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Lord Peter Wimsey #9

The Nine Tailors

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The nine tellerstrokes from the belfry of an ancient country church toll out the death of an unknown man and call the famous Lord Peter Wimsey to confront and contemplate the good and the evil that lurks in all of life and in every human's actions. Steeped in the atmosphere of a quiet parish in the strange, flat fen-country of East Anglia, this is a tale of suspense, character, and mood by an author critics and readers rate as one of the great masters of the mystery novel.

397 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1934

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About the author

Dorothy L. Sayers

636 books2,534 followers
Detective stories of known British writer Dorothy Leigh Sayers usually feature the amateur investigator Peter Wimsey, lord; she also well translated Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.

This renowned author, and Christian humanist studied classical and modern languages.

Her best known mysteries, a series of short novels, set between World War I and World War II, feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth. Sayers, however, considered her work. People also know her plays and essays.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,556 reviews
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,647 followers
June 27, 2018
Dorothy L. Sayers has done it again. Written in 1934, this 11th novel in the Lord Peter Wimsey series shines a light on another topic that I knew nothing at all about. Campanology. The word itself is mysterious, and so is its subject. Campanology is the study of bells, of change-ringing specifically, which adheres to mathematically precise ways in which the bells are rung.

In our story, it is New Year’s Eve and Fenchurch St. Paul’s is attempting to ring 15,840 Kent Treble Bob Majors to match an 1868 feat accomplished in a college church with only 8 men to ring the 8 bells. It will take 9 hours to accomplish and they planned to have 12 ringers so some could fill in while others took a break. Unfortunately, influenza has visited the village and laid low so many of the ringers.

Lord Peter Wimsey and “his man”, Bunter, end up in a ditch about a mile from the village and seek help at the rectory. Lord Peter had experience change-ringing in his own college years and when one of the eight ringers was also laid low with the flu, Lord Peter is asked to help. In his discussions with the rector, we learn about Stedmans, Grandsire Triples, and other mathematical “changes” that have been developed over the years. I was captivated.

And yes, there is a body. One that has been rendered unrecognizable and with no obvious means of death as all injuries to the body were done post-mortem. The man is buried at Fenchurch St. Paul’s, for it is a commitment that the village perform such service for any strangers who die unclaimed in their midst.

Tailor Paul is the deep, sonorous bell that tolls the passing of souls in the village. These are rung in groups of three: there are 6 rings for women, followed by a note for each year of their life. Men receive 9 rings, followed by a note for each year of their life. Thus, “The Nine Tailors” are rung for this man who ended up dead in their village. The notes for the years of his life had to be guessed.

The book’s format itself is like one of the forms of bell ringing. A numerical sequence for bell changes also becomes part of a cryptogram that helps to solve a mystery that Lord Peter suspects is connected to the dead man. The unfolding of this book is a work of genius, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. This novel would serve as a stand-alone as there is little reliance on Lord Peter’s history.

If you read no other Dorothy L. Sayers novel, this would be a great example of her brilliance as a writer and an intellect. The combination of the two is never compromised, yet she writes in a way that can be understood by the lay person as well. I highly recommend this fascinating novel.
Profile Image for Beverly.
835 reviews313 followers
May 13, 2023
One of the best stories I've read by Sayers, The Nine Tailors has nothing to do with Lord Peter Wimsey's impeccable dress. The tailors are how the English refer to the huge brass bells in cathedrals. I also, now understand the title of a short story called, Ringing in the Changes, which has always perplexed me. The bell ringers in the church, "ring the changes" as you change this life for the next one.

The characters are richly embellished and lovely, especially the rector and his wonderful wife, even the scoundrel is humanized. Setting it in a marshy, fen type area is ideal for the story.

I loved the dramatic and uncanny solution to the murder at the end very much and would have given it five stars, but Sayers does include so much explanation of the way the bells are ordered that I thought I would lose my mind. Almost perfect.
Profile Image for Violeta.
86 reviews77 followers
July 20, 2021
According to many this is Dorothy Sayers’s finest literary achievement. It’s the 1934 mystery novel “The Nine Tailors”, her eleventh featuring Lord Peter Wimsey in the role of the amateur detective.
‘Nine Tailors’ has nothing to do with Couture but everything to do with…Campanology - or else Bell Ringing. They are the nine strokes which at the beginning of the bell toll for the dead announce to the villagers that a man is dead. A woman’s death is announced with ‘Six Tailors.’

This - and everything else about bell ringing you had never thought you needed to know -will be part of your personal wisdom by the time you reach the last page. Of course, you’ll also get to find out who the murderer was, a thing that no murder mystery should go without.

It was the first time I read Sayers and I was impressed by her writing, her erudition and the way she used the crime itself as a pretext on which to construct a broader canvas full of subtle social commentary, fine humor, vivid characters, religious allusions and picturesque details of British post WWI rural life. Admittedly, the exhaustive descriptions of…well, just about everything were more than I needed at times, but the impressive finale more than compensated for the occasional glance at how many pages were left until the mystery was unraveled. I’d really like to read more of Lord Wimsey’s adventures.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 11 books844 followers
August 13, 2012
Where I got the book; from my bookshelf.

The Nine Tailors, I have noticed, is the book people often mention in connection with Dorothy L. Sayers. It's a perennial favorite, mostly, I suspect, because of the solution to the murder----but as murder mysteries go, I find it unsatisfactory.

As a novel, however, it's a great read. I love it because of the setting; the flat, watery fens (every time Wimsey's outside I can feel the damp wind whistling past my ears), the isolated little villages, the nexus of classic English village life--the pub, the church, the big house where many of the villagers work as servants, the blacksmith and the smallholders scratching a living from poorly-run farms. Sayers' father was a clergyman, and I suspect that this life was something she knew well; she certainly understood the ins and outs of the Rector's life, with his constant concern for visiting the sick, his efforts toward improving conditions of life in the village, and his officially disapproving yet privately understanding attitude toward the sins of the flesh. If we all came under the care of pastors like that, I suspect more people would turn up at church on Sunday.

