32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 1998
I found this book to be probably the best of all of Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. The plotting is tight and all the threads are pulled together for the reader. A nice touch is that neither Lord Peter nor Parker are superhuman detectives who miraculously discern the truth at every step. Instead, they are allowed to make mistakes and even be a bit slow sometimes in getting to the truth, which makes them completely believeable. But the best part of the book was the great atmosphere - Ms Sayers brings 1920's England vividly to life so much so you feel you are actually there. I liked the way the story shifts back and forth between London and the countryside. Also, what fun to be introduced to Mr. Murbles and Miss Climpson - surely some of the most entertaining characters ever created in detective fiction! I read all the mysteries written subsequently and was a little disappointed that their characters are not more fully developed in later books - both appear in other novels but not to the extent I would have wished. All in all, it's an unputdownable mystery - try it and you will be hooked!
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Originally published in 1927, UNNATURAL DEATH is the third of Dorothy L. Sayer's "Lord Peter Wimsey" mystery novels--and a novel in which Sayers manages to strike the same balance of literary style and humor that she previously created in the 1926 CLOUDS OF WITNESS. But also like CLOUDS OF WITNESS, UNNATURAL DEATH is not a murder mystery per se--a fact that may annoy readers in search of a classic "whodunit" novel. In this instance, the criminal is a foregone conclusion; it is catching her that poses the problem.
That problem proves remarkably convoluted. Miss Agatha Dawson, an elderly lady of considerable wealth, has died after a long battle with cancer--a reasonable death. Even so, the doctor in charge of the case feels uneasy; not only did the death benefit Miss Dawson's great-niece considerably, it seemed to him a little premature. And when Lord Peter Wimsey becomes intrigued, it seems that any individual who could give evidence against the niece suddenly dies! This poses an unexpected moral issue for Wimsey. Should he continue to pursue the case--even though his persistence seems to force the killer to kill again or again?
While somewhat marred by her occasional tendency toward a patronizing sort of racism, UNNATURAL DEATH is far from the worst of the worst of Sayer's work--it is not, mercifully, as painfully overworked as the slightly later THE FIVE RED HERRINGS or HAVE HIS CARCASS. And although it falls a bit short of her masterpieces of the mid-1930s (MURDER MUST ADVERTISE, THE NINE TAILORS, GAUDY NIGHT, and BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, titles that continue to dazzle readers and inspire writers to this day), it not only indicates the style of those works but it holds up very well as a tightly written, fast-paced, and intriguing read. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
When Dr. Edward Carr overhears Lord Peter Wimsey and Detective Charles Parker discussing crime and the responsibility of the medical profession, he is drawn to share a perplexing problem of his own. When a patient of his who was slowly dying of cancer suddenly took much worse and died, he was unable to sign the death certificate with confidence and insisted on a post mortem, greatly discomfiting the survivor, one Mary Whittaker. When nothing suspicious is found, Dr. Carr found himself losing patients, and eventually had to sell his practice.
Wimsey is intrigued, and, despite the misgivings of both the doctor and Detective Parker, dispatches the elderly Miss Alexandra Climpson to gather information in the town of Leahampton while he pursues other leads in London. He finds many suspicions, but no facts, even when one death and then another are reported. In each case there are no indications of foul play, and Wimsey becomes convinced that he has grabbed the tail of the perfect crime. His opinion is not shared by Parker, however, and it is only reluctantly that the latter consents to investigate.
Gradually circumstance builds, and even Parker must admit that there are many questions to be answers. Yet all are baffled. Even knowing who the perpetrator must be, the investigators are unable to formulate a case that will stand in court. Wimsey is up against one of those sociopathic minds that pays careful attention to detail and apparently has the means to murder as if by magic. Dorothy Sayers has created a truly baffling case.
The greatest delight of this novel is the first appearance of Miss Alexandra Climpson. A delightfully sharp woman who is a persistent and dedicated investigator in the service of Lord Peter. Initially giving the appearance of the archetypal maiden aunt, it quickly becomes apparent that Miss Climpson has unplumbed depths and she will return often to the delectation and joy of the reader.
