Five Red Herrings (Lord Peter Wimsey #7) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Five Red Herrings
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #7
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 295
Words: 112K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel is set in Galloway, a part of Scotland popular with artists (Kirkcudbright Artists’ Colony) and fishermen. Sandy Campbell is a talented painter, but also a notoriously quarrelsome drunkard. When he is found dead in a stream, with a still-wet half-finished painting on the bank above, it is assumed that he fell in accidentally, fracturing his skull. Lord Peter Wimsey, who is in the region on a fishing holiday, suspects murder when he realises that something is missing from the scene which makes it impossible for Campbell to have worked on the painting. Sayers includes a parenthetical note at this point: “Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant what he was looking for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page”. A local doctor believes that the degree of rigor mortis suggests that Campbell died during the previous night.

Whoever killed Campbell also executed the painting in Campbell’s distinctive style, to contrive the appearance of an accident. Six artists in the area are talented enough to achieve this: Farren, Strachan, Gowan, Graham, Waters and Ferguson. All had recent public brawls with Campbell. One of the six is the criminal, and five are red herrings.

All the suspects behave suspiciously: some leave the district without explanation, others give obviously inaccurate statements or conceal facts. Wimsey investigates, with some assistance from his friend in London, Charles Parker. The task of identifying the culprit is made more difficult because of the complexities of the local train timetables, the easy availability of bicycles, and the resultant opportunities for the murderer to evade notice.

All six suspects are eventually traced and give statements in which they deny killing Campbell, but none are entirely satisfactory. The Procurator Fiscal, the Chief Constable and the investigating police officers meet with Wimsey to review the evidence. The police put forward several theories, implicating all of the suspects either as killer or as accessory. Asked for his opinion, Wimsey finally reveals that the true killer was in fact Ferguson, the only one of the artists who while painting often kept spare tubes of paint in his pocket and who absentmindedly pocketed a tube of white while creating the faked painting. It was the absence of that tube that Wimsey had noted at the start. The police are sceptical, but Wimsey offers a reconstruction, and over the course of twenty-four hours demonstrates how the killer contrived the scene above the stream and also established a false alibi.

Ferguson confesses, but states that Campbell’s death happened accidentally during a fight, and was not murder. When the case is tried, the jury brings in a verdict of manslaughter, with a strong recommendation to mercy on the ground that “Campbell was undoubtedly looking for trouble”.

My Thoughts:

Dear Lord in Heaven, WHY does Sayers do this to me? I’m beginning to think maybe she was a spiritualist who looked into the future and decided to write books that she KNEW would annoy me personally.

This whole book revolves around train schedules. It’s not that the mystery is bad, but we get in depth, detailed and stultifyingly dull descriptions of almost every possible scenario by which the murder could have happened. And Lord Wimsey spends an entire day recreating the scene and hop scotching about like a mad giraffe, to illustrate why HIS theory of the murder is correct. I skimmed PAGES!

I’m beginning to wonder if maybe this series isn’t for me. I simply don’t care about how the little puzzle pieces all fit together. I am not interested in figuring out the crime, I don’t want to figure out the crime, I want the fething detective to do his fracking job and the frelling author to do hers, which is to entertain me, not bore me to tears.

I’m going to be put the rest of the Lord Peter Wimsey books back on my tbr and hold off for a while before trying this again. I don’t dislike the characters or the stories or the crimes, there are just certain aspects in each book that drive me batty.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey #6) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Strong Poison
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #6
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 215
Words: 78K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel opens with mystery author Harriet Vane on trial for the murder of her former lover, Phillip Boyes: a writer with strong views on atheism, anarchy, and free love. Publicly professing to disapprove of marriage, he had persuaded a reluctant Harriet to live with him, only to renounce his principles a year later and to propose. Harriet, outraged at being deceived, had broken off the relationship.

Following the separation, the former couple met occasionally, and the evidence at trial points to Boyes suffering from repeated bouts of gastric illness at around the time that Harriet was buying poisons under assumed names, to demonstrate – so she says – a plot point of her novel then in progress.

Returning from a holiday in North Wales in better health, Boyes dined with his cousin, the solicitor Norman Urquhart, before going to Harriet’s flat to discuss reconciliation, where he accepted a cup of coffee. That night he was taken fatally ill, apparently with gastritis. Foul play was eventually suspected, and a post-mortem revealed that Boyes died from acute arsenic poisoning. Apart from Harriet’s coffee and the evening meal with his cousin (in which every item had been shared by two or more people), the victim appears to have taken nothing else that evening.

