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Unnatural Death

(Lord Peter Wimsey #3)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  23,176 ratings  ·  778 reviews
When a terminally ill woman dies much earlier than expected, Lord Peter suspects murder...

Though never quick-witted, Agatha Dawson had an iron constitution and a will to fight that never abated in her old age. Even after three operations failed to rid her of her cancer, she refused to give in. But as her body began to weaken, she accused lawyers, nurses, and do
Kindle Edition, 324 pages
Published July 31st 2012 by Open Road (first published 1927)
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ScottyEnn Both first appeared in 1927; Miss Climpson in Unnatural Death, Miss Marple in a short story called "The Tuesday Night Club" (her first novel, The…moreBoth first appeared in 1927; Miss Climpson in Unnatural Death, Miss Marple in a short story called "The Tuesday Night Club" (her first novel, The Murder at the Vicarage, was published in 1930). The short story was published in December, however, so I believe Miss Climpson just pips Miss Marple.

Worth mentioning, however, that both Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie were members of the Deduction Club (basically a group of mystery writers in the 1920s and 1930s who used to get together for dinner and to swap ideas around), so it's highly likely that both came up with or were given the idea of a gossipy old lady going around investigating mysteries at more or less the same time. (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Sheryl Hill
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wealthy woman in a countryside was dying of cancer. She had the best possible care: a loving niece, a competent nurse, and a doctor specializing in cancer treatment. For all the care you can imagine that her illness was even more serious at that time - in the beginning of the twentieth century. So she finally died. Everybody was expecting the event except for the doctor who was ready to stake his professional reputation that the death came a little early and way too unexpected. He insisted on ...more
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,
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx2017-completed
This book was validation for my choice in reading a series in order. Dorothy L. Sayers really hit her stride in this book – all of her regular characters are more fully developed, and the new ones introduced come through at the same higher quality of 3D. There is also an 11-page bonus section at the end: a ‘biography’ of Lord Peter Wimsey, written by his ‘uncle’. I put the quotes in because obviously the uncle is created by the author as well. What I liked about the bonus section is that it give ...more
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

It would be nice when reading a new, favourite author if there was a steady arc of improvement, but I don't like this one quite as much as I liked Clouds of Witness. I still enjoyed it, but there were places where the story became quite bogged down and Sayers had characters voicing their disapproval of both blacks & Roman Catholics. My usual disclaimer; I still prefer to read uncensored.

I think Sayers was probably struggling a bit with censorship herself - it was obvious
Jason Koivu
The continuing adventures of that dandy Lord Peter Wimsey continue.

In Unnatural Death, our somewhat foppish hero, the amateur detective Wimsey suspects there may be more to the cancer-assumed death of an older lady. But what are the means? What is the motive?

I've read about five of Sayer's Wimsey books so far and this is the least engaging. There's nothing blatantly wrong with it, it's just not quite up to standard. I struggled to get a grasp on why I felt this way. I think it's because t
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mildly amusing, mid 1920s Sherlock Holmes wanna-be Lord Peter Wimsey & his Scotland Yard side-kick Parker try to solve a murder that only Wimsey believes in at first. I would have liked it at half its length, as a BBC play, or even a movie more. It was very well read.

The characters were good. Mrs. Climpson, one of too many women with nothing to do, was elegantly put to work ferreting out secrets & Bunter was the perfect man-servant. Parker was a bit of cardboard straight man,
mark monday
Nov 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For years I've been convinced that I much prefer the Lord Peter Wimsey books after Harriet Vane makes an appearance, but this book changed my mind. I always picture Lord Peter as an empty-headed fop in pre-Harriet days but I've had to revise my opinion as he came across as sensitive and conscientious rather than just a rich man of leisure with too much time on his hands

The character of Miss Climpson shines throughout the book for me and her situation made me think about the limited p
Cindy Rollins
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, reread, 2017
I decided to begin my rereadings of the Lord Peter books with book 3. I have started over on volumes 1 and 2 so many times that I thought it would be better to skip them and get right to it.

This is a delightful episode in the series with the appearance of Miss Climpson. It is also quite a series of contrasts between the various female spinster characters in the book.

I almost finished the book today during my three hour stint at the DMV, keeping up my record of reading appropriate literature wh
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'
ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Jan 19, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 impercep
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, mystery
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
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 doctors ever
Deb Jones
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
Lord Peter Wimsey, a 37-year-old self-taught private sleuth, is at it again with his friend and crime-solving partner Charles Parker of Scotland Yard. Wimsey, who sometimes refers to himself as Sherlock Holmes, has resolved to take a case that for much of the book doesn't seem to be much of a case at all except in Wimsey's mind.

