Monday, 16 January 2012

4. "The Nine Tailors" by Dorothy L. Sayers

Page count: 384 pages
Date begun: January 7th, 2012
Date finished: January 15th, 2012

In my early teens, I read a LOT of Agatha Christie novels. All the ones I could find in translation at my local library, in fact, and once I became more proficient in English, quite a few more of them in English. I've probably read at least 90% of all the novels Dame Agatha wrote. I've heard about the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries over the years, but never had the opportunity to read one before now.

Lord Peter Wimsey is on his way to friends on New Year's Eve when he accidentally drives his car into a ditch, due to the excessive amounts of snow. He and his manservant are taken in by the kindly rector of the nearby village. Due to an influenza, one of the locals due to help out with a special bellringing feat is incapacitated, and his lordship earns the respect and gratitude of his host by helping out with the New Year's peal. The rector is called away as Lady Thorpe is dying, and Lord Peter hears the story of the priceless emerald necklace that was stolen when Sir Charles Thorpe married his lady. The emeralds were stolen before the First World War, but both the thieves were imprisoned, and neither would admit where the loot was.

A few months later, Lord Peter receives a letter from the rector, announcing that Sir Charles Thorpe has also passed away, and when he was to be buried, an unidentified corpse was found in Lady Thorpe's grave. The corpse had been badly disfigured, with the hands chopped off, and the rector asks for Lord Peter's help in figuring out the identity of the dead man, as well as who killed the stranger. Working with the local police, Lord Peter is slowly able to piece together who the disfigured corpse is, and how he came to end up in Lady Thorpe's grave, but the identity of the murderer is not revealed until the very end of the book.

I suspect hearing about Dorothy L. Sayers' books for so many years, and especially that The Nine Tailors was her best novel, I had my expectations set too high. I did like the unusual mystery, and the final reveal, but much of the book irritated and bored me. There was a lot of waffle about the damming of the fens, and Lord Peter talking to random rustics about fairly inconsequential things (yes, I know some of them became important later, but in no way that felt necessary) and all the stuff about bell ringing was completely uninteresting to me. The various villagers were very well depicted, and I especially liked young Hilary Thorpe, who was very clever, but if this is actually Sayers' best novel, I'm not going to be in a hurry to check out any of her other ones. A bit of a disappointment, this.

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