Kirsty Darbyshire's Reviews > The Nine Tailors

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
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Dec 07, 2010

Read in October, 2001

If I lived in a village where they rang in the New Year, not just with a peal of church bells, but with nine hours worth of marathon change ringing I think I'd find myself inclined to murder too. Aside from that I'm enjoying this, the first Sayers that I've tried, more than I expected to.

In the end I couldn't justify giving this book more than about a three star rating. On the back cover Sinclair Lewis (who I've never heard of but he seems to have won the 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature) says it's one of the best four mysteries every written. I'm intrigued to know what the other three he was referring to are. I also wonder if he'd still think it stood up as a great mystery today alongside everything that has been published since. I don't think it does, but then I'm not a Nobel laureate.

I expected to find Lord Peter Wimsey to be annoying, which is only my own prejudices against the aristocracy showing, but I didn't have any problems with him. He seemed a bit of a wishy washy character but this is only one book of a series and I didn't expect to learn everything about him.

The plot wasn't bad but it wasn't as great as I'd expected. There are twists and turns aplenty and some nice touches of characterisation. I presume that it's the final twist of the ending that raises this book to the status of a great in many people's eyes. I thought it was credible and that wasn't where my problem with this book lay.

My major problem with this book, and this is a small spoiler for part of the plot, was with a bit of codebreaking in the middle of the book. A thief is hiding his swag and constructs an elaborate cipher involving psalms and change ringing to leave a clue as to where the hiding place is. This works very nicely to give Wimsey a bit of intellectual exercise and to weave bell ringing even more deeply into the plot than it was already. It's utterly pointless though. Why on earth the thief thought to, or needed to construct this cipher is never explained. I spent the rest of the book waiting for a credible explanation that didn't come. And on that point my respect for this book fell down.


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