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by Dorothy Bowers
Rue Morgue Press, March 2005
190 pages
ISBN: 0915230771

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Dorothy Bowers only wrote five mysteries; POSTSCRIPT TO POISON, which was published originally in 1938, was the first. The plot is fairly straightforward. Cornelia Lackland is a thoroughly unpleasant rich old woman with total control of her step-granddaughters' estate. Illness and invalidism have loosened her hitherto iron-gripped hold on the household, which features a meek companion, the two granddaughters Carol and Jenny, and the obligatory servants.

As might be expected, everyone is looking forward to her demise with some anticipation. When she dies unexpectedly, there are plenty of suspects to go around. The handsome Dr Faithful thinks poison is at work and the police are called in. Scotland Yard Inspector Dan Pardoe arrives on the scene and sets about his investigation.

All of the characters -- and I do mean all of them -- are wonderfully drawn. Pardoe is an intelligent, perceptive protagonist, who is neither so brilliant as to be off-putting nor so into the intricacies of the case as to lose sight of what's important.

Bowers doesn't get mired down in overly complex plot points. Even the legal aspects of the story are delivered in a clear, understandable, and even entertaining fashion. The only thing that might perplex today's reader is wondering why Carol and Jenny don't just go out and get jobs. POSTSCRIPT TO POISON is so thoroughly a novel of its time, however, that this is not an insurmountable concept. A non-British reader may have some difficulty with some of the idiomatic expressions, but meanings can be derived from the context.

There's a beauty and simplicity to this book and others of its genre that contemporary writers would do well to mimic -- a houseful of suspects, easily distinguishable and interesting characters, an intelligent detective, and all the clues the reader needs to solve the mystery. Rue Morgue Press is to be commended for its mission of reprinting these classic gems.

Reviewed by Michelle L. Zafron, April 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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