cattery. I love how intelligent, persistent and principled she is. It also made me like Lord Peter so much more, knowing that he had a real appreciation of these women, and employed them in such a way.

I also loved that there were no beautiful damsels who died or femme fataled their way through the novel, like so many mysteries of the time had. The femme fatale trope is turned completely on its head with Harriet Vane who isn't particularly good looking, and who has done nothing wrong except for breaking up with her looser boyfriend. But the limelight is on the old, unattractive spinsters, who eventually save her life.


message 27: by Emilia (new)

Emilia Barnes | 87 comments Another thing I love about this mystery is that there are wrong leads that they follow. This feels so much like a real investigation by how they explore every possible avenue to get to the solution, including ones that turn out to be nothing. Lord Peter is not a genius who can see where the truth lies, he is just persistent, has a diverse and capable team, and a strong sense for justice. I think that makes him an appealing detective.


message 28: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 1663 comments I finished rereading this via the Ian Carmichael audiobook. I recalled the solution quite clearly but still enjoyed seeing how Lord Peter unravelled it. I have finally put my finger on what I don't like about this book - it is (view spoiler)


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi, I just joined your group. I watched the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries on PBS back in the 80’s and then read all of the books. It has been awhile so I got Strong Poison and will read it to refresh my memory.


message 30: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Great! I'm so pleased Nancy.

Excellent points from everyone. I think Dorothy L. Sayers unusually modern approach to females may be one reason why she has stood the test of time. I'm still part way through this one (and can't remember the ending) so can't judge it all or unclick your spoiler Leslie.

There's plenty of time to join in, as we have three weeks left on this read.


message 31: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 1663 comments Jean, if you are more than a few chapters in you can read my spoiler as it doesn't relate to the solution of the murder.


message 32: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Thanks Leslie, and I entirely agree. It's very odd, almost as if Dorothy L. Sayers (view spoiler)


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

I am half way through but I am wondering do judges in England summarize the whole trial to the jury or did Christie just employ this tactic to inform the reader.

I think Dorothy made Harriet a Mystery writer so that Harriet would “know” Lord Peter better. Harriet did tell Lord Peter that as a Mystery Writer she had studied his career with interest.

I do love that his business hires “superfluous” women, especially during a time when a woman who did not have a husband or family fortune found it difficult to make ends meet.


message 34: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 23 comments Emilia wrote: "Bionic Jean wrote: "I'm surprised Dorothy L. Sayers has spend so long on the summing-up. It sets the scene though, so that we know all the evidence, but seems a dry way of doing it. "Show don't tel..."

Dorothy L Sayers had actually been in such a relationship and had had a son, who was never acknowledged as her son until after her death. He was raised by a relative. I find Sayers writes autobiographically and her writing was for her cathartic.


message 35: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) | 23 comments I think Dorothy L Sayers is a very interesting woman and did a lot for women's rights. There are 2 books that I would like to read:

The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women by Mo Moulton

The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers 1899-1936: The Making of a Detective Novelist


message 36: by France-Andrée (last edited Jun 14, 2020 06:13PM) (new)

France-Andrée (iphigenie72) | 375 comments Tracey the Bookworm wrote: "Dorothy L Sayers had actually been in such a relationship and had had a son, who was never acknowledged as her son until after her death. He was raised by a relative. I find Sayers writes autobiographically and her writing was for her cathartic.

Thank you for that knowledge, it was my first read by her so I didn’t know anything about her life. Seems sad for her son, acknowledgement after her death is not really accepting of him, but I understand the times were very different.


message 37: by Anupama (new)

Anupama | 11 comments I'm on Chapter VIII of Strong Poison and I love the way Lord Wimsey is portrayed as a detective-enthusiast. This is different than what I usually read, say Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot (although there are definitely many more mystery authors I don't know about).
I also noticed how female mystery writers were looked down upon (if I understood that part correctly), and it makes me grateful that I am living in a world where this kind of behaviour towards women, although still is happening, is not acceptable.
We have a long way to go, for sure.


message 38: by Emilia (new)

Emilia Barnes | 87 comments Tracey the Bookworm wrote: "I think Dorothy L Sayers is a very interesting woman and did a lot for women's rights. There are 2 books that I would like to read:

Oh yes I agree - I think it's most evident in Gaudy Night. Those two books look super interesting. I've added them to my TBR!

