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Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey #3)

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  16,989 Ratings  ·  444 Reviews
The wealthy old woman was dead – a trifle sooner than expected. The intricate trail of horror and senseless murder led from a beautiful Hampshire village to a fashionable London flat and a deliberate test of "amour" – staged by the debonair sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. Here the modern detective story begins to come to its own; and all the historical importance aside, it remai ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published June 21st 1995 by HarperTorch (first published 1927)
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Frank Butterfield I wondered that myself for a while. And the answer, according to my research, is no. The size of the air bubble that a syringe would create is too…moreI wondered that myself for a while. And the answer, according to my research, is no. The size of the air bubble that a syringe would create is too small to stop the heart. Miss Sayers is said to have admitted as much and said, "strictly in future to seeing I never write a book which I know to be careless."(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I have managed to rate 76 books so far, everything from Regency romance to labor history with the same five-star system, but I can't do this one. Stars do not apply. I rate Unnatural Death ARRRRGHH!

Purely as a mystery, I think it's excellent -- excellent and very grim, the grimmer the more I think about it.

With regard to the female characters (always something I pay great attention to with Sayers), it's both deeply satisfying and terribly uncomfortable.

And then, race. Oh god, Sayers. Why? Why di
This is the third Lord Peter Wimsey novel. Wimsey and Charles Parker are interrupted, while in a teashop, by a doctor who overhears them talking about crime. He relates a tale of how he was treating an elderly lady for cancer, whose niece insisted was much nearer than death than he felt she was. When she died suddenly, without leaving a will, the doctor insisted on an autopsy, leading to bad feeling with both the niece, Miss Whittaker, and the local community. Indeed, his actions led to him havi ...more
mark monday
Jun 16, 2011 mark monday rated it liked it
Shelves: murdertime
the further adventures of the inimitable mervyn bunter, prince of manservants, master of the perfectly correct response and the carefully disguised critique, expert at pretty much everything. all that plus he had to deal with dressing annoying lord peter wimsey every morning. surely the man must have been a virgo.
Jan 04, 2015 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
Starting the New Year with a Sayers review? Yes, please.

So Unnatural Death is maybe not the best in terms of the convoluted plot, the number of characters, etc, because it’s not one of the most personal stories for Lord Peter. On the other hand, you do get to see Peter again treating it a little like a hobby, a curiosity, and then having to face the consequences of his ego. And there’s a lot of Miss Climpson, too; not as much as one of the later books, but enough to show that she’s a really grea
⊱ Irena ⊰
Jan 30, 2016 ⊱ Irena ⊰ rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery

The only reason why I won't stop reading this series is I really like Lord Peter Wimsey. The problem is he isn't the only main character here. I don't mind Parker but both of them got swept under all the gossip you get to read here. I will just pretend I never read this book.

There are so many problems in this book that I am at a loss where to start. First, Wimsey doesn't play that much a role here anyway. He does start everything though.
The case starts 'almost imperceptibly, in the overhearin
Mar 27, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Where I got the book: My bookshelf. A re-read.

Well I've already failed in my attempt to re-read the Wimsey books in order, because I always thought Clouds of Witness came AFTER Unnatural Death. Wimsey seems younger in the latter, somehow.

The Wimsey books, in general, are superb examples of Golden Age detective fiction: intricate plots which give you all the clues on the page and yet count on misdirection to keep you guessing. The plot of Unnatural Death seems to arise from a question: do doctor
Olga Godim
Jun 23, 2015 Olga Godim rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Another delightful re-read of another Peter Wimsey mystery. This time, our lordly sleuth doesn’t even have a case. He overhears a young doctor in a restaurant, talking about his suspicions in the recent death of one of his patients. The lady was elderly and suffered from cancer. She was dying anyway, and even the autopsy the doctor had insisted on didn’t reveal anything criminal. The death was ruled natural, but the doctor was unsatisfied. He considered it unnatural and untimely – in his opinion ...more
Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
This is by far my favourite Sayer so far.

The Whittaker case begins almost imperceptibly, with the overhearing of a casual remark in a Soho restaurant where Lord Peter Wimsey and Charles Parker are dining. It ends amid a roar of publicity that shakes England from end to end.

A wealthy old woman is died some three years earlier, a little earlier than was expected, but then she was in the last stages of cancer. Miss Dawson's death has aroused no suspicion, despite her doctor's dismay at her end comi
This is a quick review, since I’ve read the book the Unnatural Death radio play was based on several times, and heard the radio play at least once before too. The casting is generally great: the voices are perfect for the characters, for the most part, though sometimes the dramatics are a bit too dramatic (the boy scout in episode… five or so comes to mind). Miss Climpson’s letters are narrated by the character, which seems fun at first (and gives you a wealth of information on the character’s a ...more
Lou Robinson
Jan 22, 2014 Lou Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: james-pick
A very successful James's pick. I hate to say it, being a life long Christie fan, but I actually think Sayers is BETTER. The book is full of great characters and a nice gritty storyline, this was a true 5*. And the good thing is, there are loads more to read!
I'm still rationing my reading of Sayers' Lord Peter series but it's hard. I liked this one a lot too. Almost the perfect murder. An very clever villain, Parker and Peter, on the road, staying in pub, kicking themselves under the table to stop the other one from making a mistake. Bunter being just Bunter. So, story, this great old lady died of natural death and left her money to her great niece. The doctor makes a fuss because even if his patient was very ill (cancer) she wasn't on death's door. ...more
My copy seems to have literally been chewed at some point. By a cat? or some creature with a small mouth. But fortunately, none of the text is impacted.

