Moira Fogarty's Reviews > The Nine Tailors

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
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's review
Jul 15, 2012

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bookshelves: audiobook, mystery
Read from July 15 to 23, 2012

Working my way through the entire Lord Peter Wimsey canon in sequential order has given me no new perspective - I still don't love this book. 'Nine Tailors' is #11 of 16 novels & short story collections featuring my beloved English detective, but after a re-read it still irritates me. There's too much obsession with obscure subject matter; too many bells.

Sayers started this novel before she wrote 'Murder Must Advertise', and it took her so long to research all the strange minutiae of change ringing that she had to pause and whip off another novel in the meantime to satisfy her publisher. In consequence, 'Nine Tailors' has the dry ancient tweedy flavour of a research paper or a doctoral thesis, while 'Murder Must Advertise' reads with a breezy, youthful vigor.

This story is an homage to Dorothy Sayers' childhood. She grew up on the edge of the Fens, and her father was a Rector, so the setting and characters were drawn from memory, and it shows in the details.

Sayers' powers of description achieve new heights in this book. Her portrait of the watery fen lands with their ditches and drains and mists and floods transports the reader to a distinctive territory in England, and shows the daily life of a small village in loving detail. The hardships of war and straightened circumstances of Lord and Lady Thorpe due to the earlier theft are reflected in the economies practiced by the church and its servants, giving Fenchurch St Paul an authentic feel.

The mystery was a decent idea, and the blending of old robbery and recent murder were masterfully executed, but left me a little breathless at times from all the "who's conspiring with who" guesswork.

Audiobook review: Egad. Not recommended! No disrespect intended to Ian Carmichael, who did the best he could with what he was given, but this was never a book intended to be voiced aloud. The interminable number sequences 1,3,5,7,2, etc. of the different changes - Kent Treble Bob Major, Grandsire Triples, Stedman Doubles - was enough to drive you mad. And once again, Sayers' love of codes and ciphers led her to create a lengthy section where rows of digits had to be recited. There was also a regular repeating of the names and inscriptions of all the bells in the church, which grew tiresome quickly. The quaint village accents were also wearying after a spell. Skip the audio and read paper instead.

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