The trial results in a hung jury. As a unanimous verdict is required, the judge orders a re-trial. Lord Peter Wimsey visits Harriet in prison, declares his conviction of her innocence and promises to catch the real murderer. Wimsey also announces that he wishes to marry her, a suggestion that Harriet politely but firmly declines.

Working against time before the new trial, Wimsey first explores the possibility that Boyes took his own life. Wimsey’s friend, Detective Inspector Charles Parker, disproves that theory. The rich great-aunt of the cousins Urquhart and Boyes, Rosanna Wrayburn, is old and senile, and according to Urquhart (who is acting as her family solicitor) when she dies most of her fortune will pass to him, with very little going to Boyes. Wimsey suspects that to be a lie, and sends his enquiry agent Miss Climpson to get hold of Rosanna’s original will, which she does in a comic scene exposing the practices of fraudulent mediums. The will in fact names Boyes as principal beneficiary.

Wimsey plants a spy, Miss Joan Murchison, in Urquhart’s office where she finds a hidden packet of arsenic. She also discovers that Urquhart had abused his position as Rosanna’s solicitor, embezzled her investments, then lost the money on the stock market. Urquhart realised that he would face inevitable exposure should Rosanna die and Boyes claim his inheritance. However, Boyes was unaware of the will’s contents and Urquhart reasoned that if Boyes were to die first, nobody could challenge him as sole remaining beneficiary, and his fraud would not be revealed.

After perusing A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad (in which the poet likens the reading of serious poetry to King Mithridates’ self-immunization against poisons) Wimsey suddenly understands what had happened: Urquhart had administered the arsenic in an omelette which Boyes himself had cooked. Although Boyes and Urquhart had shared the dish, the latter had been unaffected as he had carefully built up his own immunity beforehand by taking small doses of the poison over a long period. Wimsey tricks Urquhart into an admission before witnesses.

At Harriet’s retrial, the prosecution presents no case and she is freed. Exhausted by her ordeal, she again rejects Wimsey’s proposal of marriage. Wimsey persuades Parker to propose to his sister, Lady Mary, whom he has long admired. The Hon. Freddy Arbuthnot, Wimsey’s friend and stock market contact, finds a long-delayed domestic bliss with Rachel Levy, the daughter of the murder victim in Whose Body?

My Thoughts:

Another solid entry in the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series.

My two issues were the romance and how ga-ga Peter gets over Harriet. He’s in his late 30’s or early 40’s and has shown nothing like this in previous books, so it’s hard to take it in this one. He mopes for goodness sake! Second, and almost more importantly, the first 10-20% of the book was the Judge reading all of the notes to the Jury, ie, a huge ass info dump. If I wanted to read that, I’d go read some other series. I hope Sayers doesn’t do this again, it was NOT appreciated.

Other than that, this was fun and it was good to see Peter stymied time and time again. He’s had it entirely too easy so far and a bit of “roughing” it is good for him. I like my characters to suffer a bit if I feel like they’ve had it too easy. If I have to suffer while I live, then the characters I read about had better suffer too or by gum, I’ll take it up with my elected officials!

On the romance side, Peter’s detective friend Parker finally gets the nerve up to ask Peter’s sister to marry him and I DID like that. Parker is a hard worker, salt of the earth and an industrious man. I just hope this development won’t sideline him as a side character.

Outside of the starting “Judge’s notes to the jury/readers”, Sayers kept me interested. With my waning interest in Epic Fantasy, it would appear that the Mystery genre is slowling replacing it or at least taking a large chunk out of it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Lord Peter Views the Body (Lord Peter Wimsey #5) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Lord Peter Views the Body
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #5
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 235
Words: 94K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia
(click the Details arrow to see the synopses)

The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers

Members of London’s “Egotists’ Club” are telling stories of odd things that happened to them, when one of the member’s guests, a cinema actor named Varden, relates that he was invited to model for a wealthy sculptor, Eric Loder, and spent several months at Loder’s New York mansion. A few years later, after the war, Loder invited Varden back to New York, and Varden noticed that Loder’s mistress, Maria Moranno, had disappeared, though a life-size gilded sculpture of her now occupied the living room. One night, Varden was wakened by a “funny-looking man” wearing a monocle, who told him his life was in danger. For explanation, the man smashed the arm of the “statue” with a fireplace poker, and Varden saw a human arm bone beneath the gold plating. Varden fled the house immediately, though to this day he is not certain whether he really did narrowly escape death or whether someone played an elaborate practical joke on him.

