I discovered Dorothy L. Sayers a few years ago but I have only read a few of her mysteries and all out of order. For this year’s Cannonball, I’m going to attempt to read them all. It’s a bit challenging since the books were originally published during the 1920s. They are popular enough to be easily available in print and ebooks. However my local library doesn’t stock all of them and this is going to get expensive. Luckily like even the worst episode of Parks and Rec, I will want to revisit these books often.
This is the book that introduces Lord Peter Wimsey. He is the second son of a titled family. Since his brother has already taken up the mantle and responsibilities as the 16th Duke of Denver, Peter is free to explore his hobbies. The books were written between WW1 and WW2 and are meant to be written in “real-time.” Peter was an officer in the British army during WW1 and returned home physically unharmed but suffering from a severe case of shell-shock. He recovered and continues to work on an as-needed basis as a spy, negotiator and investigator for the British Government. His hobbies include collecting rare books, photography and solving crime.
This book opens with the discovery of a naked dead man in the bathtub of a seemingly random flat. The curious nature of the crime and the potential connection to a missing banker pique Peter’s interest and he inserts himself into the case. This is not a spoiler to say while the writing is very progressive in many ways, especially considering when it was written, but Sayers’ depiction of Jewish people is racist stereotyping. I did some research and it looks that while Dorothy was decidedly not anti-Semitic, she reflects the un-examined beliefs of her time.
This book is fun. Peter is charming, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Bertie Wooster. His manservant, Bunter, is a highly capable sidekick, as is Parker the detective. As with all first novels, the writing is a little clumsy in comparison to later novels. Sayers gives Whimsy so many little idiosyncrasies that he ends up in full manic pixie dreamboat by the last chapter. Whimsy does suffer some ill effects from the war which might explain his hyperactive embrace of a multitude of hobbies as an attempt to outrun his demons. But mostly he is in a position to just enjoy the hell out of life.