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Book Review: Strychnine in the Cognac by Ruskin Bond

Strychnine in the Cognac by Ruskin Bond is a short murder mystery which directly or indirectly features the adventures of Miss Ripley-Bean. This story has been covered under the book Death Under the Deodars of Ruskin Bond.

In this story, the murder mystery is neither solved by any detective or Miss Ripley Bean. As we know that in the book Death Under the Deodars it has been shown clearly that Miss Ripley-Bean lives in one of the small rooms of the hotel. The story is between the actor Dilip Roy and his actress wife Rosie. They have come to Mussoorie in the hotel Royal place to while away the summer. After summer, Dilip Roy has a shooting schedule in Switzerland.

Things are not good between them. They often quarrel. In the hotel, Dilip Roy remains silent and rude to many, while Rosie interacts with people and soon befriends Miss Ripley-Bean because both ladies share love for gardening. Nandu, the owner of the hotel, is on the seventh heaven because of the stars living in his hotel. Unable to control his excitement, he one evening gifts a new bottle of cognac to Rosie – the actress. Because of the rift in the relationship, both actors drink their liquor separately. It comes out that Dilip Roy is in love with an actress who lives in Bandra and he wants to get rid of his wife. So, they don’t trust each other.

After a week or so, Dilip Roy goes to Bombay and from there he flies out to Switzerland for the shooting. Rosie remains in the hotel and enjoys the company of Miss Ripley-Bean. Rosie drinks cognac every evening after dinner. One day she doesn’t get up – she was found unconsciousness. Doctors somehow save her and the bottle of cognac goes for test. And it comes out that the bottle of cognac has Strychnine pills, dissolving slowly. If Rosie had continued drinking it for couple of more days, she would have died for sure. Rosie knows that the poison was mixed by her husband, who is in Switzerland for a shooting. This way he will have never been caught by the police because of his absence at the time of crime

Dilip Roy loves eating hazelnut chocolates. After a week, news breaks out that the actor has died of sudden heart-attack. Rosie feels relieved. Later, Rosie takes Miss Ripley-Bean in the bar for wine celebration. She orders the most expensive wine for her. As Rosie confides in Miss Ripley-Bean, she tells her that she had added the cyanide in one of the chocolate packs of the actor. She knew that the actor would die whenever he stumbled upon that pack. He died in Switzerland, so Rosie is free from all suspicions.


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