Then the “funny-looking man” – Wimsey, also a member of the club – appears and explains the mystery: while Wimsey himself was a guest in Loder’s mansion, a small night-time accident led to him occupying a sofa in the living room, where he observed Loder entering a secret chamber. Entering the chamber himself, Wimsey found an apparatus for electroplating and diagrams drawn by Loder, revealing his plans to kill Varden and encase him in a gilded statue. After further investigation, Wimsey concluded that Loder killed Maria in jealousy, believing that she and Varden were lovers during his first stay in New York, and planned to kill Varden in the same fashion after he returned from his war service.

Wimsey goes on to relate that after Varden fled the house, Wimsey confronted Loder with a pistol in the secret workshop. Loder tried to outmaneuver Wimsey by shutting off the lights and then rushing him, but tripped and fell into the vat of cyanide to be used in the electroplating process, dying almost instantaneously. While Wimsey fumbled to turn the lights back on, he inadvertently switched on the current to the copper wire Loder was gripping, which transferred copper plating to his hands. Loder was found the next morning, and his death was ruled an accident, while Wimsey took Maria Moranno’s encased body to a local cemetery and gave it a Christian burial with the aid of a sympathetic priest.

The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question

Peter and Bunter are waiting in line at Saint-Lazare in Paris, when Peter overhears a conversation from a young woman in line that makes him curious, particularly when he notes that the woman and her companion are also taking the same train to Calais, and crossing the Channel to Dover. After patient investigation, Peter meets with his mother’s friend, the Dowager Countess of Medway, warning her that someone is planning a burglary during her granddaughter’s upcoming wedding. He believes he knows who the thief is, but cannot prove it unless the theft is allowed to take place.

Peter also alerts Charles Parker, who has men on guard during the wedding. A brief uproar arises when the bride’s famous diamond necklace, brought out of the family vault for the occasion, is reported stolen, but the thief and her accomplice are caught red-handed. Peter shocks the assembled wedding party by exposing the Dowager Countess’s French lady’s maid as a man in disguise, Jacques le Rouge, a.k.a. Jacques sans-Culotte, a notorious safecracker, burglar and female impersonator. Jacques admits defeat, asking Peter how he knew. Peter explains that while waiting in the line at Saint-Lazare, he overheard Jacques, while dressed as a woman, use the masculine article “un” instead of the feminine “une.” Jacques congratulates Peter for a mastery of the French language probably unique among all English people.

The Dowager Countess is initially outraged that Peter knowingly allowed her to be dressed, undressed, and assisted to bed by a man, but then laughs off the whole affair, reminiscing that she was a famous beauty in her youth, who attracted the attentions of many young men.

The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will

The disposal of a dead man’s fortune depends on his penchant for cross-word puzzles.

The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag

A high-speed chase and a lost bag converge with a gruesome discovery.

The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker

A lady pleads for Lord Peter’s help in retrieving a valuable necklace, and more importantly, a portrait with an indiscreet inscription.

The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention

Lord Peter, visiting friends in the country, sees a ghostly carriage, hears rumours of an odd will, and deduces that foul play is afoot.

The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps That Ran

Lord Peter deduces the whereabouts of a cleverly hidden murder weapon.

The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste

Lord Peter’s celebrated palate exposes two impostors seeking a secret formula.

The Learned Adventure of the Dragon’s Head

Viscount St. George appears as a boy as Lord Peter uses clues from a rare book to find a treasure.

The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach

Involving several Scotsmen, a digestive organ, and a handful of diamonds.

The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face

Prompted by a discussion with strangers on a train, Lord Peter investigates the murder of a man whose face was disfigured after death.

The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba

Lord Peter infiltrates a den of ruthless thieves; notable for unusual technology.

My Thoughts:

This was a good entry in the series. A selection of short stories worked perfectly for me and kept my attention without making me feel “Ok, get on with it already”.

Some stories worked better than others and the last one did NOT work for me. Faking his own death for 2 years just to catch a gang of high tech thieves seemed a bit ridiculous to me. And it made me realize how old he is. He was 37 at the time of his fake death. I also don’t understand why he’s still single. I seem to vaguely recollect that he’s married in later books but might be confusing him with his official detective partner Charles Parker. Either way, he’s not Batman/Bruce Wayne so he should be married. And that’s my final answer.