While 'Unnatural Death' is an eminently readable and entertaining story, it does not bear up as well on rereading. For one thing, most of the book is spent knowing exactly who is guilty but not having the important clue in hand. As a matter of personal preference, I like to have to guess the criminal better than guessing the means. Also, since the story depends on a trick solution, the ending is less satisfying than it might have been. All this aside, it is still a great story. Dorothy Sayers' worst (which this isn't) is far better than most writers' best. Have no fear, you will enjoy this.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2012
Dorothy Sayers once described Peter Wimsey as a cross between Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster, and I think that captures the character perfectly -- just the right mix of dashing, erudite and silly. Like all Dorothy Sayers's mystery work, "Unnatural Death" is charming, funny and highly readable. However, the actual mystery here is a little convoluted and the smoking gun a little less evident, which sometimes makes the plot feel like it's wandering. Still, if you're a devoted fan, you'll find all the things you love in these books. The dialogue is always witty and the characters engaging. On the other hand, if this is your first Peter Wimsey experience, I would recommend starting with one of the two earlier books that have more concrete "sleuthin'," as Lord Wimsey would say, to get a feel for the Wimsey style and the little ensemble that make up his circle.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2002
"Be careful what you wish for---"
Lord Peter makes a light-hearted wager with friend Charles Parker. To win, he was must prove a murder was committed in the death of a wealthy, elderly lady who had terminal cancer. Said lady, Miss Agatha Dawson, had made no will, and the medical certificate said "heart failure."
True, her young doctor was unhappy about the situation. He had thought Miss Dawson's death entirely too sudden and had made strenuous inquiries, so many in fact, the people of her village turned against him, and he had to give up his practice there. In fairness, it must be stated that the good doctor did seem rather egotistical, and perhaps he was just miffed that his prognosis of six more months was a shade too optimistic.
Further investigation divulges that Miss Dawson's young ex-servant has died mysteriously of a heart attack in a meadow. The more Lord Peter investigates, the more the injuries and mysteries pile up. A young lawyer has a near miss, Lord Peter is drugged, a young village lady is murdered while vacationing by persons unknown, and Lord Peter's associate is held hostage.
Lord Peter wins his wager, but at what a cost! The reader is left with an interesting moral dilemma. Is it better to let a complacent murderer be to avert the consequences of his or her obsession?
This is one of the earlier Lord Peter Wimsey books. It has a great deal of banter---what some would call silly dialogue, and poor Charles, Peter's brother-in-law to be and Scotland Yard detective, looks a bit like a stuffy fool. But in this book the mystery is real and the stakes are high. This will be good news to some Sayers readers who feel cheated when they find nothing of import has happened at all! I was relieved to note "Unnatural Death" is pre-Harriet Vane, as I find her perfection tiresome; other readers may miss her. This is a complex tale and will keep you turning the pages.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
UNNATURAL DEATH (THE DAWSON PEDIGREE) is the third Lord Peter novel, orginally published in 1927. The case centers around the death of an old woman who died just a bit sooner than expected. The early demise came to the benefit of her devoted niece who had been her intended heir all along. Still the suddeness of her demise did seem odd and lead ultimately to the attention of Lord Peter. His attempt to satisfy his curiousity took him to the country, back to town, delving into the past and finer points of law along the way.
As with some of the other earlier Lord Peter books the attraction here is in the characters more than the mystery. More information on Peter is given in the form of biographical notes in the beginning of the book. We are again treated to Parker and Bunter but most notable are the introductions of Mr. Murbles, the attorney and Miss Climpson, the spinster private detective.
