This Lord Peter Wimsey mystery by Dorothy L. Sayers (and what mystery lover doesn’t know who Dorothy L. Sayers is), was written in 1930, and is particularly interesting for its description of British life at that time, a time when if you wanted to buy some arsenic to kill some vermin, cure your ills or knock off an inconvenient spouse or enemy, all you had to do was trot yourself down to the nearest chemist (that’s a pharmacy to you Yanks) and sign the book, and waltz out with what you need. No ID needed, just sign the book with whatever name you choose. Ahhh, those were the days, the Golden Era of Crime.
In Strong Poison, Lord Peter first meets Harriet Vane, an author of police fiction. The immediate problem is that she is on trial for her life, charged with murdering her former lover. By poisoning him. With arsenic. She claims that her purchases of arsenic under two different names, neither of which were hers, was simply testing her theory for a new mystery story she was writing, of how easy it would be for any schlub to buy arsenic. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard that one before, haven’t we. Anyway, Love blooms, apparently, even if she is a murderer. Oh, wait. Maybe she is not, and Lord Peter will have to do some fancy detective work to prove her innocence.
I won’t keep you in suspense. They get married. Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Here, in Busman’s Honeymoon.
I used to think that only the old British mysteries were any good, but I’ve been reading so many great ones lately by current authors that I take it all back. But really, Sayers and Agatha Christie have set a very high bar. Very high indeed.
Oh! Almost forgot. Hat tip to Deb Atwood for reminding me about this title when I talked about poisoning in Barry Maitland’s Dark Mirror. Thanks, Deb.
Poisoning: the gift that keeps on giving.