I also find the story wonderfully enjoyable and clever, despite my reservations about the murder mystery itself. By "the story" I mean the tale of the missing emeralds (DLS seems to have a thing about emeralds) that forms a background to the mystery and still resonates in the lives of the villagers. Right to the end the story keeps moving at a fast pace, never allowing for a dull moment. Even the decrypting of the Letter That Gives It All Away (second time DLS uses this device in short order) moves swiftly; lessons have been learned from the overlong scene in Have His Carcase.

And the characters...love 'em. The Rector and his wife, Potty Peake, Hezekiah Lavender and Superintendent Blundell are little gems of sharp characterization in few words. And does anyone else think that Hilary Thorpe is another depiction of DLS, this time a youthful version? It seems to me that Strong Poison opened the floodgates to the writer inhabiting her own work, to the point where she pretty much takes over in Busman's Honeymoon.

The most memorable image, of course, is the bells. I don't think any reader can quite look at church bells the same way again after this. There's a Norman church in Rye, East Sussex, with a bell tower you can climb, and I've been doing so since I was in my teens. The climb up the belfry ladder always, always makes me think of this book and shiver.

Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
816 reviews616 followers
May 18, 2023
A quote from my review of Gaudy Night

This is a book for a patient reader - which is normally the sort of book I hate!

That goes double for this title!

Elizabeth George wrote a really great introduction for this edition. Amongst other points she writes;

While many detective novelists from the Golden Age of mystery kept their plots pared down to the requisite crime, suspects, clues and red herrings, Sayers did not limit herself to so limited a canvas in her work. She saw the crime and its ensuing investigation as merely the framework for a much larger story, the skeleton - if you will- upon which she could hang the muscles organs, blood vessels, and physical features of a much larger tale.

So true!

& I suspect I would have rated this tale much higher if I hadn't been trying to read it during a relatively busy time for me.

Lesson learned.

The beginning was really captivating. I could follow some of the information about the bell ringing, as there has been some publicity about a young Kiwi who was a bell ringer for King Charles III's coronation.


I would doubt that the clip would be listenable outside Aotearoa (NZ) but the picture where Dylan is standing is interesting.

I very much enjoyed the start, the detailed characters (all of whom were easy to tell apart & remember) but the story started to drag for me when Lord Peter I became a little impatient. But Sayers is such a literary writer! The way she chose to abridge some speech A satisfactory if somewhat tragic resolution & I feel a bit foolish that I didn't guess

Other than Georgette Heyer's works, I'm not currently doing much rereading, but I think I will make an exception for this one, as I have the uneasy feeling I'm being a bit unfair.

Profile Image for BrokenTune.
754 reviews206 followers
January 1, 2023
Toll-toll-toll; and a pause; toll-toll-toll; and a pause; toll-toll-toll; the nine tailors, or teller-strokes, that mark the passing of a man. The year is dead; toll him out with twelve strokes more, one for every passing month. Then silence. Then, from the faint, sweet tubular chimes of the clock overhead, the four quarters and the twelve strokes of midnight. The ringers grasped their ropes. ‘Go!’

The Bells! The Bells! Esmeraldaaaaaa!.....Okay, okay, wrong book. Well, at least the Esmeralda part.

Lord Peter is such a handy bloke to have around. Not only can he solve mysteries like it's nobody's business, he's also a seasoned change ringer. So, when his car breaks down on New Year's Eve and he and Bunter are taken in at the vicarage in Fenchurch St. Paul, he helps his host out by joining a nine-hour-long bell ringing service.
‘Not in the least, Mrs Venables. Nothing would please me more than to ring bells all day and all night. I am not tired at all. I really don’t need rest. I would far rather ring bells. The only thing that worries me is whether I shall be able to get through the peal without making stupid mistakes.’

What the congregation does not know when they ring in the new year, is that at the same time, a man died mysteriously in their midst.

‘A corpse? Well, of course there’s a corpse. Lady Thorpe is buried there. You buried her yourself.’
‘Yes, sir, but this here corpus ain’t Lady Thorpe’s corpus. It’s a man’s corpus, that’s what it is, and it du seem as though it didn’t have no right to be there. So I says to Dick—’
‘A man’s corpse! What do you mean? Is it in a coffin?’

This was a great story. Not only did the mystery prove to be more than a straight-forward who-dunnit, there were also a few more insights into Lord Peter's and other characters war time experiences. Sayers really made sure that her postwar settings did not deny the scars and damage that the First World War had left on the survivors. It's an aspect of the series I very much admire. And all of it is tied up with a lot of humor.

‘Superintendent,’ he said, ‘I think I have been the most unmitigated and unconscionable ass that ever brayed in a sleuthhound’s skin. Now, however, I have solved the entire problem, with one trivial exception. Probably you have done so too.’
‘I’ll buy it,’ said Mr Blundell. ‘I’m like you, my lord, I’m doing no more guessing. What’s the bit you haven’t solved, by the way?’
‘Well, the murder,’ said his lordship, with an embarrassed cough. ‘I can’t quite make out who did that, or how. But that, as I say, is a trifle.'
Profile Image for Krissa.
94 reviews36 followers
August 17, 2007
[borrowed from the kate]

I started to eyeball Kate's review and I can't, because I'll probably just say what she says! But here are some thoughts unfiltered.

First, okay, there was a lot about bells. Let's say, if you're not interested in learning a lot of important information about the incredibly archane field of change-ringing, put the book down and back away slowly. Then again, if you're not interested in learning something new when you read, you should probably just got watch COPS.

Secondly, one of my favorite things about Nine Tailors was that there were really two crimes woven together expertly, which is like Mystery Novels 202, for sophomores, because the two incidents, 30 years apart, are both really critical to each other and inform each other.

