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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 1999
This is the best Wimsey book not featuring sometime-fellow-sleuth Harriet Vane which Sayers ever wrote. Not terribly serious, but great entertainment. I've read this book 6 times because it's just so much fun. Written in 1933, IMHO Sayers' prime, Wimsey is far more human and less of a caricature than in the early books, but much less goopy than in her latest books. The dialogue is a treat, even minor characters are exquisitely drawn, and the in-jokes at the advertising biz (Sayers worked as a copywriter herself for a while) are utterly hilarious. Plus, there's a puzzling, neatly-solved mystery. And even though I don't play cricket and don't understand the game, I adored the pivotal cricket game scene: Sayers at her best. My only complaint is the total absence of the delightful Bunter. THis is definitely the book to read first if you'r e interested in Sayers. Then read the Strong Poison-Have His Carcase-Gaudy Night trilogy. These are, IMHO, her four best books, and of the four, Murder Must Advertise is definitely the most charming and light-hearted.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2004
Lord Peter has the rare and highly enjoyable (for himself and the reader) opportunity to play a dual role in this book: himself and his "cousin," Death Bredon. This plot device would be perfected decades later when Peter Brady simultaneously kept dates with two girls, but Ms. Sayers acquits herself admirably in this novel.
An author who frequently made her novels deliver more than just a solid whodunit, Sayers gives the reader a fly-on-the-wall view of an advertising agency in this book. Having worked on the production side of several publications I can verify that her descriptions are spot on. Sayers also includes a couple editorial asides (in the guise of internal soliloquies) about rampant consumerism and middle-class aspirations to luxury and first class footwear. They're as true today as they were in 1930's (and probably the 17- and 1830's as well). And if you hated the idea of The Beatles' music being used to hawk cars, you can imagine how consumers of a previous age felt to see the works of Shakespeare or Tennyson used to promote nerve powder. This is all to say that this novel's verisimilitude has weathered the years exceedingly well.
The central mystery - who slew Victor Dean - gets lost occasionally in the goings-on at the ad agency, but Wimsey, er Bredon, er whoever, is always at work, picking up the odd clue here and there as he goes. Even when the depth of the crime grows - to multiple murders and drug trafficking - Sayers keeps bringing it back to Dean's murder. By the end of the cricket match I found myself floored that I almost understood the game, but also by the way Sayers expertly wove in two crucial revelations about the mystery.
I was satisfied with the story's conclusion. At first the ending seemed cold-blooded and -hearted, but upon reflection I realized that the resolution was well forshadowed - if Wimsey's middle name were Steve it'd be another matter, perhaps. Although we'd spent most of the book with the impish, playful side of Lord Peter, there's another side to his character which values honor most and is not above going beyond the law to preserve it.
If you're not a Dorothy Sayers fan you should probably get to know her detective in an earlier work like Strong Poison first. Then, once you're comfortable with his character, give this novel a read. If you are a Sayers fan, why aren't you reading this book already? 9 out of 10 readers agree, this is a five-star mystery.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 1999
I must preface this review by confessing a bias - I'm a huge fan of Dorothy Sayers and consider it a tragedy that she did not write more detective fiction. This is definitely one of the strongest entries in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, both for mystery and entertainment value. An interesting tactic used by Sayers is to point in the direction of the culprit about three-fourths of the way through the book and then lead the reader through the detection process that actually leads to his/her unmasking. We saw this used in "Unnatural Death", also in "Whose Body?" Surprisingly, the resulting lack of suspense at the end does not deter from the mystery at all as it is fascinating to see the patient unraveling of clues and pulling together of threads that lead to evidence against a killer. It is also a better reflection of what usually happens in reality, as opposed to a lot of detective fiction where the most unlikely person did it! While we all find whodunits interesting, the reality is that the police and private eyes are usually smart enough to figure out the most likely candidate fairly early and thus narrow their investigations. In this book, the fun is added to by the setting in an ad agency. Sayers had worked in an ad agency at some point in her career and you can see that she really knows her stuff. The interplay between the various characters is very funny and surprisingly not dated in feel, considering the book was written 70 odd years ago! I found the cricket match scene to be the most fascinating part as well the sense the reader gets that with every page, the hangman's noose is slowly closing around the killer. Richly detailed and very descriptive, this is a book you'll want to go back and re-read many times - there will always be something fresh to see!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
When Lord Peter Death Breden Wimsey, privately investigating the "accidental" death of an employee of an advertising firm, takes a copywriting job there, in this 1933 novel, he raises curiosity among the female employees. Known on the job only as "Breden," he is regarded as "a cross between Ray Flynn and Bertie Wooster, " complete with silk socks and expensive shoes, and obviously not from the same background as the rest of the staff. Assigned to advertise Dairyfield's Margarine and "domestic" tea, he occupies the dead man's office, churning out slogans while poking into relationships and possible motivations for murder. He soon discovers that the dead man, with limited resources, actively participated in the drug culture of upperclass parties, though how he became involved is an open question.

