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Book Review – Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Synopsis:  The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath,

First Line“Oh, damn!” said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus.

Random QuoteLord Peter’s library was one of the most delightful bachelor rooms in London.  Its scheme was black and primrose; its walls were lined with rare editions, and its chairs and Chesterfield sofa suggested the embraces of the houris.  In one corner stood a black baby grand, a wood fire leaped on a wide old-fashioned hearth, and the Sévres vases on the chimneyplace were filled with ruddy and gold crysanthemums.  To the eyes of the young man who was ushered in from the raw November fog it seemed not only rare and unattainable, but friendly and familiar, like a colourful and gilded paradise in a medieval painting.

Review:  I must admit that my familiarity with Lord Peter Wimsey began with the Masterpiece Theater series of mysteries featuring the character, although I didn’t watch them all that much.  I think I was too young at the time to really appreciate him.  Later I read Gaudy Night and fell in love with him and with the book.  It’s a novel not quite like anything else, a truly intellectual romance, an exploration of cloistered academic life, and a mystery tied up into a beautiful homage to Oxford and the possibility of returning home.  After that I read Busman’s Honeymoon, but never any of the real mysteries – those without Harriet Vane.

Whose Body? is Sayers’ first installment in the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.  In it we are introduced to the characters who will recur throughout the books – in particular, Lord Peter and his man – Bunter.  I know lots of people consider Jeeves from PG Wodehouse‘s books to be the quintessential butler, but for me it’s Bunter.  Bunter was Lord Peter’s batman during the Great War.  Bunter saved Lord Peter’s life during the war and their partnership continues after the war.  Bunter is the butler’s butler – a man filled with dignity, grace, and impeccable taste.  He is a talented photographer and forensic scientist and becomes Lord Peter’s partner in crime solving throughout the books.

Whose Body? is a closed room mystery – a naked, unidentified man found in a bath wearing a pair of golden pince nez.  Sayers takes this very simple premise and expands it into an entertaining and turntwisting whodunit.  A wonderful read and a taste of what was to come.

FTC Disclosure:  I bought it for myself

Publishing Information:  First published 1923

Format:  Kindle


Reading Challenges:  Back to the Classics, Eclectic Reading Challenge, Mystery and Suspense Challenge, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge

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