Thirdly, Peter Wimsey is on fine form in this book - his, well, Bertie-Woosterness is kept JUST in check before it gets a little too over the top, unlike Clouds of Witness where his WHAT-HO! of it all was a bit much for me.

And fourthly, it's just a spectacularly written novel. Set in the Fen country, Sayers paints the bleakest and greyest of landscapes and touches that up every few pages with some tiny detail of a roadside or the sharp bite of inclement weather or the hardened lives of the villagers. Really, she's writing beyond mystery to an England she knows very well.

But, well, there's a lot about bells. I'm taking a star away on account of how confused I got about the damn bells. What's a SALLIE! I still don't know.
Profile Image for Heather.
615 reviews
June 12, 2012
I'm having a terrible time writing this review. OK -- yes, there's a mystery and it's an interesting mystery. Yes, it's just as improbable as most of Sayers' other mysteries. Yes, the writing is gorgeous. Yes, it's literary and elliptical. And all of that is really good.

I think, though, that The Nine Tailors was something more -- I think it was DS's meditation on the divine, or if it wasn't intentionally, I think that's what she did without knowing it. The whole cast of characters is there, right out of a traditional English country house mystery: the kindly rector, his practical wife, the prophetic old guy who says impenetrable things, the faintly embarrassed aristocrat filling his pew for the sake of duty, the devout peasant couple, and so on. And then what elevates the stereotypes and makes them more profound are the bells -- awe-inspiring and deadly and benevolent and timeless and gentle and melodic and cacophonous, sensible and insensible and kind and rational and incoherent. And in one way or another, everyone ends up serving the bells or indebted to them or punished by them -- although not worshiping them, I don't think Sayers was being idolatrous. And then there's this terrible, glorious apocalyptic ending, all with the painted angels singing over head.

And there's a body and stolen jewels and a comic bit with a cowardly thief and Bunter goes around being Bunter. There's not a lot of action and there's lots of incomprehensible stuff about change ringing and a code that is absurd. But ultimately I think this is a book about the relationship between God and humanity. Sayers' used all the cliches and came up with something greater than the sum of the parts. It's impressive and moving.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,390 reviews582 followers
November 1, 2018
Nearly everyone gives this one more star than I did. But for me the reading was longer, more difficult, and at times much too gossip and village "talk" bound for me to feel tension for the story "moving along". The entire middle is very slow and has oodles of poems, rhyme, asides that use the names of the Nine Tailors (the nine huge bells in our fens' church's tower).

The embedding within fen country of marsh and river and rather random isolation is a departure from the usual Lord Peter city and estate or country house party haunts. Bunter is integral. No Harriet at all. This is during the period after they meet but when they are hither and yon upon their very singular and achieving lives.

It starts with the Daimler going off the rode into a ditch just before New Year's. And the entire piece of work (all of the novel) becomes cored within the town and the church of their "rescue".

Lord Peter has talents we were not exposed to previously (musical ones of skill). And they are used.

The number of operatives are numerous. All the townies know parts of the "dirt". Hardly any of the townies know the majority of the dirt. And none of the townies know ALL of the dirt. Lord Peter, Bunter and the police components coming in and out have a long road to filling in the picture. A body but how did he die?

Once long ago I know I saw a movie with this exact method of demise set within it. It might have been this very plot / character piece. But it was so long ago that I only remember the bells. Bells, bells, bells.

This one is a favorite because of the visuals and the natural world event that occurs after the reveal. Both are dramatic and that's why I think it WAS a film at one time. And that I saw it.

But I did not at all remember anything from the plot, if I did see the film, other than the method of the "foreigner's" demise.

It may have been a 4 star read experience for me if I had read it in print hardcover copy. Instead, I read it in kindle and this charting and graphics tendency within this book doesn't lend itself well in that mode, IMHO. You need to flip and compare easier to the rather lengthy and extreme coding and logistics during varying chapters.

I will continue and happily anticipate reading the others past #11 that I have missed. I believe I am past 1/2 way on the Lord Peter Wimsey list regardless as I've read Gaudy Night and a parcel of the latter ones.

His (Peter's) wit and his natural emotional spirit of optimism and grabbing moments of joy serendipity for the taking nearly each and every day- that comes full blown to the fore in this tale.
As does the depth of his classic and modern education. And his enthusiasm and spirit as a singular man just plain having a great life are truly felt here. He does not want or "need" to be any where else or be any one else. How absolutely refreshing!

Sayers did get a little silly with the wordplay rhyming and children's type of doggerel. For me, anyway. But considering that it was all fen country tiny town where everyone knows everybody and in which the majority seldom leave- the dialect was not overwhelming, as in a few others I have read.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,695 reviews594 followers
May 2, 2023
The eleventh Lord Peter Wimsey novel sees him and Bunter on their way to spend New Years with friends, when their car funs off the road, into a ditch, in a snowstorm. They find themselves stranded in the village of Fenchurch St Pauls, where they are taking in by the kindly Reverend Venables and his wife. However, far from being a relaxing evening, the Reverend discovers that Lord Peter has some experience bell ringing – his personal passion. With the village decimated by influenza, and a man short, he asks Wimsey to take part in a planned bell ringing marathon.

While staying with the Reverend, Lord Peter hears of the death of Lady Thorpe and of the theft of an emerald necklace some years before, when Mrs Wilbraham was a guest at the wedding of Lady Thorpe and Sir Henry. This theft left Sir Henry in financial difficulties, as he insisted on paying her back for the stolen gems and, although his butler, Deacon, was arrested, along with another man, the necklace was never discovered.