Lord Peter, as aristocratic as his title would imply, is adventurous and imaginative, a man of action and intelligence who does not hesitate to get down and dirty if necessary (though he'd prefer not "too" dirty). With a "tongue that runs on ballbearings," he can talk his way into and out of almost any situation, and as an ad agency employee, he provides the reader with some terrific one-liners and quips as he tries to sell products. Author Dorothy Sayers, who worked in an advertising agency herself for seven years, brings the agency to life with all its petty infighting and cynicism, creating a vibrant environment in which Wimsey's familiar wordplay and cleverness can be highlighted during his investigation of the murder--and the gruesome murders which follow in its wake.

The author's total control is obvious as she carefully introduces quirky and memorable characters, provides Wimsey/Breden with a sounding board for his discoveries (his brother-in-law, a police superindendent), integrates him successfully into all levels of society, and creates a realistic picture of life in the 1930s--while keeping the reader completely engaged with the mystery and with Wimsey's shrewdness. The wordplay and dry humor throughout the novel are sheer delight, and the conclusion, in which Wimsey/Breden finds a unique way of bringing the investigation to a satisfying resolution comes as a surprise. Sometimes described as the best of the Lord Peter Wimsey series, this novel is a classic--as entertaining now as it was when it was written in 1933. n Mary Whipple

Lord Peter : The Complete Lord Peter Wimsey Stories
Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries)
Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery)
A Presumption of Death: A New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mysteries)
Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2000
This is one of my three favorite Lord Peter Wimsey novels (the other two are Clouds of Witness and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club), and it's my favorite of the "later period" (1930s) stories (in some part because it doesn't feature Wimsey's paramour, Harriet Vane, whom I often found rather dull). This book is Wimsey at his most whimsical, though because it is to some degree an extreme example of Wimsey's character, it's probably best enjoyed by people who have read the earlier books.
Sayers apparently worked in the advertising business herself for some years, and in this story Wimsey goes undercover as "Death Bredon" (his middle names) at Pym's Publicity to investigate the death of a copy-writer who fell down a spiral staircase. As a result, Sayers pokes all kinds of fun at the advertising business, as well as drawing an enlightening sketch of what that business is like. More than one person who's read this novel has commented to me that it seems that advertising hasn't changed much in the last seventy years!
The victim himself had been running with a fast, drug-taking crowd, which Wimsey infiltrates to tragicomic effect, and when his contacts with this ne'er-do-well group meet his upper-class family later on, he's put in the surreal position of... well, read the novel; the ultimate payoff of this thread is one of the funniest moments in the whole series! The book also includes a chapter featuring everyone's favorite incomprehensible English sport: A Cricket match, which as it turns out fits right in with the rest of the book in both style and outcome.
The mystery itself is about average for Wimsey's adventures, and is a bit more hard-core than we'd usually expect. But that aside, this is a funny, flamboyant, and educational novel, perhaps the most rewarding overall of all of Lord Peter's stories.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Tightly written and featuring Sayers' gentlemanly sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey at his self-mocking best, Murder Must Advertise is generally regarded as Sayers' finest work in the genre. Several of Sayers murder mysteries--most notably Gaudy Night--achieve much of their effect via unusual settings and atmosphere, and Murder Must Advertise presents us with a mystery set in a 1930s advertising agency, a circumstance that not only gives the reader insight into a world that the author knew first-hand, but allows Sayers to satirize the business of advertising itself. Charming, witty, peopled with interesting characters doing interesting things, and thoroughly fun to read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2004
I enjoyed Murder Must Advertise the most out of all the Dorothy Sayers/Lord Peter Wimsey books, but that is not to say that it is her best. Ms. Sayers herself considered Murder Must Advertise as a lightweight book, written on the side while taking a break from some of her more complex novels. Three quarters of a century later, it seems that what she considered her most brilliant work and what actually stood the test of time are two different things. I have never been able to get through "Nine Tailors", I found it excrutiatingly boring, and although I finished "The Five Red Herrings", I am sad to say that quite a bit of the intricate plot went over my head. I am not complimenting myself by saying so, since both these books were, I am sure, brilliant. Perhaps I can blame it on the generation gap? (I wish).

But "Murder Must Advertise" is still as funny and as relevant today as it was when it was first published. Ms. Sayers drew on her own experience working in an ad agency, and it shows. (Writing copy was what she did for a living, writing novels was simply not as lucrative in those times as it is today). The characters that populate the ad agency are so real, you can almost feel that they will get up out of the book and walk around. I also loved the character developement of Lord Peter, because to develope from his previous books he sure did do. In "Murder Must Advertise", he shows us a different side to himself than is apparent in the first few books, and I think Dorothy Sayers saw him differently as well. What's interesting in the Lord Peter Whimsey books is that Lord Peter comes across differently in each novel, there is real and true character development. Unlike almost any other series novelists I can think of, where if you pick up the first book and you pick up the last book you will find the same person; if you will pick up "Who's Body" and "Busman's Honeymoon" you will actually meet two different people. (Lord Peter becomes even more developed in "Gaudy Night" and "Busman's Honeymoon").

