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Antidote to Venom

“If only he could be rid of this feeling of guilt; if only he could feel clean and honest with people he could face anything.”

Antidote to Venom, Freeman Wills Crofts

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I read Antidote to Venom over the last few days, and it turned out to be far more interesting that I thought it was going to be. It drags a bit in places, but the setup and the flipping of the story is intriguing.

I’ve read Freeman Wills Crofts before and enjoyed the attention to detail in his story. His Inspector Joseph French seems to spot the smallest details that others have overlooked, and which prove to be key to solving cases. It’s a bit of a party trick, sort of like Roderick Alleyn’s murder reenactments, but it doesn’t quite feel contrived.

In Antidote to Venom, French is only involved in the last third of the story, but when he steps in, things happen quickly. The story up until then is a little slow and there’s a lot of background and build up. It’s not a bad or boring story by any means, but I did keep waiting for something to happen. There are parts where the tension is definitely being built up, but even that happens more effectively in the final third of the book.

This story has an ingenious murder, and it was fun to try to figure out how it had been pulled off alongside some of the characters speculating about the same thing. French does, of course, figure it out in the end. I didn’t, but then, I rarely do. As much as I love to read mysteries, I get too drawn into the stories and action and don’t spend much time thinking about the who or how.

Jim Noy, on the Shedunnit podcast, says “in golden age detection, the entire point is most of the time who the killer is, why they killed, how the killing was achieved, when the killing was achieved, or in the case of an inverted mystery where all of that is known the key thing is typically what the detective uncovers, what the detective’s surprise is that enables them to then prove the guilty party guilty.” Antidote to Venom is certainly in the inverted mystery category. I’ve never read one quite like this before and I enjoyed the different perspective and twist on the whodunnit.

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