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The Documents in the Case

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,500 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
The bed was broken and tilted grotesquely sideways. Harrison was sprawled over in a huddle of soiled blankets. His mouth was twisted ...

Harrison had been an expert on deadly mushrooms. How was it then that he had eaten a large quantity of death-dealing muscarine? Was it an accident? Suicide? Or murder?
The documents in the case seemed to be a simple collection of love notes
Paperback, 260 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by New English Library (first published 1930)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nandakishore Varma
Feb 07, 2016 Nandakishore Varma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Ellery Queen said: “Sayers has done more to add literary tone to crime fiction than most of her contemporaries.” This is undoubtedly true. Sayers writes better English than most of her contemporaries, and her literary erudition simply shines through her stories. They are sometimes more slow-moving than conventional whodunits, but if you take the time to savour the prose and the way the narrative is constructed, it can be a rewarding experience.

There is usually no “rabbit-out-of-the-hat” ending i
mark monday
Jun 16, 2011 mark monday rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: murdertime
interesting, unusual entry in the dorothy sayers mystery cannon, one that surprisingly does not feature peter wimsey, harriet vane, or, alas, bunter. basically a series of letters, the mystery unfolds amongst much light satire and amusing character bits. it is intriguing to see how the various letters often contradict one another, rashoman-style.
May 30, 2014 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
A very clever mystery!

"The Documents in the Case" is well-written and slowly played out to reveal the interplay of personalities. The author's sympathy at first is engaged by reading letters written by the major characters of the book. Slowly the personalities emerge and the reader is pleasurably encouraged to change their own perspectives of the characters as their individual idiosyncrasies, temptations and motives are revealed.

For instance, take a look at Miss Milsom:

"Miss Milson has always se
1930, Dorothy L. Sayers & Robert Eustace
Epistolary novel concerning a possible murder, and the lengths a son goes to, to find out what really happened; slow-moving classic tale, not one of Sayers' best - three-and-one-half stars.

Told from a variety of viewpoints via letters and court documents, this is the sad tale of a mis-matched married couple, and the neighbors who turn their lives upside down. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison are a nice suburban couple - he rather older than she, and neither under
Feb 01, 2012 Leah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, mystery
Considering this was in the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, I was not struck with its uniqueness. Telling a story entirely in documents and letters is not groundbreaking now, although in 1930 it may have been. Having just read a book of letters, these come across as far too verbose and writerly, and the statements filled with asides and inner thoughts just seem unlikely.

However, Sayers has the gift of subtlety and quiet humour that infuse her characters with definite qualities - likeabl
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Feb 16, 2010 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biologists and science buffs
Shelves: ccclib, borrowed, 2010, mystery
I picked this book for several reasons. I like mysteries, I have always wanted to read something by Dorothy L. Sayers, it fit into a challenge I was doing, and the premise looked interesting. As it turns out, I was a bit disappointed as the book is completely different from what I expected. The book is a mystery told through documents that were submitted to the police for review. This method is interesting as it gives the points of view of several different characters who were involved to some d ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 08, 2008 Somyaiyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plot of this book is so smart that it actually figured as a problem in one of my organic chemistry textbooks in college! One of those musty dusty tomes but still!!!

