Review | Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons by David Stafford

A promising murder mystery overwhelmed by character study. 3.5/5 stars.

Skelton's Guide to Domestic Poisons by David Stafford book cover

Thank you to Allison & Busby for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Unassuming Yorkshireman, Arthur Skelton, is one of the most celebrated and recognisable barristers in the land. His success in the high-profile Dryden case – ‘the scandal of 1929’ – catapulted him to the front pages of the national newspapers. His services are now much in demand and, after careful consideration, he agrees to defend Mary Dutton.

Dubbed ‘The Collingford Poisoner’ by the press, Mary is accused of poisoning her husband after years of abuse. Together with his trusted assistant, Skelton digs deeper and discovers that secrets and lies run deep in the Dutton family and all is not as it appears.

My take:

I enjoyed this story, especially its varied and colourful range of characters, the often witty dialogue, and the way it dealt with the intricacies of the intersection of law and politics. I also liked that it wasn’t entirely London-based and the period details were terrific, you can tell there’s a lot of careful research behind the writing.

However, from the first couple of chapters I thought I was in for a thrilling investigative mystery, but that isn’t really what the book turns out to be. While Skelton’s detective work does take us down a few dead ends and yields some revelations, I felt that the book becomes more a character study than murder mystery.

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