Tony Strong lives in England. The Poison Tree is his first novel.
With a pitiless take on English academe, this debut novel thrusts a sexually ambiguous heroine into an especially nasty murder case ripe with sexual violence and degradation. Terry Williams, in Oxford to finish her detective fiction doctorate, buys a house where a male student was recently killed by a sexual sadist. Most of Terry's new neighbors, although cleared by police, look suspicious to her. Scholar and poet Brian Eden's wife, Carla, may have had an affair with the student shortly before his death, giving either husband or wife a possible motive. Dorling Van Glught writes children's books in a meter that resembles some notes that were sent to the police anonymously about the murder. When Terry begins remodeling her home, she discovers clippings of sexually titillating letters printed in a porn magazine; they hint at dangerous mate-swapping practices by her neighbors. Terry's determination to crack the unsolved case meets resistance from the cop in charge (who becomes her lover despite her flirtation with lesbianism) and from university dons determined to let the whole seamy business die down. The explicit, lovelessly bleak sexual content will surely offend some readers, but others will find uncommonly interesting characters and a clever puzzle. (Dec.)
In the shadowy corridors of a prestigious university, a beautiful
woman is entering the darkest place of all: the twisted mind of a
"Strong works out his whodunit plot with care and shows no mercy in exposing the loose morals of Oxford's hedonistic literary crowd."
--The New York Times Book Review
"The classic English mystery meets the modern American thriller...and the result is bloody screaming murder."
--Matthew Hall, author of The Art of Breaking Glass