The brilliance of the science aside, it is truly an excellent book! Dorothy Sayers is a master at creating three dimensional characters that live and breathe. The book is written in an epistolary format and most incidents come across from two or more points of view, each so consistent and complete by itself that that alone would b
Oct 02, 2013 Cassandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genre-mystery
This was a very unsatisfying epistolary novel, as it had neither the sort of resonance about the difficulties of dealing with crime that I like, nor a mystery I found particularly mysterious -- things are very much as they seem, despite some suggestions that they might not be. It was well enough written, but I felt throughout that Sayers was more interested in the philosophical ideas of one of her narrators, which left the dynamics feeling artificial. It is hard to get at that, but I would say, ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Michelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is an excellent depiction of how a person's point of view affects their opinion of others, and how they see events differently. I think I would have rated it higher if there had been even a little more focus on the likeable characters. As it was, all the story centered around the most pitiful and/or unlikable people I've ever read. The core mystery was possible the most creative of all Sayers work, but I had to force myself to finish reading it.
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Jun 20, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another book confirming my very high opinion of Dorothy Sayers. This is her take on an epistolary novel, although it's not composed of letters only. As the title suggests, the novel consists of a range of documents which together form a prosecution brief. As is so often the case with Sayers, the mystery is only a part of what the book is about. While there is a mystery, the point of it is the "how" rather than the "who". The novel is also a dissertation on creation and the origin of life. I ...more
Andrea Hickman Walker
I enjoyed this just as much as I did the first time round. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the information was presented, particularly as it gave one the opportunity to see the same incident from multiple viewpoints, a thing that I always find fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the solution, hinging as it did on chemistry (a subject I'm particularly fond of). Of course, there were very few of the characters that I liked, but it didn't really affect my enjoyment of the book. I think it's ...more
Hélène Wilkinson
I re-read recently this novel by queen of crime of the so-called detection golden age, Dorothy L. Sayers This is the only one of her fictional books that does not feature the aristocratic sleuth she created, Lord Peter Wimsey. I discovered him at least thirty years ago and promptly developed a crush on the multi-talented, quote-touting lady-killer detective. However, his absence did not mar my pleasure in reading this book and indeed I have read it many times.

The Documents in the Case is also th
Oct 19, 2015 Roopa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As a mystery novel, "The Documents in the Case" misses the mark widely. A proper clarification regarding motive and opportunity is never given. In addition, there is never any doubt (or surprise twist) as to who the murderer could be, thereby eliminating a great deal of the suspense of a "murder mystery".

The one plot point that remains is proving that murder occurred. The principles involved in this are scientific and, although interesting, are not enough by themselves to carry off the story or
Oct 05, 2014 Tarma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love, love, love this book. It was a complete surprise, and not a novel I ever would have picked up on my own - it was bought for me as a teenager (that would be approximately two decades ago!) and something I put aside for years because at the time I'd never heard of Sayers. I read the back and thought "well *that* sounds dull!" And then one day I picked it up, read a few pages... and finished it the same day! Oh, the gift that books like that are to a reader! I could not now say how many tim ...more
This book is not a typical novel, which I did not know when I picked it up at the library. The Documents in the Case is laid out in a series of letters that have been addressed to an investigator in order to reexamine what seemed to be an accidental poisoning. The mystery unfolds as the reader is given insights into different characters' thoughts and recollections as told through their personal correspondence or statements.

This was my first Sayers mystery and while I wasn't really impressed with
Aug 28, 2015 Alger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel that unexpectedly improved upon rereading.

My first reading I was constantly expecting Lord Peter to arrive at any moment, and after I realized that he never was going to show I kept wishing that he would. Upon rereading I find that I don't need the Whimsey after all.

In a surprise to me this turns out to be a rather playful novel from Sayers where she tries her hand at a new formal style. In this novel the title is meant literally, and the mystery is detailed through the collected letter
Apr 12, 2015 Torsam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was terribly boring.

The actual murder happens far after half of the book. This would not be a shame if the beginning chapters would offer certain clues that are needed to solve the murder mystery. But this was not the case here. There are way too many parts that are just unnecessary to the main story - pointless conversations about uninteresting scientific facts, remarks on the meaning of life, side notes about knitting (!) and so forth.

Furthermore, I expect some mystery in a murder mystery
I was strongly repulsed by this book. I found all the characters to be disgusting, and yet I could see how they might have been made more sympathetic with just a little more effort.