"Murder Must Advertise" is well-crafted and funny, with a blend of humor and melodrama that complement each other extremely well, in my opinion. Even the ending, which many reviewers have stated was too dark, I found it be just right - this is a murder mystery after all, and murderers must get punished. Although the story is light-hearted and funny, every now and then we see a grim side to Lord Peter as he keeps reminding himself, and the reader, why he is really there - and its not for fun. There is an undercurrent of seriousness throughout the book, which finally breaks through in the "dark" ending. But make no mistake, the ending does not come out of nowhere, if you read the book carefully, you will see that it was there all along.

Was this Dorothy Sayers best? She herself said not, and its hard to argue with an author, especially a dead one. Did I enjoy this book the most? Yes I did, with "Busman's Honeymoon coming in a very close second (another semi-comedy). As far as relevance to today's mindset, I think this book has stood the test of time very well.

I don't think this should be your first Lord Peter book, however. I think you have to read a "stuffy" Lord Peter book first, to better appreciate this novel.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
When Lord Peter Death Breden Wimsey, privately investigating the "accidental" death of an employee of an advertising firm, takes a copywriting job there, he raises curiosity among the female employees. Known on the job only as "Breden," he is regarded as "a cross between Ray Flynn and Bertie Wooster, " complete with silk socks and expensive shoes, and obviously not from the same background as the rest of the staff. Assigned to advertise Dairyfield's Margarine and "domestic" tea, he occupies the dead man's office, churning out slogans while poking into relationships and possible motivations for murder. He soon discovers that the dead man, with limited resources, actively participated in the drug culture of upperclass parties, though how he became involved is an open question.

Lord Peter, as aristocratic as his title would imply, is adventurous and imaginative, a man of action and intelligence who does not hesitate to get down and dirty if necessary (though he'd prefer not "too" dirty). With a "tongue that runs on ballbearings," he can talk his way into and out of almost any situation, and as an ad agency employee, he provides the reader with some terrific one-liners and quips as he tries to sell products. Author Dorothy Sayers, who worked in an advertising agency herself for seven years, brings the agency to life with all its petty infighting and cynicism, creating a vibrant environment in which Wimsey's familiar wordplay and cleverness can be highlighted during his investigation of the murder--and the gruesome murders which follow in its wake.

The author's total control is obvious as she carefully introduces quirky and memorable characters, provides Wimsey/Breden with a sounding board for his discoveries (his brother-in-law, a police superindendent), integrates him successfully into all levels of society, and creates a realistic picture of life in the 1930s--while keeping the reader completely engaged with the mystery and with Wimsey's shrewdness. The wordplay and dry humor throughout the novel are sheer delight, and the conclusion, in which Wimsey/Breden finds a unique way of bringing the investigation to a satisfying resolution comes as a surprise. Sometimes described as the best of the Lord Peter Wimsey series, this novel is a classic--as entertaining now as it was when it was written in 1933. n Mary Whipple
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 15, 2006
...Lord Peter Wimsey working in an advertising agency?

A young copy writer has met with a fatal on the job accident. But not everyone is so sure that it is an accident and Lord Peter is asked to look into the matter. Peter though is all too aware that at times being a well known, wealthy member of the aristocracy is not an advantage for undercover work and so arranges for that mysterious 'Death Bredon' who bears such a resemblance to him to take the job.

While there Bredon discovers that there is some sort of connection between the rather conservative advertising firm and a very large drug ring that has been plaguing the police, particularly Inspector Charles Parker. In the end all mysteries are solved but only after the reader has been taken into the work a day world of advertising, visited the drug scene, seen Lord Peter's domestic side and gone to a cricket match.

As always with this series Sayers has supplied a large but well defined cast. The reader is given a real taste for English office life of the 1920's. Old friends from previous works also appear including Inspector Parker and Lady Mary, now happily married and raising a young family.

The plot is clever, with the clues all fairly laid out for the reader to follow. The only problem is that at times the story does seem to drag, as if Sayers was determined to give the reader far more detail than needed. At one point even Lady Mary remarks "Then why not say so, instead of continually repeating yourelf?" A suggestion that Sayers would have done well to follow. Still it is a fun read, a definite must for any Lord Peter fans but anyone new to the series would do better to start with one of the earlier works.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2011
What I appreciated most about this book is the glimpse into advertising during the early 20th Century. The mystery is very good as well. However, what really thrilled me was Sayers' ability to create a workplace that is recognizable even today.
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