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Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy L Sayers’

A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane series Book 2)

It is 1940 and Harriet Vane – now Lady Peter Wimsey – has taken her children and those of her sister in law, Lady Mary Parker, to the country to Tallboys.  Those people who have read Busman’s Honeymoon will recall that Tallboys was the scene of Peter and Harriet’s somewhat disrupted honeymoon.   Here are some of the same characters – Aggie Twitterton, the Rev Simon Goodacre, Mr Puffett and Superintendent Kirk.

Then the village experiences its first air raid practice and the all clear reveals a dead body in the middle of the road.  It isn’t the result of enemy action just an old fashioned murder.  A glamorous land girl is dead and there are plenty of people to say she deserved it and that she was probably a German spy. Harriet finds herself involved in the case semi officially as Kirk is very short staffed.

When Peter returns from a top secret mission he naturally gets involved too.  I thought the author recreates the atmosphere of wartime extremely well and I could feel the tension and the way war infiltrates everything about day to day life.  I did find the book a little gloomy but I did think the author has created a worthy successor to Dorothy L Sayers’s own work and this book is definitely worth reading.

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Thrones, Dominations (Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane series Book 1)

It is 1936 and Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane have returned to London to set up home in the house furnished by Wimsey’s mother – the Dowager Duchess.  Events in the outer world feature in this story as George V dies and Edward VIII starts to show himself as a less than ideal King.  Hitler is growing in power and Wimsey is off at a moment’s notice to play his part in diplomatic negotiations.

Harriet is left behind to battle with her writing and then with her sister in law and her opinions on what are suitable activities for the new Lady Peter Wimsey.  Then murder disrupts the Wimsey’s social circle and Harriet and Peter are suddenly involved in detection again.

I remember reading this book when it first came out with some trepidation.  I needn’t have worried as it is well written and enjoyable reading.  I did forget while I was reading who had written it and I enjoyed it for its own sake.  I thought the authors dovetailed the real world events into the main characters’ private lives extremely well and I got a real feel for the uncertain times of the 1930s.  Even if you don’t like sequels involving well known characters I would say this is worth reading.

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The Documents in the Case

This isn’t a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery.  It consists of a series of letters, statements and newspaper reports and you really do have to pay attention to all the clues to work out who did it.  The story focuses on a house in which an ill-assorted group of people live.  The Harrisons own the house and employ a Miss Agatha Milsom as companion to Mrs Harrison and then two young men share the attic rooms.

The reader is given insight into their lives through a series of letters though it is revealed at the start of the book that one of the inhabitants is dead.  The dead man is found dead in a shack in Devon where he appears to have eaten poisonous fungi.  But he is an expert in such things and would never have picked, cooked and eaten a poisonous variety.

The only person who thinks it might have been murder is the dead man’s son who has assembled the documents in the case.  This is an intriguing read and the solution is ingenious though I don’t claim to fully understand the science.  This book is something of a curiosity and I think it is a book which grows on you with each re-reading.  This is the second time I’ve read it and it made much more sense to me this time and I am starting to appreciate how clever it actually is.

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Busman's Honeymoon: Lord Peter Wimsey Book 13 (Lord Peter Wimsey Series)

This has always been one of my favourite books in the Lord Peter Wimsey series and I have re-read it many times.  Peter and Harriet are married and intend to spend their honeymoon at Tallboys – a house which they have just bought which Harriet used to visit as a child.  But when they arrive at the house nothing is as expected and it seems the previous owner is nowhere to be found even though he had promised to be meet them to hand over the keys.

When they find the body of the previous owner in the cellar it seems suspicious deaths are following them wherever they go.  This book started off life as a stage play and as a result the dialogue reads well and I found it easy to visualise the scene as I was reading.  The village setting with all its snobberies and minor feuds are really brought to life. There is plenty of humour and some marvellous characters such as Mr Puffet who we first see attempting to sweep a chimney.

Bunter is much in evidence smoothing over everything and ensuring that in spite of the problems everyone has food and drink and somewhere comfortable to sleep.  I like the way the author didn’t gloss over problems between Harriet and Peter when the demands of detection threatens to destroy their newly found happiness.  This book will make you laugh as well as shed a few tears as the love story element of the book is at times very poignant.