A few months later, a body is found in the graveyard of the Reverend’s Church, which should not be there and he contacts Lord Peter,, who gleefully goes to investigate. On hearing the corpse has had his hands removed and face beaten to disfigure him, he observes, “Splendid!” However, this is not an easy case to solve. It revolves around the missing necklace, an unsolved crime, a mysterious man that Lord Peter met while leaving the village, a corpse found in French underwear and a cryptic clue in the belfry…

This is a excellent novel and a good addition to the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. . It has a fantastic setting, a good cast of characters, lots of clues and a good sense of atmosphere. I think this is one of the most enjoyable Lord Peter Wimsey novels that I have read so far and I really enjoyed the Fenland setting and the bell ringing, which I knew virtually nothing about. I am looking forward to reading on and finally finishing all of the Wimsey series.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,922 reviews386 followers
September 17, 2021
Halloween Bingo 2021

Dorothy Sayers is a favourite author of mine and I think this may be one of her best. I am constantly amazed about Sayers' areas of interest. When I first picked up this book, my idea of a tailor was someone who sewed and altered clothing (perhaps because that was how my great-grandmother supported herself after she was widowed). The church bell lore surprised me in a very pleasant way. It was fascinating to get educated in this obscure field of study.

Nine tailors make a man. When tolling a death, nine strokes of the tailor bell signify the death of a man. And this signal is sent several times over the course of the novel. Lord Peter is embroiled in this mystery by an unfortunate car accident. As a result, he makes the acquaintance of the Rector of the small community, Mr. Venables, who is rather church bell obsessed. After the rescue and repair of his car, Lord Peter makes his exit, but when a grave in the churchyard is reopened to inter a spouse, an unknown man is revealed. Who is he, how did he get there, how did he die? The questions just keep coming and the Rector's wife knows just who to contact—Lord Peter Wimsey.

Being the inquisitive sort, Wimsey learns about an old crime too, the theft of an emerald necklace and the fall out when it could not be found. Is this a factor in the mysterious corpse's appearance? Sayers weaves the many strands of the story very skillfully, giving us a complex puzzle to solve. I can rarely keep up with her virtuosity and this book was no exception. The story was so interesting that I was happy just to bump along, waiting for the author to reveal all.

I absolutely loved the absent-minded Rector and his ultra-organized wife. It seems to me that Sayers also had great affection for these characters and I wonder how much of it is based on her father, who was a rector on the edge of the Fens and involved in the restoration of a set of church bells. Obviously she had personal attachment, so that may be why this novel is so well realized.

Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,491 reviews2,720 followers
May 7, 2023
I loved Sayers' Wimsey series as a teenager but, sadly, it's not standing up to a maturer re-read. Admittedly, Wimsey is far less mannered and Bertie Woosterish in this one: no monocle, and he speaks like a real person without all those 'what ho!' interjections, but he's still DLS's hero who knows and can do everything from being an expert in campanology and so able to step in for an all-night ceremonial bell-ringing at literally the drop of the hat and no practice, to leading the police on a local, Scotland Yard and even French level.

I know this was likely historical reality but the way Bunter is side-lined so that the Rector and his wife don't even acknowledge him by name before shooing him off to the servants' quarters rubbed me up the wrong way (and the fact that Wimsey finds this perfectly normal).

Beyond that though I also found this a meandering story that gets bogged down and a bit show off-y - long disquisitions on bells and bell-ringing, the overly detailed descriptions of the flood gates and mechanisms (yep, we can tell what's going to happen by the end!), and a confusing plot with too many men in disguise had me yawning. I also could guess the method of death way before Wimsey so he didn't come over as as brilliant as Sayers wants.

That said, the atmosphere of a Fen village is well done (do all the locals have to speak 'yokel' language though?) and there's a emotive ending that belies all the silliness and slowness.
Profile Image for Grace.
254 reviews69 followers
March 14, 2013

There are bells in this story. Big bells, little bells, people who know how to ring bells on a professional level, the politics of bell-ringing, bells who sometimes attack their ringers, endurance tests of bell-ringing, history of bells, bells bells bells, it's stopped even being a word now and is just a noise. "Bell". Meaningless.

That is how I felt when putting down this book. I assume that a bell-ringer would go into spasms of delight while reading The Nine Tailors, because someone has finally written a book targeted right at them. That said, the ratio of bell-ringer to average citizen is fairly low, and so if you are picking this book up as a civilian, either be prepared for many many many bells, or move on to another Sayers. Maybe that one with the advertising agency, because I really liked that one.

There's a mystery in here that's pretty solid, except I figured out who the killer was AGES before Wimsey did, and that's just disgraceful because almost everyone in that church should've been able to figure it out just based on their life experience. Ridiculous.

Bell fetishists, have at it. Lovers of mystery novels... at your own risk.
Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
July 29, 2010
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, in its infinite wisdom, has seen fit to make this book one of two Dorothy Sayers mysteries that you absolutely have to read or you are illiterate. I still say that Strong Poison should have made the list, but the good people at The List Inc. haven't ever listened to my suggestions and certainly aren't going to start now. That being said, The Nine Tailors is still a delightful addition to Lord Peter Wimsey's collection of exploits.

The thing I love about Dorothy Sayers, and the reason I now like her more than Agatha Christie, is because I always learn something from her novels. In this book, the lesson of the day is the art of bellringing. (in fact the title doesn't refer to literal tailors at all; "nine tailors" are the nine bell strokes rung to announce a death) If you think bellringing is a simple act, you will find out exactly how wrong you are by the third chapter. If you acknowledge that bellringing is probably more interesting than it sounds, you will still learn what an understatement that is.

It needs to be admitted here that, having finished the book, I still don't really understand all the bellringer shop-talk that goes on in the novel. The problem is that Lord Peter is actually a practiced bellringer already (because there is nothing Lord Peter cannot do), so there's never a need for any of the characters to really explain things. So conversations about bellringing go more like, "Okay, we're going to do this this and this, got that?" "Of course I do, and are we going to whatsit the thingamabob with the whangdoodle?" and I'm sitting there reading all of this and feeling like I missed something important.

