San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

No End to ‘Poison’

“OLD Poison,” by Joan Francis, is a mystery novel with many layers. From Martian diaries and murder to environmental issues, the book is filled with a number of twists, turns and Costa Rican connections that make for a fairly enjoyable read.

The story chronicles private eye Diana Hunter, who has been hired to investigate a potentially deadly gas that could, in only a matter of years, destroy the entire planet.

She is given excerpts from a strange document called the Martian Diary. The diary tells of a deadly toxin, Red 19, that destroyed the once lush red planet. According to the diary, secret information regarding the poison was brought from Mars and hidden on Earth during the massive exodus after the planet’s devastation.

Doubtful of the entire situation, Hunter agrees to take the case – for a price – after a pushy client convinces her to look into it.

FROM there she enters a crazy and sometimes dark world of environmental and corporate scandal that takes her from California to Arizona to the rainforests of Costa Rica.

Luckily, she happens to be a master of disguise and more than once throws off pursers by making a quick change.

The story is well written, addressing many ideas but still holding readers’ attention. However, the five-page ending comes too quickly and doesn’t clarify much.

Furthermore, the entire story contained within the Martian Diary is cryptic. The final entry is supposedly meant to give Hunter hope, but may simply leave readers thoroughly confused.

PUBLISHED in 2003, the book is available on


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