Sunday, January 16, 2011

Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers

Wimsey's mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, rings her son with news of 'such a quaint thing'. She has heard through a friend that Mr Thipps, a respectable Battersea architect, found a dead man in his bath - wearing nothing but a gold prince-nez. Lord Wimsey makes his way straight over to Mr Thipps, and a good look at the body raises a number of interesting questions. Why would such an apparantly well-groomed man have filthy black toenails, flea bites and the scent of carbolic soap lingering on his corpse? Then comes the disappearance of oil millionaire Sir Reuben Levy, last seen on the Battersea Park Road. With his beard shaved he would look very similar to the man found in the bath - but is Sir Levy really dead?

I've been hearing from Ro for so long about Lord Peter Wimsey and Dorothy L. Sayers that last month I couldn't resist grabbing the first book in the series. Lord Peter Wimsey is a gentleman; a younger son of a duke has a special interest in old books and in crimes. When his mother, the dowager Duchess phones him to announce that a dead body has been found in a bath tub wearing nothing but a pince nez he can't help but be intrigued and decides to investigate.

He doesn't get along with the Inspector in charge of the case but he is friends with another inspector, Parker, who is trying to solve another case. Convinced that both cases are linked Lord Peter and Inspector Parker join forces to investigate what is really going on.

I must confess that I did not warm to Lord Peter Wimsey as fast as I did for other fictional detectives like Poirot or Miss Marple. However as I kept reading I started liking him more and more. He is actually a funny character with his somewhat pompous manners and his witty remarks about life in general. Sometimes he is a bit of a know-it-all but as I got to know him better I did not mind, not even when I got a bit lost on all the information, because then you realise he is not as superficial as it might seem at first.

The mystery was interesting, I didn't guess the culprit and the why, but maybe that was because I felt it lacked a bit of suspense. There was no compulsion for me to try to guess. I did like what is shown of the period, both on a social level and the consequences of WWI. I was interested enough to want to read more books of this series, I particularly would love to revisit Bunter and the Dowager Duchess, and since I keep hearing the books get better I'll probably look for another one soon...

Grade: 3.5/5


  1. I have been interested in reading these books since reading To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.

  2. Sorry, post got away from me. Just wanted to say that this is a series that gets better and better as it progresses, and the development of Lord Peter's character is not done all in one go. It's pretty slow and subtle. Ideally you should read the whole thing, but if you find you lose patience with the next books, you should jump to Strong Poison, which is the one that starts the romance thread. You can always go back to the others later.

  3. Marg, did you like that Connie Willis book? I've only read one of hers with Christmas stories but it left me curious to try more.

    Rosario, I will definiteloy pick them up at some point and I'll keep that advice in mind.

  4. My favourite of the Wimsey novels is the Oxford-set 'Gaudy Night'. It's practically a perfect book in my estimation but you definitely need to read the preceding Wimsey/Harriet Vane novels ('Strong Poison' and 'Have His Carcase') to fully appreciate it.

    After reading 'Gaudy Night', I wanted to know more about Oxford's Somerville College (the real life version of Harriet Vane's alma mater, Shrewsbury College) and found Susan J. Leonardi's 'Dangerous by degrees : women at Oxford and the Somerville College novelists' very illuminating. It made a reread of 'Gaudy Night' much richer and more real to me. I highly recommend it if you're even a little bit interested in British women's higher education in the early 20th century.


I love to chat about books and stuff and I would love to hear from like minded readers. Please do leave me a comment :-)


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