This is a marvellous book to re-read as I notice something new in it every time I read it.  The mystery element is well plotted and very clever and I defy anyone to work out how it was done in advance when they read the book for the first time.

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Murder Must Advertise: Lord Peter Wimsey Book 10 (Lord Peter Wimsey Series)

If this is the first of Dorothy L Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey novels you have read then you could be forgiven for being a little confused at the beginning.  If you have read some of the other novels featuring the noble sleuth you will immediately identify Death Bredon as Peter Wimsey.  He takes up employment at Pym’s advertising agency at the request of the owner of the firm following the death of a member of staff – Victor Dean.  Wimsey takes to the work like a duck to water and starts writing advertising copy for the princely sum of four pounds a week.  As well as doing the job he starts ferreting around to try and find out whether Victor Dean’s death was accident or murder.

The portrait of an advertising agency, from the messenger boys to the directors is excellent.  Office politics and rivalries serve to muddy the waters of Wimsey’s investigation.  He gets involved with the bored and drug taking socialite Diane de Momerie, because the late Victor was a member of her sophisticated set, to try and find out what is going on amongst the glitterati.  Masquerading as a masked harlequin and his own dissolute cousin, Wimsey ultimately puts himself in danger to unravel the mystery of Victor Dean’s death and the connection of the fast set with Pym’s Publicity.

There are some fascinating characters in the book from Ginger the messenger boy who wants to be a detective to the slightly pompous but good hearted Mr Pym himself.  I loved the banter between the staff and clash of personalities which occurs in any office.  While the mystery might be too complex to unravel before the intriguing denouement it is still a well written story.  If you read it a second time you can see the clues are all there but most readers may well miss them.  Perhaps it is not in the same class as ‘Gaudy Night’ or ‘The Nine Tailors’ but it is still worth reading.

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Have His Carcase: Lord Peter Wimsey Book 8 (Lord Peter Wimsey Series)

Harriet Vane is on a walking tour when she discovers the body of Paul Alexis on a beach just along the coast from the seaside town of Wilvercombe.  By the time Harriet is able to call the police the body has been washed into the sea and does not reappear for several days.  The discovery of the body brings amateur sleuth, Peter Wimsey to the scene.  What follows is a complicated story involving cipher letters, disguises and the seedy world of the professional dancers employed by seaside hotels to dance with their clients.

I have read this book many times and even knowing the outcome it is still worth reading as you can watch how the clues build up to the unexpected conclusion.  Dorothy L Sayers is one of the few writers I’ve come across who can write pages of dialogue with very few attributions which does not leave the reader trying to guess who is speaking.  I love her writing style and the always believable characters.

This book comes between `Strong Poison’ and `Gaudy Night’ in terms of the relationship between Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey.  It is one of my favourites for its dense plotting and the fact that at the beginning almost anyone could have committed the murder – that’s always assuming it wasn’t suicide which the police are inclined to think.

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The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club: Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery Book 4 (Lord Peter Wimsey Series 5)

Lord Peter Wimsey discovers old General Fentiman dead in his favourite chair by the Bellona Club fireside on Armistice Day.  But when did he die?  There/s something odd about the body and Peter suspects murder but there isn’t any evidence to support his hunch and the General’s doctor certifies death from a heart attack.  But something continues to niggle and Wimsey – even more so when solicitor Mr Meubles – asks hi to find out exactly when the General died because it will affect his inheritance from his sister who died about the same time.

The more Peter digs into the case the more anomalies he reveals and what makes it difficult for him to be objective is that the two Fentiman grandsons are acquaintances of his and he really doesn’t want to expose either of them as involved in some sort of dubious goings on.

I first read this book many years ago and decided it wasn’t one of my favourites but re-reading it revealed that is  a very well written book.  The plot is clever and involved and the characters interesting.  There are plenty of read herrings as well as clues and I hadn’t recalled who the murderer was so it was a surprise to me in the end.

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