The 21st century reader will need to make allowances for the state of forensic science in the early '20's as well as the prejudices of the day (against blacks), the limited opportunities for women and the coy way in which lesbian relationships are hinted at but never actually spoken of. Still, the charm of the novel is in the characters and the setting, the mystery is merely the vehicle. If you are looking for a serious, challenging mystery look elsewhere. If you are a fan of Lord Peter or just 'cozies' in general this one is for you.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Lord Peter Wimsey, the sleuth in this third novel of Dorothy Sayers' detective series, wants to investigate what he calls the perfect murder--one without evidence or motive. He is intrigued by all the successful crimes, ones that are not discovered by police. In this case Lord Peter has to pursue his investigation for quite a while before his friend and colleague Detective Parker believes there is a case to investigate.
Lord Peter has the assistance of an associate, Miss Climpson, an elderly spinster who has natural sleuthing talent and has the advantage that no-one suspects her of being anything more than a busybody. In the process of investigating they come across a diabolical plot and both Lord Peter and Miss Climpson are in danger.
The Lord Peter mysteries are satisfying and comfy. They give a glimpse into another era, the 1920's. Lord Peter is an appealing character; a man with urbane charm and wit and with a keen analytical mind, particularly when it comes to detective work. He has an achilles heel--he fought in WWI and was buried for a long time in a fox hole after an explosion. When under stress he has nightmares and flashbacks.
Interspersed with his detective work, Lord Peter participates in the social life of a peer. He often dines at the Savoy and pursues his hobby of researching and purchasing antiquarian books. An endearing and satisfying detective series!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2008
Anyone who like stories by Dorothy Sayers, this is a great story and extremely entertaining. As I have limited vison, the audio unabridged books a great!!!!!!!!!!!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Here we have Lord Peter Wimsey, teamed up with Inspector Parker, sticking his aristocratic nose into yet another heinous murder case. In fact, no one even discovers that this IS a murder until Wimsey ferrets out some key clues, albeit with the aid of a little old lady whom he's hired as one of his investigators. The initial crime: An old woman, on her deathbed, gets bumped off prematurely so that her last will and testament will get probated in a particular way. And before it is over, more murder follows. Within these pages, the mystery fan will find plenty of cool clues, spectacular locations, atmosphere galore, and just enough English cliche to make this one a top read. I recommend it for both newbies to mysteries and to seasoned veterans as well. You'll love the crusty old characters that Wimsey and Parker encounter out in the English countryside locations as they pursue this shrewd and heinous murderer. This is also available in audiobook and is well-read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2001
Dr. Carr, who had been forced to give up his practice for believing the death of Agatha Dawson to be murder despite the absence of any cause other than natural causes, told his story to Lord Peter Wimsey and Chief Inspector Parker (who is erroneously called `sir' by a Superintendent). While Parker remained unconvinced, Wimsey believed that he had found "the case [he had] always been looking for. The case of cases. The murder without discernible means, or motives or clue. The norm"-for he believed that there were far more unsuspected murders than the "failures" known to Scotland Yard. There was no evidence to suggest how Miss Dawson could have died other than from natural causes-yet all the clues pointed to murder having been done. For example, there was the death of Miss Dawson's maid, Bertha Gotobed, also of natural causes-yet the presence of an empty bottle of beer, the absence of a bottle-opener, and the presence of highly expensive ham, discovered in a Baileyesque investigation, all indicated that somebody else had been on the scene. And Bertha Gotobed's sister, Mrs. Cropper, returning from Canada, saw Miss Dawson's great-niece Mary Whittaker waiting for her at the train station. Mary Whittaker, who stood to gain if she killed her great-aunt before the New Property Act was passed, struck Wimsey as the main suspect-and this is one of Sayers' books, like WHOSE BODY? and STRONG POISON, where the villain's identity is obvious from the start, allowing Sayers to create a memorable portrait of evil, for "when a woman is wicked and unscrupulous, she is the most ruthless criminal in the world-fifty times more than a man, because she is always so much more single-minded about it." Wimsey sends Miss Climpson-who is his "ears and [his] tongue, and especially [his] nose. She asks questions which a young man could not put without a blush. She is the angel that rushes in where fools get a clump on the head. She can smell a rat in the dark. In fact, she is the cat's whiskers"-to Hampshire to sleuth, a prototype Miss Marple.