Interestingly, this is what it says on Wikipedia about the background to this novel:

While Sayers was working on her first novel, Whose Body?, she began a relationship with John Cournos, a writer of Russian-Jewish background.[6] Cournos was an advocate of free love: he did not believe in marriage and did not want children.[7] Cournos pressed Sayers to have sex with contraception, but she, a High Anglican, resisted to avoid what she called "the taint of the rubber shop".[6] Their relationship foundered on the mismatch of expectations,[6] and within two years Cournos – apparently not believing in the ideas he had professed – had married somebody else.[7] Both Sayers and Cournos later wrote fictionalised versions of their relationship: Sayers in Strong Poison (1930) and Cournos in The Devil is an English Gentleman (1932).



message 39: by Nan (new)

Nan | 3 comments Emilia wrote: "Tracey the Bookworm wrote: "I think Dorothy L Sayers is a very interesting woman and did a lot for women's rights. There are 2 books that I would like to read:

Oh yes I agree - I think it's most e..."


I have always love her books. My majored in history way back in the day, with special emphasis on WWI and WWII. This was the first mystery fiction that I had read that truly brought out the horrors of WWI. I’m fascinated by “classic” British mysteries. They bring out so much of the nature of life at the time they were written. There’s no question that a woman who was “living in sin” with a man would be wicked enough to murder him. Poor Harriet! I do love Gaudy Night, but my favorite has always been The Nine Taylors. It was my introduction to change ringing!


message 40: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 485 comments Well I've just finished, and this is the third Sayers I've read in the last few months. Again a very enjoyable read that I gave 4 stars.
There were a couple of points that made me mark it down to 4 stars, so if you were interested then please read the spoilers in my review.


message 41: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Nancy wrote: "I am half way through but I am wondering do judges in England summarize the whole trial to the jury or did Christie just employ this tactic to inform the reader..."

Sorry Nancy - I thought I'd answered this, but now find no trace of it! So the answer is yes they do, and in some cases they advise the jury how to vote.


message 42: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
Emilia - I find those facts fascinating! Thank you. Whatever you may think of her, Dorothy L. Sayers was ahead of her time!

For this who have finished (or about to) please remember we have a thread especially devoted to the works of Dorothy L. Sayers, which is hosted by Leslie. LINK HERE.

Not started yet? Not to worry - you still have virtually two weeks :)


message 43: by Barbara K (last edited Jun 18, 2020 08:47AM) (new)

Barbara K | 164 comments I haven't read this in decades, and with the perspective of time and lots more reading, I'm more impressed than ever with Sayers' writing and the worldview she projects. Although I can acknowledge some of the critiques mentioned above (such as the lengthy exposition), they in no way interfered with my enjoyment.

Thanks to the group for choosing this as this month's read - and to my library for having an audio copy available, the final nudge I needed to jump in.

A few further comments in my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 44: by Emilia (new)

Emilia Barnes | 87 comments Barbara wrote: "A few further comments in my review."

Lovely review Barbara! I agree with what you say about Marsh - I had the same experience!

With regards to Strong Poison I'm really with you. This book was my introduction to the Wimsey mysteries and I certainly warmed to him and to the author by how she wrote her women and how these themes were handled so intelligently.

This might be particularly impressive for a woman so deeply religious, actually! And in the book too, Miss Climpson is religious, and yet it doesn't make her prejudiced against people or intolerant of different lifestyles, which I thought was nice.


message 45: by Barbara K (new)

Barbara K | 164 comments Emilia wrote: "And in the book too, Miss Climpson is religious, and yet it doesn't make her prejudiced against people or intolerant of different lifestyles, which I thought was nice..."

Excellent point, Emilia!


message 46: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
I'm pleased you enjoyed the reread so much Barbara. Isn't it lovely when you come to a book years later, and find it's every bit as good as you first thought!


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you Bionic Jean for the information


message 48: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) | 1794 comments Mod
You're welcome Nancy! Hope to see you on the other thread too :)


back to top