Other than those odd complaints, this was just what was needed. I really like collections of short stories if they are done well. None of this 800 page “world building” crap where the author destroys any chance of allowing the reader to use their imagination. None of this 800 pages of “character development” where the author makes the character more important than the story. Sayers tells a story using the titular character and she does it well. But they are the vehicles and the story is the point. I appreciate, so much, that approach to story telling. It is sadly lacking in today’s books and is probably one of the reasons I’m not drawn so much into modern SFF.

Going slightly off topic here. I don’t understand why authors like Sayers, and McKillip, aren’t mentioned more by those who want more women writers. They seem to be completely ignored by the very people I would have thought would be searching them out and bringing them to a new generation. Part of it, I suspect, is the style of writing. “Kids these days” just don’t want this sparse, utilitarian and yet excellent kind of writing. Heaven help us, they might have to use their imaginations! Maybe it’s a genre thing? Most of the mystery series that I’ve dipped my toes into have been penned by women but I don’t hear their names bandied about at all nowadays. Ok, I’m done blabbering.

The main reason this got a 3.5 instead of a 4 is because in one of the stories Wimsey is talking with someone who’s french and Sayers doesn’t translate it. She expects her readers to be able to read french. She obviously was NOT part of the Freedom Fries movement of the 00’s, otherwise she’d know better. To be honest though, I don’t feel like I really missed out on anything by not being able to read a couple of paragraphs.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Lord Peter Wimsey #4) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #4
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 208
Words: 76K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

On the afternoon of 10 November, ninety-year-old General Fentiman is called to the deathbed of his estranged sister, Lady Dormer, and learns that under the terms of her will he stands to inherit most of her substantial fortune – money sorely needed by his grandsons Robert and George Fentiman. However, should the General die first, nearly everything will go to Lady Dormer’s companion, Ann Dorland.

Lady Dormer dies the next morning, Armistice Day, and that afternoon the General is found dead in his armchair at the Bellona Club. Dr Penberthy, a Club member and the General’s personal physician, certifies death by natural causes but is unable to state the exact time of death. As the estate would amply provide for all three claimants, and as it is unknown whether the General or his sister died first, the Fentiman brothers suggest a negotiated settlement with Ann Dorland, but she surprisingly and vehemently refuses. Wimsey is asked to investigate.

Unusually, nobody saw the General arrive at the Club at his usual time of 10 am. His manservant reports that the General did not return home after visiting his sister the day before. An unknown man by the name of Oliver telephoned to say that the General would be spending the night with him. Robert Fentiman says that he knows of Oliver, and much time is spent chasing the elusive individual though several countries before Robert admits that he does not actually exist.

Wimsey discovers that after seeing his sister the General had felt ill and had consulted Dr Penberthy. He then travelled to the Club, meeting George Fentiman en route. There he informed Robert of the terms of the will and very shortly afterwards was found dead in the library, apparently of natural causes. Piqued at losing his inheritance, Robert concealed the body overnight, and invented Oliver to cover up the death. The next day, while the Club members had stepped outside to observe the usual two minutes’ silence at 11 am, Robert moved the body to an armchair to be found later.

Wimsey is still unsatisfied as to the cause of death, and has the body exhumed and re-examined. The General had been poisoned with an overdose of the heart medication digitalis. When this becomes known, Ann Dorland, who has an obvious motive, suddenly and suspiciously agrees to the proposed compromise with the Fentimans.

Wimsey finds Ann Dorland distressed by the callous and humiliating behaviour of Dr Penberthy, to whom she had been secretly engaged. It was he, with an eye on her expected inheritance, who had insisted she should refuse the compromise and fight for the whole estate. However, as soon as it became known that the General had been poisoned he broke the engagement off, ensuring Ann’s embarrassed silence by giving highly insulting reasons.

Wimsey works out what had happened. When the General had consulted Dr Penberthy after seeing his sister, he had mentioned the will, and Penberthy realised that if the General did not die at once his fiancée would not inherit. He gave the General a massive dose of digitalis, to be taken later that evening when Penberthy would not be in attendance. He was however present next day when the body was discovered and, in spite of Robert’s intervention which confused the time, was able without raising suspicions to certify a natural death.

