Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Whose Body?

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
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really liked it
bookshelves: favorites, mystery, humor, reviewed
Recommended to Nancy by: I don't remember.
Recommended for: readers who like a good English mystery, humorous and literary
Read 2 times. Last read October 21, 2012 to December 22, 2012.

Whose Body?
By Dorothy L. Sayers

At one point in my life I was an expert on Dorothy L. Sayers. Out of interest, I read all her works, and then read all the works about her works. I discovered that it is possible to become an expert in a relatively short time, provided that you choose a relatively narrow subject.

That was twenty years ago, and I no longer claim expert status, but I can tell you that Sayers, born in England in 1893, was one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford University. She worked as an advertising copywriter for nearly a decade and is credited with the slogan: “It pays to advertise.” In the twenties and thirties, she became famous as the author of the Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels, and although she was later known as a playwright, essayist, Christian apologist, and translator of Dante’s Inferno, her most lasting fame rests on her foppish, monocled character, Lord Peter.

Whose Body? is Sayers’s first Lord Peter novel, published in 1922. As a titled aristocrat who glories in a well-drawn bath, collects rare manuscripts, and employs the superlative manservant, Bunter, Lord Peter has no financial reasons to dabble in crime - rather, his keen mind enjoys a good puzzle. The body of the title is that of a middle-aged, naked gentleman who turns up unbidden (and deceased) in the bathtub of the timid Mr. Thipps. Lord Peter’s mother, the Dowager Duchess, tells Lord Peter of the crime. He informs Bunter:
“‘Her Grace informs me that a respectable Battersea architect has discovered a dead man in his bath.’

‘Indeed, my lord? That’s very gratifying.’

‘Very, Bunter. Your choice of words is unerring. I wish Eton and Balliol had done as much for me.’”

Although Lord Peter is an aristocrat, he is not a snob, and he and his good friend Lieutenant Parker of Scotland Yard are soon interviewing suspects and running down clues. The mystery is ingenious, as Sayers’s murders usually are, but only part of the fun of the book lies in unraveling the mystery. The rest of the enjoyment - the greater part of it, for this reader - lies in Lord Peter and his milieu. What better afternoon’s escape than the drawing rooms and countryside of upper-crust Britain in the 1920s and 30s?

But, as in the best genre fiction, the Lord Peter books offer other treats. Sayers’s novels are awash with literary allusions, humor, and great moral questions, all woven into the fabric of the story, rather being tacked on to advertise the author’s erudition or philosophical bias.

In Lord Peter, Sayers has created an agreeable character who grows in complexity and likeability as the series continues. If Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Father Brown are your cup of tea, then waste no time in making the acquaintance of Lord Peter Wimsey.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 18, 2012 – Shelved
October 21, 2012 – Started Reading
December 3, 2012 – Shelved as: favorites
December 3, 2012 – Shelved as: mystery
December 22, 2012 – Finished Reading
December 29, 2012 – Shelved as: humor
December 29, 2012 – Shelved as: reviewed

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