'The Dawson Pedigree' so integral to this book is nearly at the end, but oddly it is not the last page, where one would normally look for appendices, etc. It's clear that the Rev Hallelujah Dawson would be the legitimate heir, if he'd been legitimated. What's NOT clear is why Simon Dawson never did marry the mother of his child (though he led her
I was REALLY into the beginning of this one. I'm not sure why, really. Maybe i just hit that magic place in a series where everything clicks. And the randomness of it appealed to me. Falling into this case by a simple overheard conversation and how very, very small all the clues were. And I liked the exploration Peter's feelings of guilt and responsibility a lot.

It got a bit too convoluted for me by the end. I was ready for it to be wrapped up maybe 30 pages before it was.

Apr 17, 2012 Nikki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
Another comforting reread. Less comforting here, in that the villain is a young woman who some people read as a lesbian or asexual, with that behaviour being part of what makes her a character to be suspicious of, and in that Sayers has a rare character of colour here, the Reverend Hallelujah, who she doesn't handle particularly well.

It also doesn't help that once the medical part of the mystery is solved, a lot of the tension -- e.g. is Wimsey wrong? what on earth is happening here? -- goes out
Oct 29, 2014 Bam rated it really liked it
Unnatural Death is the third book in the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series and this reader can really begin to see why Dorothy L. Sayers has been called one of the greatest mystery story writers.
So much of this book is about ethics and moral conundrums. It begins with a dinner conversation between Wimsey and his friend, Detective-Inspector Parker, about whether it is a matter of public duty for a doctor to voice his suspicions about what caused a death. They are overheard by a young doctor at th
♪ Kim
Jan 05, 2013 ♪ Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, 4-star
It's been awhile since I indulged in a Peter Wimsey mystery. These days I seem to prefer the ones without Harriet Vane. This audiobook version was expertly narrated by Ian Carmichael. Such a treat!
I'm enjoying rereading the Lord Peter Wimsey books in order. This one has an intriguing start, when Peter and his policeman friend Parker are eating out together, and an overheard conversation leads to the reopening of what would now be called a "cold case".

Peter is intrigued by a doctor's claims that the death of an elderly and terminally ill woman, Agatha Dawson, was suspicious. He decides to do some investigating, with the help of an unlikely sidekick, the middle-aged and prim Miss Climpson,
With both lesbians and a stereotypical black reverend from the West Indies, Unnatural Death was always going to generate strong opinions in some reviewers. The lesbian characters are generally handled by Sayers side-stepping the subject completely. They are friends, companions, even devoted to each other, but the L-word is never used. It's clear to us what they are, just as it's clear to us that one of them has murdered the other – the only questions are how and why? I think Sayers tries to side ...more
How do I love this book? Let me count the ways.

For firstly and most importantly, it is a detective novel in which the detectives have as much, or sometimes less, information than the reader, which gives you a good chance at having a go at guessing the ending.

For despite this I still didn't manage to guess it. The ending caught me almost-unawares: I think I worked it out about three pages before the cast did. Which is great fun.

For all of the main characters have a sharp wit and a fantastic turn
Genre: Mystery

This is my favorite of the Lord Peter mysteries that do not feature Harriet Vane - and the audio version of the book was quite wonderful. Ian Carmichael continues to give a very nice rendition of Lord Peter.

This novel introduces Miss. Climpson and unlike the previous novels in the series, the point of view is split between Lord Peter and Miss Climpson, allowing us a different view into the goings on in the neighborhood of the murder. Or rather presumed murder, as the original death
Mar 30, 2011 Terra rated it really liked it
Dear Dorothy Sayers, HOW ARE YOU SO AWESOME? The scene with Lord Peter and the vicar--oh my HEART. MY HEEEAAART. The more of these I read, the more deeply I approve. This book contained the only suspenseful scene about English trust & estates law I have ever read (possibly that has ever been written). I'm thinking that DLS was something of a law geek. Yes? Yes. The one thing that did make me a bit uncomfortable (as is often the case with books of this period that I otherwise adore *COUGH*P.G ...more
Dec 22, 2011 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime, audio
My favourite so far, I think. The plot itself -- the whodunnit aspect, anyway -- isn't too much trouble to me, because I remember that around the same time as I first read it, someone in NCIS was killed in the same way as the murderer uses multiple times here. So that part seemed rather obvious to me. But Lord Peter is so fun -- and I love Parker, possibly even more in this version than in the books. Miss Climpson is rather fun, too.

