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The Documents in the Case Hardcover – 1987


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row (1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060550341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060550349
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Her books are English Literature at its best. Her plots are finely tuned and her Lord Peter Wimsey is delightful The Times (letter) She brought to the detective novel originality, intelligence, energy and wit. P. D. James I admire her novels ... she has great fertility of invention, ingenuity and a wonderful eye for detail Ruth Rendell 'She combined literary prose with powerful suspense, and it takes a rare talent to achieve that. A truly great storyteller.' Minette Walters --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

An expert on fungi is killed by poisonous mushrooms. "An absorbing book . . . much more than a mere mystery story."--New York Times "Entirely satisfying from an intellectual and detective point of view."--The Nation --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

She is a master story teller.
Bhupen Kharawala
I am disappointed in the book because the plot was thin and very predictable.
AGHRob
Whenever I get a chance to read one that is new to me, I buy it.
Erica E. Kennedy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By C. T. Mikesell on December 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
In a departure from her trademark Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane stories, Dorothy L. Sayers presents what is essentially an epistolary novel with this book. Ostensibly a collection of 40-some letters and 2 long written statements, the book details the events leading up to the murder of George Harrison (not *that* George Harrison), and the efforts of the victim's son and a reluctant ally to get to the truth of matter.
While it's not exactly Rashomon, unreliable narrators abound, and fixing just what's what as letters contradict each other is the reader's challenge in the first half of the book. In the second half, Paul Harrison details his efforts to find his father's killer and pulls in budding author John Munting to assist him. Their investigation proceeds in fits and starts until it hits the brick wall of knowing *who* committed the murder, and even *why* and *how*, but not being able to prove any of it. As the number of pages dwindles, you begin to doubt if Sayers can get out of the corner she's painted herself into. Without answering whether she does or not, I will say the ending doesn't disappoint.
One suspects that Sayers' late-1920's audience got more out of this novel than today's readers. Unless you're well versed in D.H. Lawrence, R.U.R., and other then-current artistic works, you - like me - will miss what I suspect are some rather satirical asides. Nonetheless, this remains a highly enjoyable book by one of England's best mystery writers. (Robert Eustace, Sayers' co-author, is the pseudonym of Dr. Eustace Robert Barton, who likely provided her with much of the scientific material for the story; he also collaborated with several other mystery writers in the first third of the 20th Century.)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Woodbury on July 15, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Documents in the Case is unlike Sayers' other mysteries. It is in the form, first of all, of documents: letters, newspaper clippings, etc. Secondly, it does not feature Lord Peter Wimsey.
It is, however, an intensely interesting book. The characters, with the exception of the femme fatale (who is convincing but entirely unlikable), are portrayed sympathetically and the reader comes away with a sense of the complexity of human nature in general and of the novel's characters specifically. No one is all good or all bad or all anything. The victim--a fussy, middle-class, conservative husband--is drawn with great insight and compassion. Equally so, the murderer, for all the cruelty of the murder, is not unlikable and even pitiable.
The main narrator has many of the same personality quirks as Lord Peter Wimsey--a reluctance to get involved, oversensitivity and feelings of self-doubt--but his motives are, I think, more convincing. His quirks are less mannerisms and more part and parcel of his character (as eventually happens with Wimsey). Like all the other characters, he is flawed but comprehensible.
In fact, the book is a most unpretentious novel. I enjoy Sayers very much and consider myself a Wimsey fan, but Documents in the Case is, to my mind, a far more realistic and thoughtful mystery than some of Sayers' better known works. The mileau is middle-class. The victim's son (who is collecting the documents) is noble-minded but imperfect: hard to like even when you want him to "win". And the characters are truly impacted by the murder.
The murder itself is interesting enough but much more interesting is the theme that runs alongside the murder: the "lop-sidedness" of life in general, the idea that living things can never achieve the cookie-cutter perfection of synthetic creations.
Recommendation: Give it a try if you are interested in Sayers' work beyond Wimsey (and if you don't mind reading books in letter or document form).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Denise M. Galloway on May 30, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I hate to admit it, but I didn't even miss Lord Peter (although I love him). This novel is full of witty and satirically ridiculous characters addressing modern gender, scientific, and philosophical-theological issues in a subtle and fascinating way, ultimately touching on the issue of eugenics that so contributed to the Nazi horror. I especially recommend the audio version, because the reader brilliantly brings to life the vapid Mrs. Harrison and the grouchy novelist Munting, as well as the no-nonsense Victorian Harrison men. One of my favorite Sayers novels so far.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Taylor on May 26, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Documents in the Case" is a departure from Dorothy Sayers' excellent Lord Peter Wimsey series. In the first half ("Synthesis"), the reader is introduced to the characters (married couple George and Margaret Harrison, roommates Lathom and Munting, and the disturbed Miss Milsom) through a series of letters from and to the characters. The basis for the crime is laid out early in the book, and the murder is solved in the second section ("Analysis").

(This book should be a must-read for organic chemistry students, who will appreciate the solution to the mystery.)

Besides furnishing the method of the murder, then-contemporary science plays a huge part in this book, with characters discussing the works of Einstein, Eddington and others. To the modern reader, this seems quaint and rather naive. "Glands" are discussed multiple times, with the implication that all human behavior would be explained in the near future as a result of "heredity and encrocine secretions, economics and aesthetics and so on." Another character comments that "Nature's only a rather clumsy kind of chemist . . . rather a careless and inaccurate one." This over-confidence was hardly justifies by future developments--1930s scientists could hardly have predicted the immense complication of the interactions of "heredity and endocrine secretions", and their effects on human behavior, nor the immense difficulty in organic sythesis, or the DNA revolution.

There a couple of real scientific howlers here, notably where one character describes light as a vibration in the aether, a theory that has been completely de-bunked (the "lumineferous aether" was supposed to be the propagation medium for light). Still, keeping in mind that this book was written in 1930, it's an interesting look into contemporary mindset and theories, and an absorbing mystery.
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