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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and atmospheric
Before the Poison is one of those books that grips you from the very first page and never lets go with an encapsulating fluidity that you come to expect from Peter Robinson - certainly from my experience! Immediately transported back to April 1953 we follow the final 15 painful seconds of Grace Fox's life as she walks to the gallows, her dignity intact, following her...
Published on 20 Jan 2012 by Warnie Wombat

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best
I will start by saying that I am an avid Peter Robinson fan, and have read all of his DCI Banks books and his short stories, and loved every one (even Badboy!).
I too didn't realise this wasn't a Banks story until at least half way through, by which point it seemed unlikely he was going to make an appearance.
what is missing in this book are the pen-pictures; I...
Published on 22 Nov 2011 by N. J. Littlewood


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, 22 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
I will start by saying that I am an avid Peter Robinson fan, and have read all of his DCI Banks books and his short stories, and loved every one (even Badboy!).
I too didn't realise this wasn't a Banks story until at least half way through, by which point it seemed unlikely he was going to make an appearance.
what is missing in this book are the pen-pictures; I felt like I knew Banks, I had a perfect picture in my head of what he was like (nothing like he was in the TV series I might add), what his colleagues were like etc, due to Robinson's descriptive writng style- I even down loaded some of the music mentioned in his books!
It doesn't seem to happen in this book, the characters aren't developed as well and I didn't feel them at all. I can't even remember the lead characters name. Yorkshire however, is, as always eloquentley and passionately discribed and makes me want to live there.
Also, I could finish a Banks book in a couple of days, this took me weeks as it's much more 'put-downable'.

A good enough book, but nowhere near his best
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and atmospheric, 20 Jan 2012
This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
Before the Poison is one of those books that grips you from the very first page and never lets go with an encapsulating fluidity that you come to expect from Peter Robinson - certainly from my experience! Immediately transported back to April 1953 we follow the final 15 painful seconds of Grace Fox's life as she walks to the gallows, her dignity intact, following her conviction for the murder of her husband Dr Ernest Fox earlier that year.

Once at the gallows, she was placed in position over the chalked "T" on the trapdoor, and the assistant pinioned her ankles with a leather strap. Mr. Pierrepoint took from his pocket a white cotton hood, which he placed over Grace's head, then he carefully and gently adjusted the leather-sheathed noose around her neck. When all was to his satisfaction, he stepped back, removed the safety pin and pushed the lever away from him in one sharp, swift motion. The trapdoor opened and Grace fell to her death.

There's something mystical about this book, something I can't quite put my finger on but the house, the surrounds, the back story and Chris Lowndes all combine to deliver a breathtaking narrative that is overwhelmingly captivating. When Robinson first introduced Kilnsgate House - Yorkshire - it didn't take long before I was swept up in the romanticism and began to ponder if a hostile takeover was possible. I wanted Lowndes out of the house and I wanted to move in - at any cost! Moving from room to room as our protagonist explores his new surroundings I imagined lighting a log fire, cooking in the kitchen and sitting down to compose a piano sonata on the grand piano. It's quite frightening the hold Robinson's narrative had over me and I honestly began to believe the house existed and it was well within my grasp. Powerful stuff!

It's been a while since I read Robinson's last book - DI Banks series in August last year - and I have to admit I'd forgotten just how good he is. One of the things I love about the author is his obvious love for music and classic cinematography and he shares this passion in abundance in Before the Poison. Sleepless nights in front of the fire, whisky in hand and company in the form of Julie Christie or Celia Johnson all helping Lowndes settle in to his new home - my home - far from his idyllic life in Los Angeles. When I read a book, I often find myself creating an ideal soundtrack in my head to fit the novel but Robinson has done all the work for me. From Schubert's Impromptu to Purcell's Dido and Aeneas - a most beautiful aria - he steps up his knowledge with a little Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye to add a little variety. When an author makes you hunt out Janet Baker's haunting rendition of Dido and Aeneas in the late 60's you know he's done his job. Magnificent.

Before the Poison is an intelligent, multi layered novel with the odd surprise or two thrown in for good measure - one admission towards the end of the book shocked me and although handled with great sensitivity was completely unexpected. Robinson creatively reconstructs Fox's trial with articles taken from "Famous Trials" in 1953 and then seamlessly takes the reader back to the war torn era of the early forties as he shares entries from Grace's private journal. Robinson's attention to detail is amazing and I was blown away by how he introduces the insignificant blemish on Fox's skin caused by sunlight early in the piece and later crafts the story to explain how this came about - attention to detail is incredible.