It's surprising how addictive these radioplays are, too. I woul
Jan 31, 2016 Vicki rated it really liked it
This witty period piece features an amateur sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, whose disarming charm helps him to gather clues right and left when the police are not even sure there is a case to solve as yet. Dorothy Sayers is fun to read, but be prepared for some ethnic slang in the conversations of her characters. It serves to remind the readers that we live in different times now.

In this case, a young doctor friend of Lord Peter has complained to him about a patient who died under his care.The lady w
Chris Gager
Time for another Sayers mystery. The only one I've read so far(The Nine Tailors) was awesome so this one will have a lot to live up to.

The style so far is pretty breezy, not as "serious" as "The Nine Tailors". Plenty of (verbal)fun so far. Lots of literary references a la "Trent's Own Case". The set-up/production of the book is sloppy - two boo-boos so far.

Tough to put this down last night but it was midnight! Still not up to "The Nine Tailors" but pretty good fun. This is more lightweight than
Lady Wesley
Nov 25, 2013 Lady Wesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened
I picked up this audiobook at's BOGO sale, which ends tonight. I've read all of the Lord Peter Wimsey books many, many times, and I adored Ian Carmichael's portrayal of him in the 1970s BBC series. I know already that this one will be a five-star listen!
This is a 2.5 star read.

I remember loving Lord Peter Wimsey when I was younger. Perhaps I liked the other books by Dorothy Sayers better than I did this book. I really should have been fascinated with the story line since it included a genealogy, but, alas, that didn't help the book. I thought the entire plot line absurd, starting with how Wimsey heard about the murder, his immediate conclusion as to who committed the murder and the crazy actions of the murderer. If the reader believed Lord Wim
David B
May 08, 2014 David B rated it really liked it
A story overheard by chance in a restaurant puts Lord Peter Wimsey on the trail of a woman who may have committed the perfect murder. The investigation leads him and his associates, Inspector Parker and spinster detective Miss Climpson, back and forth between city and country before the suspenseful (if rather contrived) conclusion. The background and details of this novel, first published in 1927, add interest. Several lesbian characters (though never directly identified as such) figure prominen ...more
Les Wilson
Jul 15, 2015 Les Wilson rated it liked it
Although this is by no means one of D L S' best books, I cannot agree with the reviewer who says they have reviewed 76 books as rates this as ARRRRGHH. In the past 10 years I have read over 2,300 books and totally disagree. As for me,I like a crime story that fills its pages with the story, which is more than I can say about many high rated modern writers; who see the need to fill the pages with in depth and totally unnecessary gore, bad language and sex. Most of which have absolutely nothing to ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
In this novel, Miss Alexandra Climpson makes her first bow, which is nearly her last as she finds herself in the hands of a sociopath who (as sociopaths do) sees anyone who stands in the way as a mere obstacle to be removed, just as you might throw out an unattractive chair that is taking up space.

There's a bit of "cheerful racism" as my friend Elisabeth would put it, very much of the time and place--references to "blacks" and "jew boys" (who were apparently known for loud cloth caps and pointe
Oct 17, 2012 Claire rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
"Unnatural Death" is the third Lord Peter Wimsey mystery by Dorothy Sayers.

A note for readers looking to avoid spoilers for later Lord Peter mysteries...if you have the same edition I do (Harper Mystery paperback, ISBN: 0061043583), don't read the Biographical Note that precedes the story! I can't imagine why Sayers would include it in this book since it makes reference to any number of events in the lives of Lord Peter and his friends & family that haven't happened yet. To be clear, there
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Mrs. Forrest's car?? 7 62 Aug 23, 2013 09:15AM  
  • Death in a White Tie (Roderick Alleyn, #7)
  • A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #2)
  • Police at the Funeral (Albert Campion Mystery #4)
  • A Shilling for Candles (Inspector Alan Grant, #2)
  • The Shortest Way to Hades (Hilary Tamar, #2)
Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a renowned British author, translator, student of classical and modern languages, and Christian humanist.

Dorothy L. Sayers is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between World War I and World War II that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. However, Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante's Divina Co
More about Dorothy L. Sayers...

Other Books in the Series

Lord Peter Wimsey (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #1)
  • Clouds of Witness (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #2)
  • Lord Peter Views the Body (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #4)
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Lord Peter Wimsey, #5)
  • Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #6)
  • Five Red Herrings (Lord Peter Wimsey, #7)
  • Have His Carcase  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #8)
  • Hangman's Holiday: A Collection of Short Mysteries (Lord Peter Wimsey, #9)
  • Murder Must Advertise  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #10)
  • The Nine Tailors (Lord Peter Wimsey, #11)

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