But luckily, a deep understanding of bells isn't vital to understanding the greater mystery - which is awesome, by the way, and involves stolen emeralds. Also this is the first Sayers mystery I've read where the murder occurs after the book starts, which was cool.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,637 reviews3,889 followers
April 27, 2021
3.5 stars - Definitely my most successful outing with Sayers recently, I found this to be less of a mystery and more of a small town literary novel. As a mystery, though I enjoyed the ultimate solution, I didn't find this to be quite to my liking, but I did very much enjoy following the goings on in a small English town in the 1930s. Overall, a very pleasant reading experience
Profile Image for Adrian.
570 reviews209 followers
May 31, 2023
Lord Peter Wimsey Group Read 2022-2023

The Nine Tailors in the title of the book, refer to a set of bells in a church in the wilds of East Anglia. Travelling to friends one Winters eve just before New Years Eve in Norfolk, Lord Peter and Bunter have a minor car accident as their car crests a small bridge very close to the village of Fenchurch St Paul.
Stranded with no hope of reaching his friends country house, Lord Peter and Bunter are taken in by the local clergyman, Rector Venables, a traditional muddle headed English Rector. Being New Years Eve the rector is ringing in the year with what he hopes will be a new record of over fifteen thousand "Kent Trebles". Needless to say our hero , LPW, has done a bit of bell ringing in his time and when the rector becomes one man down, he steps in for a small matter of over 9 hours ringing.
During the few days it takes to repair his car, Lord Peter discovers that some jewels stolen from a local "House" some years previous were never found despite the thieves apparently being caught. In addition on arriving in the village Lord Peter had spied a man acting strangely that makes him wonder about the priceless jewels that were never found.
Cue a series of events that Lord Peter tries to make sense of, disappearing villagers , a dead man in a French suit, escaped convicts and lastly horrendous floods when the snow over New Year finally melts. Somehow he makes sense of it all, and with the help of Bunter, his brother in law DCI Parker and the local Chief Constable, as well as the rector, he brings it all to a dramatic and in some cases sad, conclusion.
Profile Image for John.
1,201 reviews95 followers
May 16, 2023
The bells, the bells. For campanology lovers this book is a dream come true. Written in 1934 the story stands the test of time.

Lord Peter Wimsey with his faithful sidekick Bunter have a minor accident at Frogs Bridge and end up spending the night at the rectory in the fictional village church Fenchurch St Paul. There he is roped into nine hours of bell ringing. Due to Will Thoday a bell ringer coming down with influenza.

The rector Theodore Venables, and his wife, Agnes along with a variety of interesting characters make a wonderful story. A stolen emerald necklace, an unidentifiable corpse discovered, a list of suspects including the old butler Deacon and Cranton as well as a mysterious stranger possibly a Frenchman.

How did the victim die is unknown and when we find out it is very original.
Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,049 reviews2,105 followers
October 14, 2016
This is not my favourite Lord Peter mystery.

There was a lot about bells, most of which went right over my head! I tended to skip the combinations for the ringing of the bells and also the very lengthy procedure taken to break the cypher. Other than that, it was a good read which could have been improved by not quite so much of the bell-ringing paraphernalia. I like to learn about things, but here I think Sayers went a bit overboard.

Lord Peter and Bunter find themselves marooned in a Fens village following a motor accident. Rescued by the Rector, they learn of a mystery involving stolen Emeralds which piques Lord Peter's interest and sets him on the very convoluted trail of the thief.

Profile Image for Alan.
Author 6 books302 followers
July 18, 2020
One of my five favorite mysteries set in England, and the cause for our touring the Fens and particularly Ely, and later King's Lynn and Norwich, on succeeding visits for a decade. Also an introduction to the Changes in English bell-ringing which we grew very familiar with in Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset, in '96. (The six bell repository of St Wlita there, old as Canterbury, but female and thought to cure eyes especially. Two of the six went back to 1603 and 1607.)

As a too-educated Ph.D. with a dozen post-doctoral seminars, I always learn new words* from Sayers, like “parclose” and “mere” (which I knew in Anglo-Saxon) not to mention the campanology: “hunting,” “course,” “dodging” etc. Rather too much campanology here, characteristic of Sayers’ deep study of Lord Peter’s whimsies like Enology (vintages), equestrianism, and gourmet foods. Sayers learned rather too much about wines to elicit Lord Peter’s preferences, and likewise here with bell-ringing and the eight named bells: Batty Thomas named for the medieval Abbot buried in Fenchurch St Paul, he who began the bells--the bell cast in the "bell-field" where a pit still stands. Tailor Paul is the tenor, the lowest bell (though the highest male voice). The Nine Tailors are the nine rings of the muffled tenor bell, three and three and three, to signify a death in the parish. Then a bell-stroke for each year of age, so one listening to the bells can often identify Who Died (though not who killed him, which takes the whole novel in this case).
Lord Wimsey travels to France to search the source of the buried man’s French underwear. Lord Peter has old connections among the Sureté National, like M. Rozier, who calls him “Milord Vainsé,” who suggests the man had died of an apoplexy or stroke. To this, Lord Peter responds, “If a thundering apoplexy killed this man, it was not so obliging as to bury him also”(213). The County of Lincoln M. Rozier pronounces, “Laincollone”(216).

As usual, there are British usages that we Americans must translate, like “torch” for flashlight, or “stooks” for sheaves stood on end, or the saying “so nice to meet you again,” for “to see you again” (374). Additionally, there are proverbial sayings specific to the church context: “A green winter makes a fat churchyard,” suggesting counter-intuitively fewer people die during a harsh winter.

Diversity of characters here, including a Downs syndrome or Aspbergers fellow, Potty Peake; then there’s the burglar out from 12-years in jail, Cranton. He can’t forget a bell sound when he dropped his “torch” which hit a bell, “It wasn’t loud, but terribly sweet and threatening, and it went humming on and on, and a whole lot of other notes seemed to come out of it, high up and close— right in my ears. You’ll think I’m loopy, but that bell was alive”(323).

