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The Complete Stories by Dorothy L. Sayers
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Mar 12, 10

bookshelves: bookaweek2010
Read from January 19 to 30, 2010, read count: 1

Dorothy L. Sayers was a genius and if you read this, the first complete collection of her short stories, you will see what I mean. The stories fall into three categories: those that feature the voluble Lord Peter Wimsey, those that feature eager travelling salesman Montague Egg and those that stand-alone. (In my mind, Wimsey is a younger, blonder Stephen Fry with a monocle and Egg is a clever human version of Disney's Jiminy Cricket, all eagerness and propriety.)

The stories are all mysteries, although some like "The Abominable History of the Man with the Copper Fingers" and "The Cyprian Cat" tend towards thriller, others are puzzles like "The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will" and there's hint of science fiction too in "The Image in the Mirror" and "The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba". There's an echo of GK Chesterton in "The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps That Ran" and one of Conan Doyle in "The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach". But Sayers isn't in any way derivative. She's ingenious. It's obvious reading through the stories that this is a writer who loved mystery fiction, who studied it and who knew how to write for the best effect - which includes building up and then neatly turning our expectations against us.

The introduction by American mystery critic James Sandoe gives a concise summary of Sayers and her life's work, but it's through reading her stories that you see how Sayers develops as a writer, moving through the more academic style of the early Wimsey stories, to the clever intricacies of plot, and then finally on to the power of a sparser style. There is only one negative about this collection - it doesn't come in hardcover to endure repeated reading!
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