Together with a stunning landscape, vibrant characters and an evocative story, Robinson has created a highly intelligent and well-crafted standalone novel. My only disappointment came when I turned the final page and was faced with the realisation that the story had concluded and my dream house a distant memory - until I pick up the book and read it all again. Gripping stuff and highly recommended
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars before the poison, 7 Nov 2011
This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
well done peter robinson not a banks novel but i think even better you will not be disappointed if you get this book i like the characters but better still nice that yorkshire is in you noval so well done peter robinson cannot wait to see what next ?
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Robinson's strongest, 10 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
I bought the Kindle edition of this based on my reading over the years of most of Robinson's Alan Banks stories. The basic plot of the novel is not particularly original; someone buys an empty old house, finds out that evil deeds were done there in the past, believes the wrong person was found guilty, carries out own investigation and hey-ho you have a mystery novel with plenty of ending options. For the benchmark example of how to make this type of plot work best I would suggest Colin Dexter's "The Wench is dead" is a good as any and better than most.
For me the novel plods a bit initially and didn't seem to come alive until we start to read extracts from Grace's [somewhat far-fetched] diary, written during the Second World War and detailing her experiences, both in the far east and in Normandy in the time immediately post D-Day.
But my major gripe is that the twists and turns in the plot became more and more predictable as I neared the end of the book. I was waiting for that final plot twist at the end and it just wasn't there. Sorry, Mr Robinson, I'm a genuine fan of yours, but this one seems more like a tummy-filler than a memorable meal!
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better without Banks., 5 Sep 2011
This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
Last year I reviewed 'Bad Boy' and gave it one star. I thought it a tired and predictable read. Now Peter Robinson has given DCI Banks a rest and has written his best book for years.

'Before the Poison' has an evocative atmosphere. The characters and locations are brought convincingly to life as the story unfolds.
I was reminded a little of Robert Goddard's past work and a passing (slight) simalarity to his novel 'Set in Stone'. Robinson's book is more a novel than a mystery thriller and even though there are some twists, there is not the threat of danger lurking in the wings ala Goddard. This does not in any way diminish the novel though, as it is an engrossing and superbly written story.

I do hope that the success of this book spurs Peter Robinson on to write more 'stand alone' novels in the future.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very readable but..., 13 Sep 2011
By 
B. Scott "Bibi" (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
Having long been a fan of Peter Robinson's work I bought this book as soon as I saw it, not bothering to discover that it wasn't one of his 'Alan Banks' stories, but one of his infrequent departures from his usual Banks crime thriller/detection tales.

It is very readable, but certainly not one of his best. As another reviewer has remarked, the characters all speak in the same, rather flat way, and are, despite vivid descriptive passages, a bit one-dimensional ( or do I mean two? ) and I found it quite difficult to engage with any of them.

What I did love ( and always do about Robinson's work ) were the descriptive passages about Leeds in the 1950's and '60's. Both the author and myself grew up in Leeds at around the same time, and to read his delicious account of the exotic cigarettes ( Sobranie Cocktails, Sobranie Blacks, oval Passing Clouds ) one could buy from a small tobacconists shop on Boar Lane ( yes, it really existed - I used to buy mine from it! ) and about bonfire nights in the back-to-back terraced streets, was to be instantly transported back in time. He KNOWS Leeds, and to another 'ex-pat' his descriptions are priceless. These, alone, made the book worthwhile to me. But although the story will pass a pleasant few hours, there is something rather too formulaic about the format which disappointed. Anyone wanting to try a non-Banks Robinson would do well to choose 'Caedmon's Song' which is a far darker and more gripping read.

Nothing will put me off buying his next book, though!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 19 Sep 2011
This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
I love all peter robinson book but this one is outstanding - I couldnt put it down and was even late for work ! A truely briiliant read - thank you , peter
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 9 Sep 2011
This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
I'm a Peter Robinson fan and I'll go on being a Peter Robinson fan -- but I found this book disappointing. So disappointing that it crossed my mind that, if he had not been by Peter Robinson, it might not have been published, because it really isn't good enough. This is plotting by numbers. The foreshadowing is so clumsy that, as I came across each little waymarker planted in the story, I thought, "Ah. So now I know what's going to happen in a few pages." And I was always right. Worst of all, though, was something that is usually a Peter Robinson strength -- the dialogue. It's all the same. 60 year old male composer whose lived in California for 20+ years, 45 year old female estate agent from Yorkshire, 20-something girl brought up in Australia, 80 year old ex-soldier now living in South Africa, artist of similar age in Paris -- every one of them speaks in exactly the same way. None of this will stop me from buying the next Peter Robinson as soon as it comes out, as I have bought pretty well all of his; but if the next one is not a sharp return to form, I may not buy the one after that. I feel let down.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars before the poison, 30 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Before the Poison (Hardcover)
Not an Inspector Banks novel but very very good. I have read all this authors work and enjoyed every one, this one is no exception, the story unfolds from page one set in 1953 with the execution of a female.
From that moment you are hooked as the plot unfolds.
Totally absorbing; if you like thriller novels you will like this one.
Thank you Peter.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 24 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Before the Poison (Kindle Edition)
I love the DCI Banks novels, so wasn't sure about reading this by Peter Robinson. But I loved it. The style seems so different to his usual books, that it seemed as if it was written by a completely different author. I agree with the first reviewer that the first half of the book meanders along a bit, but the second half makes up for that. It is a very satisfying read and something a little different from the usual crime thriller books. I would thoroughly recommend it.
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