This is my first book for the RIP V Challenge.

 

 

I googled Sayers and Lord Wimsey before I made up my mind about buying the first one in the series. One thing is certain: people don’t usually get this excited about mystery series.

Some re-read them every year, others list Wimsey at the top of their favorite characters and literary crushes lists and unlike most other mysteries, reviews don’t focus on the plot. As if this is was not tempting enough, there’s the general opinion that Lord Wimsey was one of the great inspirations for Francis Crawford of Lymond, the hero of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. I needed no other incentive.

Lord Wimsey, our amateur sleuth, is an intriguing character: the younger son of an aristocratic family, dilettante, collector of rare books, he gives off this seemingly nonchalant attitude towards everything. He likes solving crimes because it breaks the boredom. But as the story develops we start seeing beyond our first impressions.  Lord Wimsey is still dealing with shell-shock after his time in WWI and we also get a hint that there’s a traumatic romantic disappointment in his past. In summary, he’s what very few women can resist: a damaged man (by the way, see this great post about damaged characters). Put that together with his intelligence, wit and being the most sought-after bachelor in London and you have a winning combination. Lord Peter’s energy is contagious straight from page one and it’s also a pleasure to follow his faithful manservant, Bunter, who, à la Jeeves, patiently suffers his master’s eccentric activities.

As for the story itself, Whose Body? starts with the Dowager Duchess of Denver calling her younger son informing him that a mutual acquaintance has had the misfortune of finding a body in his bath – can Peter help in the investigation? From there Sayers skillfully builds a traditional whodunnit. It’s relatively easy to reach the solution and it’s here that you can tell this is a first novel. She’s still getting into her stride, playing around a bit, seeing what works. This applies only on the plot, because in terms of characterization, I think she already had a very solid idea of what she wanted to accomplish and (very cleverly) at what pace.

You can tell Dorothy Sayers studied modern languages. She pays great attention to how her characters speak. Lord Wimsey for instance, half-eats his words and curses as only an Eton and Oxford-educated man who deliberately wants to shock can. The book actually starts like this: Oh, damn!” said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus. Here’s another good quote:

. . . the fellow’s got a bee in his bonnet. Thinks God’s a secretion of the liver–all right once in a way, but there’s no need to keep on about it. There’s nothing you can’t prove if your outlook is only sufficiently limited.”

I ordered the next two in the series as soon as I finished Whose Body? Right now, it’s hard not to have big expectations about the rest of the books. Crossing my fingers, I hope they don’t disappoint.

This is my first book for the RIP V Challenge.

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