*More than just words, I learn here about Stout, my favorite ale since spending two months in England for several years—often unable to afford more than a pint for lunch.
Turns out, Stout can be stored head down in a basket, unlike Bass. (271)
Profile Image for Dagný.
119 reviews
October 9, 2008
This book is a blast, all nine bells going! The writing is energetic and in command of the craft as if a showcase of bell ringing. While a murder mystery, it is an exposition of English Church Bell ringing, chiming over the English Marshland (Fens) and the English society. This is accomplished with adroit intricacy, immersion and humor. The book, written in the early thirties feels utterly modern. The main character has no description of himself in this book, nor do any other characters, yet they all are incredibly alive with their words and actions; all the while the conversations are clipped to their essence and actions to their relevance. The chapters also use leitmotivs from church bell ringing expositions.
While I read this book I felt strangely spellbound by it, transfixed by the unexpected modernity of the style and the fascinating (lost) times it describes. Church bell ringing will not sound the same hereafter.
18 reviews
August 10, 2007
It is immaterial that this is a mystery. It is , I think, a great accomplishment in fiction.I love books that educate or impart archane info in support of atmosphere or the story and this is one of those. It had me searching for recordings of change ringing(it also helped me "get" Richard Thompson's "Time to Ring Some Changes", a small thing but there it is.Take it as read that I love and recommend all the Whimsey books and ,and yes,the boy is down with the hyper-romantic H. Vane series; which everyone should read.Says me!
Profile Image for Bev.
2,957 reviews265 followers
February 2, 2020
The New Year holiday finds Lord Peter and Bunter traveling to the fen country to stay with friends of his lordship. On the way, the Daimler has a misunderstanding with a narrow, hump-backed bridge and the pair find themselves nose down in a ditch. They make for Fenchurch St. Paul and soon become acquainted with most of the main characters in the upcoming mystery. A bout of influenza has also arrived in Fenchurch St. Paul and the Rector finds himself one man short for the bell-ringing scheduled to bring in the New Year. Fortunately, Lord Peter has rung a bell or two in his time and he gallantly offers to fill the gap. This gives him the opportunity to befriend and exchange gossip with most of the central actors.

A couple of months later finds a grave being opened to bury Sir Henry Thorpe with his wife (who had succumbed to the 'flu over New Year's). The gravediggers are surprised to find an unexpected corpse--the body of an unknown man, with features disfigured, and no coffin. The Rector decides to call in Lord Peter and he assists Inspector Blundell in the unraveling of the this very complicated case. Who is the man in the grave? How and when did he get there? Does it have anything do with the emeralds that were stolen at Sir Henry's wedding many years ago?

When I took off for a three-hour trip to visit my parents last weekend, I took along Lord Peter Wimsey, Mr. Bunter and the rest of the folks that we meet at Fenchurch St. Paul. Or rather the remarkable talents of Ian Carmichael who brought them all to life. I thoroughly enjoyed Carmichael as Wimsey in the visual adaptations and only wish that things had worked out when the project was first broached so Carmichael could have played him when younger. Ideally, of course, they would have started at the beginning and been able to go all the way through to Busman's Honeymoon (if only those dratted rights could be wrestled away from MGM). Carmichael did a splendid job voicing the multitude of male characters--from Wimsey and Bunter to the Rector and all the bell-ringers to Cranton, the jewel thief. The female voices were bit tougher for him, but he still managed to produce distinctive tones for Mrs. Venables, Hilary Thorpe, and the others. Since the story is so very familiar to me (I can't tell you how many times I've read it), I was able to lose myself in the storytelling and the miles just flew by on my journey there and back. A thoroughly enjoyable audio novel--with a story from one of the Queens of crime.

First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.

Listened again 1/28/20

This was a comfort read (listen) for me. I was sick last week and spent a couple of days on the couch (when not sleeping) with Lord Peter Wimsey. The Sayers books are always comfortable reads for me. I love them so and I have read/listened to them so often that it's like settling down with a good friend for a nice quiet chat. It was especially nice to have that chat with Ian Carmichael reading in my ears. Carmichael does Wimsey so well and gives such life to Sayers's other characters that it is always a delight to listen to the audio versions. I don't have much new to say--so if you'd like to see more of my insights into The Nine Tailors, please see review of the audio version above and a review of the hard copy on another edition.
Profile Image for Melanti.
1,256 reviews117 followers
June 9, 2018
My grandfather was a pastor of a small rural church when I was young. I only have vague memories of his sermons during but I vividly remember walking to church on Sunday mornings to the sound of those bells ringing.

I don't attend church these days, but I still listen out for the sound of church bells - and unfortunately, the churches nearest my place all use that pre-recorded junk piped out of tinny speakers. None of them ring for anything other than keeping time. Which is a good thing, I suppose, with as awful as they sound!

So, on top of the standard excellent mystery and great humor of this series, Sayers also managed to evoke all those memories of a little country church and it's beautiful sounding bells.

There might be a bit too much technical details about ringing the bells for some people's tastes, but with as many wonderful memories as it brought back to me, I loved it.
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,255 reviews2,298 followers
July 5, 2019
Did you know that once, church bells were synchronised so that they could be tolled like a music orchestra? Yes, that is right!

This is one fascinating fact I got from this very unusual mystery, where a man has been murdered without using any external force.

I loved this one!
Profile Image for Kim.
584 reviews13 followers
January 12, 2020
The Nine Tailors is a 1934 mystery novel by the British writer Dorothy L. Sayers, her ninth featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. It has been described as her finest literary achievement. I wonder if it really was her finest literary achievement, I've read many of her books and stories and have no idea which one is my favorite, this one is close though. It just about has to be my favorite since there are many things in it that would usually have me rolling my eyes and turning to the next page as fast as I can. But in The Nine Tailors these little annoying things make no difference. And what are these little things you may ask? Even if you aren't asking I'm going to tell you anyway, they are bells. Oh, that's what the title is too, bells:

The Nine Tailors of the book's title are taken from the old saying "Nine Tailors Make a Man", which Sayers quotes at the end of the novel. As explained by John Shand in his 1936 Spectator article The Bellringers' Art, "'Nine Tailors' means the nine strokes which at the beginning of the toll for the dead announce to the villagers that a man is dead. A woman's death is announced with 'Six Tailors'. Hence the old saying ... which might otherwise be construed as a slander on a worthy profession."