Penberthy writes a confession publicly exonerating Ann Dorland, then shoots himself in the Club library. In an epilogue, it is revealed that the three original claimants to the estate have divided it equitably, and that Robert is now dating Ann.

My Thoughts:

Another good entry, hurray!

This was a great murder(or was it?) mystery and the obvious suspects were so obvious that I had to dismiss them even while having no way to figure out who actually did. That type of thing was annoying to me when Poirot would do that to the readers, but here, we’re getting things from Wimsey’s view so of course our knowledge is limited. So for whatever reason, not knowing or being able to figure stuff out didn’t bother me. Probably helps that Wimsey isn’t a self-righteous, arrogant, piece of crap like Poirot. Detective Parker is a good foil to Wimsey and I have to admit I wish he’d been a little more involved

I don’t have a lot to say about this even while thoroughly enjoying the story. While not a palate cleanser (mainly because I was looking and my SFF reading, while still a majority, has taken a steep nosedive in terms of percentages) it was just a nice, undemanding, relaxing and generally pleasant read. Wimsey’s ego doesn’t impinge in my own, so we’re going to get along famously.

And I suspect I will be able to copy/paste that previous paragraph for all the books, unless more french letters and lawyers get involved!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey #3) ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Unnatural Death
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #3
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 222
Words: 81K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

Lord Peter Wimsey and his friend Chief Inspector Parker are told about the death, in late 1925, of an elderly woman named Agatha Dawson who had been suffering from terminal cancer. She was being cared for by Mary Whittaker, her great-niece and a trained nurse. Miss Dawson had an extreme aversion to making a will, believing that Miss Whittaker, her only known relative, would naturally inherit everything. Wimsey is intrigued in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of any crime (a post-mortem found no sign of foul play), nor any apparent motive (on Miss Dawson’s death her estate did indeed pass, as she had expected and wished, to her great-niece).

Wimsey sends his private investigator, Miss Katharine Climpson, to the village of Leahampton to investigate. She discovers that shortly before her death Miss Dawson had dismissed her maids, the sisters Bertha and Evelyn Gotobed. Wimsey places advertisements in the press asking them to get in touch. A few days later, Bertha is found dead in Epping Forest. On the body is a £5 banknote, originally issued to a Mrs Muriel Forrest who lives in an elegant flat in South Audley Street, Mayfair. Wimsey and Parker visit her. She claims not to remember the banknote, but thinks she may have put it on a horse. Wimsey tricks her into providing her fingerprints on a wineglass. In a drawer he finds a hypodermic syringe with a doctor’s prescription “to be injected when the pain is very severe”.

Evelyn Gotobed tells Wimsey of an episode shortly before the sisters were dismissed in which Miss Whittaker had tried to get them to witness Miss Dawson’s will, without the latter’s knowledge. A mysterious West Indian clergyman named Hallelujah Dawson had also turned up, claiming to be an impecunious distant relative.

Mrs Forrest asks Wimsey to visit her at her flat in London where she clumsily makes advances to him. Wimsey suspects blackmail. He kisses her and realises that she is physically revolted by his caress.

Wimsey discovers a motive for Miss Dawson to be killed before the end of 1925: a new ‘Property Act’ coming into force on 1 January 1926 will change the law of inheritance, resulting in an intestate’s property no longer passing to a closest-relative great-niece but being forfeit to the Crown. Much play is made of a fictionalised uncertainty in the meaning of the word “issue”.

Mary Whittaker – who Miss Climpson has concluded “is not of the marrying sort” – disappears from Leahampton along with Vera Findlater, an impressionable young woman who is besotted with her. Several days later Miss Findlater’s body is found on the downs, apparently killed by a blow to the head. Mary Whittaker has it seems been kidnapped. There are indications that the culprit is a black man, and a distinctive cap found nearby is linked to Hallelujah Dawson. However, a post-mortem finds that Vera Findlater was already dead when she was struck, and Wimsey realises that the whole scene has been faked in order to frame the entirely innocent clergyman. Tyre tracks from Mrs Forrest’s car are found nearby, and Wimsey suspects her and Mary Whittaker of acting in collusion.

