Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
My second Lord Peter Wimsey mystery introduces Harriet Vane, on trial for the murder of her ex-lover by poison. We get the Judge’s summing up, in a great deal of depth: Harriet certainly had in his opinion cause to murder, and definitely the means–she bought a lot of poison under fake names, though she claims it was as research for a mystery novel in which poison plays the central role. Fortunately for Ms. Vane, she gets a hung jury, and while that means a re-trial, Lord Peter Wimsey believes she’s innocent and sets out to prove it.
A fun read, marred only by the fact that Vane stays in jail for most of it and thus we don’t get her and Lord Peter interacting most of the time. To be honest, I would have thought from reading this that the series was beginning here; that it is the 5th book is pleasant news.
The characters are fun to read about, and the mystery is intriguing and well-written. Recommended.
Three Days to Never by Tim Powers
Frank Marrity and his sister were raised by their grandmother, Lisa; their father disappeared when they were very young and their mother abandoned them to the older woman before committing suicide. Now Lisa calls him up and tells him that she has burned down the shed behind her house; there is also something about gold under the bricks in the shed. By the time Frank and his daughter get to the house (Frank is a single parent himself these days, his wife having died two years ago. He and his twelve-year-old daughter, Daphne, are mildly psychically linked) they manage to see that the shed is intact before they receive the news that Lisa is dead on Mount Shasta. There wasn’t enough time between the call and her death for her to have gotten to Mount Shasta, yet somehow she did.
Daphne takes a videotape claiming to be “Peewee’s Big Adventure” from the shed, but it turns out to be nothing of the kind. Shortly their VCR is on fire (it’s 1987, though it takes a while to get that detail out in the open) and strange characters, not all of them living, are coming out of the woodwork: a man claiming to be Frank’s missing father, a man claiming to be from the NSA (though he’s really from the Mossad’s psychic division) and a group of magicians called the Vespers who derive (they claim) from Languedoc by way of the Nazis. It’s complicated.
Because what Lisa had in the shed, what she tried to destroy before dying, is perhaps the greatest weapon Einstein ever built. And her descendants are going to have to deal with it, and all the trouble it brings down on them.
Powers does his usual job of creating suspense and dropping interesting characters into it. Of course there are ghosts, but they aren’t the central focus. I don’t want to give away what is. As usual, highly recommended.