During this book everyone stops and listens when the bells rings, at a "not supposed to be ringing" time of day, it is ringing because someone has died and they count the strokes, first to hear whether it is a man or woman, then to hear how old the person who died was, one stroke for every year. That way they can usually figure out who it was who died. That got me thinking of people in my life who have died, my father for instance died when he was ninety-four. Just think of how long you would have had to stand outside on the street counting the strokes until you got to the final age of my father. If we do that around here I've never noticed it and I think I would notice a bell ringing ninety-four times.

There's lots of bell ringing for that reason in this book. First we have all the ringing for poor Lady Thorpe, then later her husband Lord Henry. Then there's the guy they find dead in the a grave that he has no business being in, it happens to be Lady Thorpe's grave. The dead guy, the one we don't know could be a recent visitor to the village by the name of Driver, who comes to town, gets a job, then just disappears, or it could be the Thorpe's old butler, Deacon, he and an accomplice from London, Cranton had both been convicted of stealing an emerald necklace even though the necklace has never been found. Deacon had escaped from prison, but died shortly afterwards by falling into a quarry, when his body was found two years later you couldn't tell who it was, but he was still wearing his prison clothes. Hmm, I wonder if he could possibly still be alive. Whether he is or not Cranton is and he is now out of prison, and where he is no one seems to know. Maybe they just got him out of Lady Thorpe's grave, no one can tell since his face has been so smashed in he can't be identified. Thank goodness Lord Peter is there.

The reason Lord Peter is there is because he managed to get it stuck in the snow just outside of town. And now Lord Peter Wimsey and his manservant Bunter are stranded in Fenchurch St. Paul, an interesting name for a town, until the car can be dug out of the snow bank and made to work again. And so they wind up staying with the parson, Mr. Venables and his wife. Mr. Venables just happens to know everything there is to know, or will ever be known about bells, and he shares his knowledge with all of us.

"And have you a good set of ringers?" inquired Wimsey, politely.

"Very good indeed. Excellent fellows and most enthusiastic. That reminds me. I was about to say that we have arranged to ring the New Year in to-night with no less," said the Rector, emphatically, "no less than fifteen thousand, eight hundred and forty Kent Treble Bob Majors. What do you think of that? Not bad, eh?"

"Bless my heart!" said Wimsey. "Fifteen thousand----"

"Eight hundred and forty," said the Rector.

Wimsey made a rapid calculation.

"A good many hours' work there."

"Nine hours," said the Rector, with relish.

"Well done, sir," said Wimsey. "Why, that's equal to the great performance of the College Youths in eighteen hundred and something."

"In 1868," agreed the Rector. "That is what we aim to emulate. And, what's more, but for the little help I can give, we shall be obliged to do as well as they did, and ring the whole peal with eight ringers only. We had hoped to have twelve, but unhappily, four of our best men have been laid low by this terrible influenza, and we can get no help from Fenchurch St. Stephen (which has a ring of bells, though not equal to ours) because there they have no Treble Bob ringers and confine themselves to Grandsire Triples."

See, didn't it astonish you to find that they were going to ring fifteen thousand, eight hundred and forty Kent Treble Bob Majors? Or that St. Stephen have no Treble Bob ringers only Grandsire Triples? See, it's stuff like that that would normally annoy me, but it's The Nine Taylors not much can annoy me in The Nine Taylors. Unfortunately for the poor Rector, just at this moment he receives a message that Will Thoday is too ill to help with the fifteen thousand thing, and he call's it "an irreparable disaster."

"Is this man one of your ringers, then, padre?"

"Unfortunately, he is, and there is no one now to take his place. Our grand scheme will have to be abandoned. Even if I were to take a bell myself, I could not possibly ring for nine hours. I am not getting younger, and besides, I have an Early Service at 8 o'clock, in addition to the New Year service which will not release me till after midnight. Ah, well! Man proposes and God disposes--unless"--the Rector turned suddenly and looked at his guest--"you were speaking just now with a good deal of feeling about Treble Bob--you are not, yourself, by any chance, a ringer?"

"Well," said Wimsey, "I used at one time to pull quite a pretty rope. But whether, at this time of day----"

"Treble Bob?" inquired the Rector, eagerly.

"Treble Bob, certainly. But it's some time since----"

"It will come back to you," cried the Rector, feverishly. "It will come back. Half an hour with the handbells----"

And it does come back to him and he does take his place at the Treble Bob, I guess, and he does ring it for nine hours. I wonder what the people trying to sleep thought of all this. And then Lord Peter's car is fixed and he and Bunter leave the village and their new friends behind them, and months go by until.....remember the wrong body in the wrong grave part?

And Lord Peter comes back and manages to figure out who it is in the grave, and what happened to Driver, and Deacon, and Cranton, and anyone else who happens to be missing that I may not be remembering at this time. He ever figures out what happened to that long missing necklace that caused all this trouble. It's good he came back to figure it all out, I don't think I ever would have. OK, now here are some of those things irritating I just have to let go by me without any trouble at all:

"The gentleman will do well enough," agreed Mr. Lavender. "Now, boys, once again. What 'ull we make it this time, sir?"

"Make it a 704," said the Rector, consulting his watch. "Call her in the middle with a double, before, wrong and home, and repeat."