Wimsey’s manservant, Bunter, realises that the fingerprints on Mrs Forrest’s wineglass are identical to those on a cheque written by Miss Whittaker. Wimsey at last understands that Muriel Forrest and Mary Whittaker are one and the same person, and that she carried out the murders by injecting air into her victims’ bloodstream with a hypodermic syringe, causing blockage and immediate death through heart failure. Meanwhile Miss Climpson, unable to contact Wimsey, heads to South Audley Street where she is attacked by Mary Whittaker. Wimsey and Parker arrive just in time to save Miss Climpson from becoming the final victim. Whittaker is arrested, and commits suicide in prison.

My Thoughts:

Much, much, much better than the previous book. No french letters, of any kind! Or any stinking lawyers either!

Of course, Lord Peter screws up and gets a woman killed. Which leads to some serious soul searching on his part. It is easy to forget that Sayers was a lay theologian in her own right but she really delves into some aspects of the moral rights and responsibilities of someone who is not authorized by the Law to investigate crime. Wimsey really shows that he’s not just a bored toff looking for a thrill. He has a sincere desire to see justice done.

It is also interesting to see how crime was investigated about a century ago. The issues they had to deal with (missed communications, travel issues, the press, inter-departmental rivalry, etc) made me realize that while investigation methods might have changed due to technology, people are still exactly the same and act the same then as they did then. As the Teacher of Israel says, there is nothing new under the sun.

With this book, my hope for this series is re-kindled. I tore through it one Saturday too, so I wasn’t dillydallying around.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Clouds of Witness (Lord Peter Wimsey #2) ★★✬☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Clouds of Witness
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #2
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 243
Words: 92K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother, the Duke of Denver, has taken a shooting lodge at Riddlesdale in Yorkshire. At 3 o’clock one morning, Captain Denis Cathcart, the fiancé of Wimsey’s sister Lady Mary, is found shot dead just outside the conservatory. Mary, trying to leave the house at 3 am for a reason she declines to explain, finds Denver kneeling over Cathcart’s body. Suspicion falls on Denver, as the lethal bullet had come from his revolver and he admits having quarrelled with Cathcart earlier, after receiving a letter (which he says has been lost) informing him that Cathcart had been caught cheating at cards. He maintains that he stumbled across the body after returning from a walk on the moors, but will say no more.

Wimsey arrives to investigate, along with his friend Inspector Charles Parker, who will find himself becoming increasingly attracted to Lady Mary throughout the novel. They find a series of unidentified footprints and a discarded jewel in the form of a cat. It is clear that both Denver and Mary are hiding something: Denver refuses to budge from his story that he was simply out for a walk, while Mary is feigning illness to avoid talking to anyone.

Wimsey investigates several false leads. The footprints turn out to be those of Mary’s secret true fiancé, Goyles, a socialist agitator considered ‘an unsuitable match’ by her family. He had crept into the grounds for a pre-arranged rendezvous at 3 am, when the couple had intended to elope. Mary assumed that he was the killer and has been covering for him, but when she learns that he had fled in terror after discovering the body, she breaks off their engagement in disgust at his cowardice.

Wimsey’s investigations lead him to a violent local farmer, Grimethorpe, with a stunningly beautiful wife. Wimsey finds the lost letter that was sent to Denver wedged in the window of the Grimethorpes’ bedroom, proving that Denver had been visiting Mrs Grimethorpe on the night of Cathcart’s death. This is what he has refused to admit, being determined to shield his mistress even at the price of being wrongfully convicted of murder.

Eventually, the jewelled cat leads Wimsey to Cathcart’s mistress of many years, who had left him for an American millionaire. Wimsey travels to New York to find her, makes a daring and dangerous transatlantic flight back to London, and arrives just in time to present his evidence at Denver’s trial in the House of Lords. Wimsey brings a letter that Cathcart had written to his mistress on the night of his death. After hearing that she was leaving him, Cathcart had written back stating his intention to commit suicide. He had then taken Denver’s revolver from the study and gone out into the garden to shoot himself. The confounding factor in the investigation had been the coincidence of Denver returning from Mrs Grimethorpe’s, just in time to find the body, at the same time that Mary had emerged from the house for her rendezvous with Goyles.

Denver is acquitted. As he is leaving the House of Lords, Grimethorpe appears, shoots at him, flees, and is knocked down and killed by a passing taxi. Mrs Grimethorpe, finally free of her husband, declares that she has no interest in continuing her affair with Denver. In the final scene of the book, Inspector Sugg finds Wimsey, Parker, and a friend on the street after midnight, hopelessly drunk, celebrating the end of the case. Sugg assists them into cabs, and reflects, “Thank Gawd there weren’t no witnesses”.