If this had truly become Sayers jaundiced view of humanity by this point, I think I can see why she abandoned fiction and turned to theology.
Brenda Clough
Nov 22, 2013 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Sayers' less-well-known mysteries, and it'll never be as popular as a Lord Peter novel. But it has great charms. Constructed tightly, told (after the model of her favorite Wilkie Collins) by different narrators, and with a keen scientific twist in the center, it is the work of a master.
Apr 25, 2015 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, 2015
This book is, sadly, a bit hard to find. It is brilliant, as one would expect when Sayers is the author (The Documents in the Case was co-authored with Robert Eustace). It involves a series of documents, letters, statements, and such that give us the story of what may (or may not) be a murder. It is fascinating because the letters let us get inside the head of the various concerned parties, and so we see various events from different sides.

Sayers and Eustace are brilliant at distinguishing betwe
Jan 25, 2015 Dorothy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't care enough about the characters to be bothered finishing this, which was a great disappointment as I loved the Peter Wimsey novels.

I don't have a problem with the story being told in letters, if only the letters were realistic. However Sayers decided to make one of her characters wax philosophical, at great length, in his letters to his fiancee. Is that what a man really has in mind when writing to his beloved? Those sections were so long, they dominated the narrative - and they were
No Peter Wimsey this time. A narrative told by means of letters and witness statements, describing the relationships between the Harrisons and the artist and writer who move in above them. Mr Harrison eventually dies an horrific death from mushroom poisoning and the dossier is put together by his son in an attempt to persuade the Crown to prosecute the person he believes was responsible.

While it had its moments: the letters by Mrs Harrison and her companion are good, and I liked the way the com
Suzanne Fox
This stand-alone mystery by Sayers and co-author Robert Eustace has lots of delights. The interweaving of letters and documents is intricate and well done, the glimpses of life in and around the artsy London of the '20s are amusing, and Sayers clearly had a good time creating comic turns like Agatha Milsom, whose bizarre but somehow quite credible blend of madness and self-improvement is wonderfully if darkly funny.

Indeed, the entire book is dark: depressing perhaps, but interesting. Neither Pe
Jan 22, 2015 Pentamom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A unique Dorothy Sayers mystery novel -- it does not involve Lord Peter Wimsey. This one is interesting because although you don't have direct knowledge, it's pretty obvious who committed the murder; you just have to watch as the other characters figure out that the victim was murdered instead of dying accidentally or by suicide, who was responsible, and how he did it. It is written in the form of a collection of documents, including written statements from witnesses, personal letters, and newsp ...more
Apr 02, 2012 Dorothea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 07, 2013 Richard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This is the second Sayers I've read (and reviewed) in two weeks, the other being 'Strong Poison'. My response is similar to 'Strong Poison': expertly written, interesting characters and absorbing enough to keep me reading throughout the day (in this case during the two halves of a lengthy return train journey). But as a novel of detection, surprisingly weak. Moreso indeed than 'Strong Poison'. This is a non-Peter Whimsey novel written in collaboration with Robert Eustace, a medical scientist lea ...more
Samarpita Dutta
Dec 22, 2013 Samarpita Dutta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book as I thought it would be a good introduction to Dorothy L. Sayers' work without reading any of her LPW books. The story, written from the perspective of letters being presented as evidence in court in support of a son trying to prove his father was murdered by his scheming wife and her lover rather than having died of an accidental poisoning, was gripping. Sayers has the ability of changing her language to add flavour to her characters when telling the story from thei ...more
Jun 17, 2012 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
I nearly missed this little treasure by Dorothy L. Sayers, for as it does not include Lord Peter Wimsey, it did not show up on the bibliography I had been referring to as I progressed through her novels. I am so glad I caught on that this existed!

Written in an epistolary format, which I generally enjoy, it follows the the lives of several individuals sharing a maisonette in 1929 England. One apartment is occupied by a husband and wife and the wife's companion, the other by an author and artist
Karen B
I've read all of Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novels multiple times, but had always passed over this novel since it does not feature Lord Peter. I'm glad I've finally read it. It's a very well-crafted story. Perhaps in some of Sayers' Lord Peter works, the wonderfully enjoyable character of her sleuth outshines the skill of the author in crafting the mystery. In this novel, given the absence of Lord Peter, it highlights Sayers' excellence in writing and plotting.

I'm amazed at Sayers' skill! She pul
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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...

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