"Tin-tin-tin," cried Gaude in her silvery treble; "tan-tan," answered Sabaoth; "din-din-din," "dan-dan-dan," said John and Jericho, climbing to their places; "bim, bam, bim, bam," Jubilee and Dimity followed; "bom," said Batty Thomas; and Tailor Paul, majestically lifting up her great bronze mouth, bellowed "bo, bo, bo," as the ropes hauled upon the wheels.

Tin tan din dan bim bam bom bo--tan tin din dan bam bim bo bom--tin tan dan din bim bam bom bo--tan tin dan din bam bim bo bom--tan dan tin bam din bo bim bom--every bell in her place striking tuneably, hunting up, hunting down, dodging, snapping, laying her blows behind, making her thirds and fourths, working down to lead the dance again.

(Holt's Ten-Part Peal)
By the Part Ends
First Half Second Half

246375 257364

267453 276543

275634 264735

253746 243657

235476 234567

2nd the Observation. Call her: 1st Half) Out of the hunt, middle, in and out at 5, right, middle, wrong, right, middle and into the hunt (4 times repeated). 2nd Half) Out of the hunt, wrong, right, middle, wrong, right, in and out at 5, wrong and into the hunt (4 times repeated). The last call in each half is a single; Holt's Single must be used in ringing this peal.

The voice of the bells of Fenchurch St. Paul: Gaude, Gaudy, Domini in laude. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. John Cole made me, John Presbyter paid me, John Evangelist aid me. From Jericho to John a-Groate there is no bell can better my note. Jubilate Deo. Nunc Dimittis, Domine. Abbot Thomas set me here and bad me ring both loud and clear. Paul is my name, honour that same.

Gaude, Sabaoth, John, Jericho, Jubilee, Dimity, Batty Thomas and Tailor Paul.

Nine Tailors Make a Man.

I love this book, tin, tan, din, dan, and all. Happy reading.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
November 14, 2012
One of my favourites of the Peter Wimsey books, though I have to say that this time I felt that there was something a bit off about the pacing. It felt a little slow in places, and because the 'murdered' man so patently obviously "deserved" it (i.e. is not a sympathetic sort of character: I'm not a fan of the death penalty or revenge killings or anything like that, but you do feel that he "got what was coming to him") it's difficult to feel any urgency about the investigation, especially because you feel -- as Peter does -- that it'd really be best if it could all just be left alone.

Still, the book really got to me in the sense of the Thodays plight, and basically all the upheaval that one bad man caused, over the years, in a small village. And there's the way that when you realise how Deacon died, you do feel pity for him, even though he was a bad man, because it just seems so awful.

No Harriet in this book, and as far as I remember, not even a mention thereof. There is a good helping of Bunter, though.
Profile Image for Maria Thomarey.
517 reviews58 followers
November 4, 2017
Ένα εξαιρετικο υπόδειγμα για όσους θέλουν να γράψουν για αλλα πράγματα χρησιμοποιώντας μια αστυνομική ιστορια . Πρεπει να το διαβάσουν για να δουν οτι οταν γράφουμε ενα αστυνομικό Βιβλίο στο κέντρο του βιβλίου πρέπει να βρίσκεται το έγκλημα. Έτσι λοιπόν σε αυτό το μικρό διαμάντι Εδώ έχου��ε τη δυνατότητα να μάθουμε πάρα πολλά πράγματα για τις καμπάνες,για την τεχνική των κωδωνοκρουσιων, Για την αγγλική επαρχία για το περίεργο χιούμορ των εγγλέζων και πάνω απ'ολα Για τον φοβερό τρόπο που λειτουργούν οι κοινότητες τους – τρόπος που τους βοηθήσει πάρα πολύ στο δεύτερο παγκόσμιο πόλεμο -Η συγγραφέας δε χάνει ποτέ το στόχο. Δεν παύει ποτέ να λύνει το αίνιγμα το οποίο θέτει στο κέντρο της πλοκής.
Readathon2017:26/26 ενα βιβλιο με αριθμό στο τίτλο του
Profile Image for Bruce Beckham.
Author 35 books414 followers
September 10, 2020
I’m a big fan of period detective stories and this was my first Dorothy L Sayers novel.

I found it to be competently written and pleasant to read or listen to; indeed the literary quality is high, compared to – say – the more workmanlike Agatha Christie.

What I liked most was the setting – the Fenlands of East Anglia, just after the First World War – a fascinating insight into a bleak landscape I know well, and authentically documented. The action centres upon an imposing church with its even more imposing array of curiously named bells, in the small fictional village of Fenchurch St Paul.

‘The Nine Tailors’ of the title refers to campanology, and there is quite a lot of it going on, often in minute technical detail; it is an odd quirk – especially in the audiobook!

The plot is bafflingly convoluted and unwieldy, while the crimes (or, rather their victims) do not engender a great deal of sympathy. Even Lord Peter Wimsey does not appear hugely motivated, and drifts in and out of the narrative without really getting his teeth into the investigation.

I think if you’re seeking a 1920s-style British upper-class sleuth, a robust plot and some emotional engagement, I should go for Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion.
Profile Image for Katie.
2,712 reviews142 followers
April 13, 2015
This one I had trouble getting into because I was confused! See, I thought it was a novel, and then I opened the book and it said, "Changes Rung on an Old Theme in Two Short Touches and Two Full Peals," so I thought . . . ummmm, two short stories and two novellas then? So I read the first "short touch" thinking it was a short story and it was a very odd short story with lots about church bells and no mystery at all!

It was only after I turned a few pages that I realized this was indeed a novel!

Eventually, I did get more into it. It was one of the better ones in terms of one book characters. I really got invested in the village and the people there. But! I was ahead of Peter at one point and that was a disappointment. (I like being smarter than some characters, but not Peter!) And it's one where Sayers goes into more detail than is fully needed. (And yet no concrete enough detail. I don't have a full understanding of the bells.)

I may have also been too impatient for Gaudy Night to fully appreciate this one. COME BACK TO ME, HARRIET! (But first--I must move.)
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