My Thoughts:

This started out so strong. I was highlighting quotes a lot (for me) and the story was moving right along. Lord Peter wasn’t missin’ his “g’s” as much and I was seriously thinking about giving this 4 to 4.5stars.

Then I came to the last 10% of the book. Which is where the trial of Peter’s brother takes place. And everything screeched to a complete halt and bored me to death. Lord Peter isn’t involved. We get pages of the lawyer pretty much summing up the entire book and showing the “jury” (ie, the readers) what really happened. A linchpin of his argument was a letter from the dead man to his mistress. In french. Fething pages of french letter. Sayers does provide an interpretation after the fact, but the original had no place in the novel. I kept hitting the “next page” on my kindle and it kept going and going and going. The lawyer had slowed the pace to frozen molasses but the french letter? It dammed up the flow completely. It was like the Hoover Dam suddenly appeared from out of no where!

Up to that point, I saw why this series is held up as great writing and great story telling. I was enjoying myself immensely. Sadly, the ending killed this book for me. Bleh and poop!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Currently Reading & Quotes: Clouds of Witness

I have always been a sincere Christian myself, but I cannot feel that our religion demands that we should make ourselves conspicuous – er – in such very painful circumstances.’ ~page 43

Ughh. How cowardly and unmanly. This wasn’t Lord Peter Wimsey who said this, but someone else. Good thing this guy wasn’t a First Century Christian. He’d have denied Christ to avoid the arena in a heartbeat.

I think my mother’s talents deserve a little acknowledgment. I said so to her, as a matter of fact, and she replied in these memorable words: “My dear child, you can give it a long name if you like, but I’m an old-fashioned woman and I call it mother-wit, and it’s so rare for a man to have it that if he does you write a book about him and call him Sherlock Holmes.” ~page 139

Oh, this made me laugh my head off. Good stuff!

‘Damn it all, we want to get at the truth!’
‘Do you?’ said Sir Impey drily. ‘I don’t. I don’t care twopence about the truth. I want a case. It doesn’t matter to me who killed Cathcart, provided I can prove it wasn’t Denver. It’s really enough if I can throw reasonable doubt on its being Denver. Here’s a client comes to me with a story of a quarrel, a suspicious revolver, a refusal to produce evidence of his statements, and a totally inadequate and idiotic alibi. I arrange to obfuscate the jury with mysterious footprints, a discrepancy as to time, a young woman with a secret, and a general vague suggestion of something between a burglary and a crime passionel. And here you come explaining the footprints, exculpating the unknown man, abolishing the discrepancies, clearing up the motives of the young woman, and most carefully throwing back suspicion to where it rested in the first place. What do you expect?’
‘I’ve always said,’ growled Peter, ‘that the professional advocate was the most immoral fellow on the face of the earth, and now I know for certain.’ ~Page 202

Lawyers have always been slimey and they always will be.

So 3 quotes from the first 200 pages. That has got to be some kind of record for me. The cover though rather confuses me. While this takes place in the Flapper era, flapper’s aren’t involved and the only young women involved are blondes. I’m guessing it’s some sort of royalty free cover to go with a royalty free edition? Not really important, just one of those things I wonder quickly about and then forget. Hence it’s inclusion here and not being saved for a review 😀

I am loving this though. Looks like a High Rating Ahead!

Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey #1) ★★★☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Whose Body?
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #1
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 164
Words: 64K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

Thipps, an architect, finds a dead body wearing nothing but a pair of pince-nez in the bath of his London flat. Lord Peter Wimsey—a nobleman who has recently developed an interest in criminal investigation as a hobby—resolves to investigate the matter privately. Leading the official investigation is Inspector Sugg, who suggests that the body may be that of the famous financier Sir Reuben Levy, who disappeared from his bedroom in mysterious circumstances the night before. Sir Reuben’s disappearance is in the hands of Inspector Charles Parker, a friend of Wimsey’s. Although the body in the bath superficially resembles that of Sir Reuben, it quickly becomes clear that it is not him, and it appears that the cases may be unconnected. Wimsey joins Parker in his investigation.

Thipps’s flat is near a teaching hospital, and Wimsey considers the possibility that the unexpected appearance of a body may have been the result of a joke perpetrated by one of the medical students. However, that is excluded by evidence given at the inquest by the respected surgeon and neurologist Sir Julian Freke, who states that there was no subject missing from his dissecting room.

