(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In Strong Poison, Sayers introduces Harriet Vane, the love of Lord Peter Wimsey’s life. Vane writes mysteries; Wimsey solves them. A little something in common never hurts a relationship and for the moment, mysteries are all that they have in common.

With a few deft words Sayers draws her reader into a British courtroom and introduces the jury. Vane, a writer of mysteries, finds herself plunged into the most important mystery of her life. Accused of murdering her lover, and on trial for her life, Vane seems to be on the verge of meeting the hangman: If the jury brings in a verdict of guilty, the punishment will be death by hanging.

Vane had just finished some extensive research about ways to poison people, details that she had planned to use in her next book. She had even bought some arsenic. Vane’s lifestyle, morals, and integrity were also called into question by the judge. She was living with, but not married to, the man she allegedly murdered. That was a living arrangement quite unbecoming a woman in the 1930’s; in those years, women waited for the ring and the preacher before entering into a sexual relationship. Things do not look good for Vane. She may have to keep her date with the hangman.

Sayers presents Vane as an intelligent, but not conventionally pretty, young woman in her twenties. Although Sayers delineates the rest of the cast of characters, she shrouds Vane in mystery. Not so the victim; Sayers draws...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bell, S. B. Women: From the Greeks to the French Revolution. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1973.

Downing, Crystal. Writing Performances: The Stages of Dorothy L. Sayers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Gaillard, Dawson. Dorothy L. Sayers. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981.

Hannay, M. P. As Her Whimsey Took Her: Critical Essays on the Work of Dorothy L. Sayers. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1979.

Hitchman, Janet. Such a Strange Lady. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.

McGregor, Robert Kuhn, with Ethan Lewis. Conundrums for the Long Week-End: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2000.

Mann, Jessica. Deadlier than the Male. New York: Macmillan, 1981.

Simmons, Laura K. Creed Without Chaos: Exploring Theology in the Writings of Dorothy L. Sayers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2005.