Reading Unnatural Death is "jolly good fun" for mystery lovers. Wimsey is sometimes cocky and so full of himself I found myself rolling my eyes a time or two
Jan C
Found the audio copy of this at the library waiting for me to go to North Carolina.

Enjoyable. Made the miles fly by.

While this was my 6th reading of this book, I apparently forgot the conclusion or the killer.

I was driving along trying to figure it out when the light bulb went off.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the earliest of the series that I'm going back to read. And this one is excellent. It seems to introduce Miss Climpson too- who is a spinster that works undercover for Lord Peter in her travels and visitations rift with gossip gathering gems of information. Something that a high class Lord by his very presence and manner would not successfully approach. I love how Lord Peter continually rolls with the punches of the social order and locale or associated "conditions" to finding out what HE ...more
Karen ⊰✿
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uno_2018
This was the best in the series so far for me. The introduction of Ms Climpson was a particular highlight and I hope she continues to help out Wimsey as we progress through the series.
I also liked that this one was a little less slap stick and a little more mystery. The development of the relationship between Wimsey and Parker is also progressing well.
(view spoiler)
Was hankering for a cozy mystery that I'v not read before, thought of trying this book. Can't say am much impressed. It was just an okay read with a mildly annoying protagonist.
The mystery wasn't much about who-had-done-it but how-it-was-done. Read this author for the first time, will try a few more of her stories before I pass judgement.
Just about almost-there-2.5-stars from me.
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lord Peter Whimsey overhears a doctor discussing a mysterious death and decides to investigate. Except then a former servant of the deceased turns up equally deceased. And then Lord Peter pulls the indomitable Miss Climpton on the case. And then the deceased's grand-niece gets kidnapped and the grand-niece's girlfriend turns up also deceased. ALSO RACISM!!!

1. omfg the racism tho?? And the fact that the police are COMPLETELY COMFORTABLE WITH LETTING THE PRESS SPREAD THE FAKE STORY ABO
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75*.....not quite 4....
Olga Godim
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I suppose if you want a watered down version of Agatha Christie
Uh, no. If I never meet Lord Peter Wimsey again, that will be too soon. As detectives go, he is mostly aggravating, the plot was fairly predictable (I worked out the main “mystery” very early on), and the offensive language regarding a black character just added one more thing to object to.

Jan 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, mystery, crime
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 18, 2014 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
Edoardo Albert
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not often a reader of murder mysteries, I put this on my Kindle because it was free (out of copyright) and came up first in a list when I was in a hurry to catch a train and suffering from abibliophobia, not having a print book to hand and worried I might not have time to buy one. Dorothy Sayers wrote one of the most profound books on the connection between creativity and the Trinity in The Mind of the Maker, so I was curious to read her more work-a-day work. Lord Peter Wimsey, the aristocratic ...more
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, classics
This was the very first Dorothy Sayers book I read, so it's been a while between reads. The thing that stuck with me from this novel, apart from the vivid characters, was the murder method - unusual, undetectable, and deeply terrifying somehow.
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 (thoug
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
After a false start with an audio edition which I abandoned about a third of the way through, I thought I'd give it a go with my own voice narrating, and not only finished but thoroughly enjoyed the book.

(I know Ian Carmichael IS Lord Peter Wimsey in the flesh to many people, but I have such a hard time watching or listening to him.)

This may be my favorite Wimsey so far. I'm reading them out of order due to availability in the library system.
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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

Other books in the series

Lord Peter Wimsey (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #1)
  • Clouds of Witness (Lord Peter Wimsey, #2)
  • Lord Peter Views the Body (Lord Peter Wimsey, #4)
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Lord Peter Wimsey, #5)
  • Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey, #6)
  • The 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)
“I know what an Act to make things simpler means. It means that the people who drew it up don’t understand it themselves and that every one of its clauses needs a law-suit to disentangle it.” 8 likes
“To the person who has anything to conceal—to the person who wants to lose his identity as one leaf among the leaves of a forest—to the person who asks no more than to pass by and be forgotten, there is one name above others which promises a haven of safety and oblivion. London. Where no one knows his neighbour. Where shops do not know their customers. Where physicians are suddenly called to unknown patients whom they never see again. Where you may lie dead in your house for months together unmissed and unnoticed till the gas-inspector comes to look at the meter. Where strangers are friendly and friends are casual. London, whose rather untidy and grubby bosom is the repository of so many odd secrets. Discreet, incurious and all-enfolding London.” 7 likes
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