A prostitute’s chance encounter with Levy on the night of his disappearance, on the road leading to the hospital and to Sir Julian Freke’s house next door, provides Wimsey with the clue that allows him to link the two cases. Freke maintains that he was discreetly being consulted by Levy about a medical problem, and that Levy left at about 10pm. Freke’s manservant reports that Freke was inexplicably taking a bath at about 3 o’clock the following morning, judging from the noise of the cistern.

Wimsey ultimately discovers that Freke murdered Sir Reuben after luring him to his house with the promise of some inside financial information. Freke smuggled the body out onto the roof under cover of the cistern noise, took it into the hospital, and substituted it for that of a pauper who had been donated for dissection by the local workhouse. He then visited Sir Reuben’s home to stage his disappearance, returned, carried the pauper’s body over the flat roofs of the nearby houses and placed it in Thipps’ bath, entering via a bathroom window that had been left open. As a joke, he added a pair of pince-nez that had by chance come into his possession. Returning to the hospital, he prepared Sir Reuben’s body for dissection, giving it to his medical students for that purpose the next day.

Freke unsuccessfully attempts to murder both Parker and Wimsey. When it becomes clear that his actions have been discovered, he prepares a written confession of his long-held desire for revenge: many years earlier, he hoped to marry the woman who later became Lady Levy, but she chose Sir Reuben in preference to him. He also intended to substantiate his own theory of mind, in which conscience, a sense of responsibility and so on are merely “surface symptoms” which arise from physical irritation or damage to the tissues of the brain. As he completes the confession the police arrive to arrest him, preventing his suicide just in time.

My Thoughts:

Back at the tail end of 2018, I wrapped up my read of the Brother Cadfael series, a Medieval Mystery series that I enjoyed for the most part. Since then, outside of my one attempt to read PD James’ Adam Dalgiesh mysteries, my mystery reading has consisted of the Arcane Casebook series and Garrett, PI, both of which are as much fantasy as mystery. Dalgliesh (and James) horrified me with its tawdry revoltingness, Arcane Casebook I’m up to date on and waiting for the next book and the end of Garrett PI is soon approaching. I was therefore on the lookout for another pure mystery series I could get into. I did consider Sherlock Holmes, especially after Savage Dave’s excellent read through semi-recently, but for some reason it just didn’t grab me; maybe because I’m already re-reading so much and wanted something completely new? I don’t know, but Sherlock was out.

Somehow or other, I came across some references to Lord Peter Wimsey. There are a couple of ladies I follow who are into Mysteries and Golden Age stuff (namely, Themis, Brokentune and MurderbyDeath), so I’m sure it was one of them. For all I know it might have even been some offhand reference in the comments. I wish I could track it down. Needless to say, I have started this series and with a 3star start, it is looking quite promising.

This did not feel like a first in a series kind of novel. It is obvious that most of the characters have prior history with each other and Sayers’ doles out the hints like she was a true New England Yankee (ie, miser). But the first it is and you just have to suck it up and soldier on.

Peter is Bertie Wooster, except smart. He even has a butler who is quite competent. Bunter the Butler. Say that 5 times fast. If Jeeves wasn’t quite so smart and had been a sergeant in the British Army, then he’d be Bunter. Peter Wimsey, who I shall try to refer to simply as Wimsey in the rest of my reviews, is obviously suffering from shell shock and nerves and Sayers makes the most out of by making her detective character have a bit of weakness and humanity. He’s no Sherlock Holmes able to bend steel pokers. There’s one scene where Wimsey is having flashback nightmares to the Great War and Bunter has to talk him down. It was refreshing and distracting because it was so out of the ordinary for a mystery novel in my opinion. Does mean that Wimsey has great potential as a character.

The biggest reason this is gettin’ just 3 stars instead of more is because of Sayers makin’ Wimsey, and his older brother the Duke, drop their “g”s when talkin’. Very distractin’ don’t you know, especially when it is ongoin’ for the whole book. It bugged the everlivin’ daylights out of me and I’m really hopin’ Sayers tones it down in later books. Just sayin’…..

★★★☆☆

Rating: 3 out of 5.

ps,
which do you like better? The first row of stars or the second?
Personally, I like the second, but the problem is that I can’t copy/paste it into the title bar. Having my star rating visually in the title of my post is now part of my mystique. No way I’m changing that!