Day 731: Antidote to Venom

Cover for Antidote to VenomIn this Golden Age mystery written in 1938, Freeman Wills Crofts had the goal of showing both the murder and the investigation. The result is a fascinating psychological mystery.

The first section of the book shows how George Surridge becomes involved in a murder. A mental degradation begins because of monetary difficulties caused by gambling and his attraction to a young woman who is not his wife. He is his elderly aunt’s heir, but when the thought occurs that it would help if she died faster, he pushes that idea out of his mind, thinking that he doesn’t wish her harm.

When his aunt, Miss Lucy Pentland, dies, he feels his troubles are over. His girlfriend loses her job as a companion around the same time, so he anticipates his legacy by buying her a cottage. By coincidence, his aunt’s affairs are being handled by David Capper, the nephew of an old gentleman doing research on snake venom at the Birmingham Zoo, where George is director. But when George visits Capper to find out about his inheritance, Capper admits to having stolen it and lost it all.

George is ready to go to the police, but Capper tells him then he won’t ever see his money if he does so. However, if George would help him with one little thing, the murder of his own uncle, he will get his money. All George has to do is steal a venomous snake from the zoo.

link to NetgalleySo, we see how George is slowly drawn into being an accomplice to murder. The rest of the novel shows how Chief Inspector French first recognizes that the crime is a murder and then solves it.

Although the murder involves a complicated device I couldn’t make hide nor hair of, for a Golden Age mystery it is fairly uncomplicated. I enjoyed this introduction to Croft’s work.

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