Book Reviews

A catch up post from April

We are going old school this week, and reviewing my favorite Golden Age Detective: Lord Peter Wimesy!

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Admitting to all the bias in the world, Lord Peter Wimsey is my fictional crush. He is my absolute favorite Golden Age Detective, followed distantly by Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence. I love how Dorothy Sayers wrote him, his humor and interests, and his modern attitude toward the woman he falls in love with. But that part is later in the series. Let’s concentrate on this introduction.

A lot of reviewers have said that this book is a rougher version of Wimsey, more like P.G. Wodehouse than what he would later become. That is true, in this book Peter does have a lot of the buffoonish highbrow manners that Jeeves and Wooster are famous for. However, this is the first book. This is only Peter’s second case, and he is still figuring things out for himself. So I like the look into the early part of Peter’s career.

The best part of this whole series is the characters, and they are showcased in this book. Here there are no bumbling police detectives. Peter had great respect for Charles Parker, his contact at Scotland Yard. Parker is even allowed to find clues on his own and put them together correctly! Even the “enemy” inspector, Sugg, is given an opportunity to shine in the book.



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Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers

Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is where a lot of people enter the Lord Peter Mystery series, and I will admit, this is a stronger book. It seems Sayers had a better handle on her characters, without quite so much comic relief.

Interactions with Lord Peter and his valet Bunter shine just as brilliantly as in Whose Body, and in this book Parker, the loyal Scotland Yard inspector, really gets a chance to shine. He falls for Lady Mary Wimsey, Peter’s younger sister, whose determination to protect someone leads to the Duke of Denver being accused of murder.

I did not guess the mystery early in this one, mainly because there were so many threads to unravel, and I traveled along with Peter’s theories, even as they were proven wrong one by one by one by one. Sayers managed to keep the reveal to the very end, not by hiding the clue, which is something of a cheap trick, but by presenting it as nonsense at first. Only when Peter realizes what it is do we as the audience realize it.

But we are not bored in the meantime. The title proves that there are so many witnesses telling such conflicting stories that unraveling all of that is interesting and entertaining. The clues started getting explained away, and it looks worse and worse for the Duke. As a side note, there’s also an interesting discussion between the defense lawyer, Sir Impey Biggs, and Peter when he started laying everything straight. Biggs wants Peter to stop investigating, because in revealing more of the truth Peter is actually hurting his brother’s case.

It’s a wonderful book, and I love rereading it every single time.



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Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers

Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This one is my second least favorite of the series, mainly because of the period typical racism that plays a large part in the second half of the book. A black man is disinherited (or his stipend is cut off, which amounts to the same thing), then he is set up for kidnapping and murder. The murderer expects the police to believe this, despite the black man being a Reverand and over 70, simply because he is black.

It is somewhat good to note that Lord Peter never actually believes any of this. But he does allow the papers to publish the false story, and to hold the black man in custody, because that makes it easier to catch the murderer.

So.

There are some good things, however! This book introduces us to Miss Climpson, the spinster “of a certain age” who goes places and asks questions that Peter and Charles Parker, as a lord and a policeman, simply can’t. This puts Miss Climpson ahead of her more famous contemporary, Miss Marple. She doesn’t actually solve the case, but she is a delight to read and does get a bit of an action scene at the end. The scene where Peter introduces Parker to her is hysterical, as Parker goes there thinking he is being introduced to Peter’s mistress.

The mystery this time is not who but how. Peter knows really early who the murderer is, but he can’t figure out how the murder was done. In fact, Parker spends a good bit of the book not entirely convinced that a murder has taken place at all. Of course, 1920s. The method is not actually medically sound. Oh well.

At least we get Miss Climpson in later books.



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