- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications (November 18, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486473627
- ISBN-13: 978-0486473628
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.3 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 532 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Whose Body? Paperback – November 18, 2009
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However, from the beginning I admired the elegant and deft prose, the cool wit and the confident unfolding of the byzantine plot which begins when an unidentified body is found in an architect's bath and a City of London financier goes missing. By the time I was half-way through I was fully acculturated to the 1920s and loved every aspect, especially how a darker tone is very gradually introduced and takes over by the end. The characters who had at first seemed generic stereotypes, were gradually revealed to be complex human beings, moulded by class, but credible individuals of any era. The 1920s context is expertly sketched and I became at least as familiar with it as I would if I'd read a social history of the period. An Appendix where Lord Peter's uncle pens his interpretation of his nephew's character is a neat touch. Sayers' novels are for those who read to coolly solve an extremely tricky puzzle, rather than those who want an emotional roller-coaster of fear and suspense which so many 21st century crime writers aim to provide.
'Whose Body' is highly recommended for students of the crime genre and lovers of beautifully wrought prose.
Whose Body was written in the early 1920's. It reflects attitudes toward Jews which were common in Britain at the time. Today, the book would be considered insensitive by the politically correct while anti-Semitics would condemn it for being favorable to Jews. The rest of us can simply accept it as a slice of life in the 1920's.
In my opinion, this first Peter Wimsey novel is a very good mystery but not as strong as subsequent works such as The Nine Tailors. Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy to be her greatest work.
Note: There were no fingerprint or DNA data bases in 1923. There was no easy way to identify a body.
“Yes, my lord.”
“Her Grace tells me that a respectable Battersea architect has discovered a dead man in his bath.” “Indeed, my lord? That’s very gratifying.”
“Very, Bunter. Your choice of words is unerring. I wish Eton and Balliol had done as much for me."
I did not really have any expectations, this book having been my first from Dorothy L. Sayers, just some curiosity of how she compares to my beloved Agatha Christie. Having said that much, I was still pleasantly surprised at how much enjoyed reading it.
I loved the all characters: Lord Peter Wimsey, Bunter, detective inspector Parker & the Dowager Duchess of Denver (Lord Peter's mother).
In the beginning, Bunter read very much like Jeeves to Lord Peter's Bertie Wooster:
Lord Peter Wimsey: "It’s much easier to work on someone else’s job than one’s own—gives one that delightful feelin’ of interferin’ and bossin’ about, combined with the glorious sensation that another fellow is takin’ all one’s own work off one’s hands."
Bunter: "Yes, Mr. Graves, it’s a hard life, valeting by day and developing by night—morning tea at any time from 6.30 to 11, and criminal investigation at all hours."
"I’m off. With a taxi I can just—” “Not in those trousers, my lord,” said Mr. Bunter, blocking the way to the door with deferential firmness. “Oh, Bunter,” pleaded his lordship, “do let me—just this once. You don’t know how important it is.” “Not on any account, my lord. It would be as much as my place is worth.”
Their exchanges are funny and a nice comic relief, but as the story continues both characters -along with DI Parker - gather depth. Nothing too elaborately detailed, but rather through some nice little touches you learn that a seemingly flippant, offhand Lord Peter served in WW I and suffered a nervous breakdown due to shell shock from which he never recovered completely. Sometimes he has relapses, especially if his investigations -like here- lead to someone (even though a murderer) losing their life.
We also learn that Bunter served under Lord Peter's command & during his relapses he takes care of him conscientiously & effectively.
Detective Parker seems to be another sidekick to Lord Peter.
“It affords me, if I may say so, the greatest satisfaction,” continued the noble lord, “that in a collaboration like ours all the uninteresting and disagreeable routine work is done by you.”
He is thorough, cautious, clever & well-educated (reminds me a bit of Lt. Arthur Tragg in the Perry Mason series). He likes reading biblical commentary as a chill-out before going to sleep.
One of the most interesting parts of the book was a conversation between Lord Peter & Parker which highlights their characters even more:
“Look here, Peter,” said the other with some earnestness, “suppose you get this playing-fields-of-Eton complex out of your system once and for all. There doesn’t seem to be much doubt that something unpleasant has happened to Sir Reuben Levy. Call it murder, to strengthen the argument. If Sir Reuben has been murdered, is it a game? and is it fair to treat it as a game?” “That’s what I’m ashamed of, really,” said Lord Peter. “It is a game to me, to begin with, and I go on cheerfully, and then I suddenly see that somebody is going to be hurt, and I want to get out of it.” “Yes, yes, I know,” said the detective, “but that’s because you’re thinking about your attitude. You want to be consistent, you want to look pretty, you want to swagger debonairly through a comedy of puppets or else to stalk magnificently through a tragedy of human sorrows and things. But that’s childish. If you’ve any duty to society in the way of finding out the truth about murders, you must do it in any attitude that comes handy. You want to be elegant and detached? That’s all right, if you find the truth out that way, but it hasn’t any value in itself, you know. You want to look dignified and consistent—what’s that got to do with it? You want to hunt down a murderer for the sport of the thing and then shake hands with him and say, ‘Well played—hard luck—you shall have your revenge tomorrow!’ Well, you can’t do it like that. Life’s not a football match. You want to be a sportsman. You can’t be a sportsman. You’re a responsible person.” “I don’t think you ought to read so much theology,” said Lord Peter. “It has a brutalizing influence.”
When finding out who the murderer is, Lord Peter gets also thrown into a moral dilemma that brings on one of his relapses.
You can guess who the perpetrator is relatively quickly. Sayers places her clues inconspicuously, but they can be discovered without much difficulty and yet it does not really diminish the merits of the book. It stays enjoyable from beginning to end.