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Showing 1-10 of 362 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 457 reviews
on November 19, 2016
As the author is one of the luminaries of 'The Golden Age of Detective Fiction', Dorothy Sayers' novels are a must for fans of crime of any era. Yet I had never read one before, so to further my crime genre education, bought the first in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, Sayers' best known. I was prepared to be awed, but it took me some time to get into this book. This was due to some of the 1920s conventions which have become rather dated and jarred with this modern reader: the 1920s slang; the British aristocratic mannerisms; the matter-of-fact and even amused attitude of the detectives towards the horrific murders.
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.
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In this first Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey novel, Sayers is far from displaying the fine skill she showed in later Wimsey novels. Wimsey is not simply whimsical; he is so whimsical that he seems borderline eccentric. In fact, the humor, which is subtler in later novels, seems overdone. Additionally, the tale drags in many places and she makes references to many arcane subjects, as if she wants to show up her knowledge, and therefore the annotated edition, that seems to explain something said on each page, is a better buy. Both are only ninety-nine cents on amazon because of these failures.
Wimsey is portrayed as forever needing to investigate crime. He wears a monocle that is actually a magnifier. He carries a staff that is both a yard-stick for measuring items and a sword for protection.
When he hears that a naked body has been found in a vicar's house he rushes to investigate. A police officer, Suggs, hates him and tries to push him away. But Peter asked his mom to use her influence with Suggs' boss to force Suggs to allow him to investigate. In contrast to Suggs, Peter is friendly with another cop, Parker, who likes him and enjoys eating at his house, and the two join in the investigation.
Soon, Peter hears that a Jewish man has disappeared and turns to investigate this case as well. Sayers makes some comments that were unfortunately common in the 1920s when the novel was written, that some Jews might find insensitive.
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on May 4, 2017
“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.
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on April 19, 2017
I found this series because I was looking for something new after mostly exhausting Agatha Christie. I'm not sure I like these as much as Mrs. Marple or Poirot, but I definitely like Lord Peter. He's a complex character, and I enjoyed getting to see some of his character. The mystery was pretty good, and I enjoyed the different aspects of it, as well as the solving of the case. I felt like the reader had access to all of the facts that Lord Peter did so it doesn't lead up to the big reveal (like a Christie book) where the detective has facts that the reader was never exposed to. My biggest issue was this weird scene where all the sudden a conversation occurred that was mostly in French... I don't speak French and I could kind of guess the conversation, but I had no idea what was actually being said. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series!
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on May 14, 2017
It's an early book in the series, apparently the first, written before Sayers hit her stride as a writer of detective fiction, and not perfect by any measure. Having acknowledged that, if you are a fan of classic detectives, this is still an important read. It's the first appearance of Lord Peter Wimsey, one of the greats, if not quite on a par with Marples and Poirot. The plot is good, the protagonist fun, his relationship with the Yard almost believable. What lets it down is the denouement, in the form of a letter from the villain, which sets out at great and improbable length his motives and actions, most of which have already either been seen in the text or worked out by a half-intelligent reader. This could have been more adroitly handled, and I dare say would have been by the later Sayers. One note for the sad types that need 'trigger warnings' lest they encounter something they might find offensive, or for the sort of reader who can't adjust to historical context and contemporary attitudes: as is the case with so much writing from the period, there are some references which in modern terms would be seen as racist, classist or anti-semitic. Mature readers will accept these as a reflection of the times.
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on September 13, 2016
I found the story a bit slow, and the dialogue somewhat difficult to follow (partly because the author has a habit of writing long exchanges between characters without identifying who is saying what, and partly because my knowledge of early 20th century British colloquialisms is limited), but I stuck it out because it was the first book in a series that I intend to continue reading. I'm reading the second book now and loving it!

I did enjoy the plot to this first book; the mystery itself is quite ingenious. I definitely recommend the Lord Peter Wimsey series!

Note - I've given this book only 3 stars because the second book in the series is worthy of at least 4, and I want to leave room to accurately judge the rest of the Wimsey books.
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on December 16, 2016
First book in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. Mr. Thipps wakes up one morning to find a dead body in his bathtub. Neither he nor the other occupants recognize the man, but Inspector Suggs is convinced that Mr. Thipps is the murderer and quickly carts him off to jail. Tipped off to the incident by his mother, Lord Peter pops in to see for himself and soon get involved in the investigation.

I have a soft spot for Lord Peter that keeps me coming back to him, but at the same time I find his character to be a bit ridiculous. He reminds me of an uncle who is very showy but he makes you laugh and smile so you can’t help enjoying his company. This is a bit of a locked room mystery and the story itself always captures my imagination because of its intricacy and the care the author takes in unraveling it. Finally, it is the character of Bunter, valet to Lord Peter, who provides a steady foundation from which Lord Peter can engage his curiosity. Overall, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with Lord Peter Wimsey.
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on December 21, 2015
Dorothy L. Sayers’ 1923 mystery novel Whose Body? is the debut adventure of Lord Peter Wimsey, one of the great gentleman sleuths of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Lord Peter is the second son of the Duke of Denver (England, not Colorado). As an unemployed member of the idle rich, he chooses to spend his free time solving mysteries. He is encouraged in this hobby by his friend Charles Parker, a Scotland Yard detective who consults him on tricky cases. Whose Body? finds Lord Peter with not one but two baffling puzzles on his hands. His mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, comes to him on behalf of a Mr. Thipps, who has inexplicably discovered the dead body of an unknown man in his bathtub. As if to add insult to injury, the corpse is completely naked except for a pair of pince-nez spectacles. Meanwhile, Parker is also working on a case that demands Lord Peter’s attention. Sir Reuben Levy, a prominent financier, has disappeared. Could the stiff in Thipps’s tub be Parker’s missing man?

Comparisons between Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes are inevitable; so inevitable, in fact, that Lord Peter himself makes them. He is an enthusiast of detective fiction, yet a critic of it as well, often pointing out how the killers in mystery novels don’t behave the way real-life murderers would. Though such meta-commentary pokes fun at the classic detective, it’s clear that Lord Peter admires Holmes and likes to consider himself very much in the same league with the fictional detective. As a literary character, however, he doesn’t quite measure up, yet Lord Peter is likely one of the best post-Holmes British investigators, ranking up there with Agatha Christie’s recurring sleuths.

Even less so than Holmes, Lord Peter is not the sort of man I would take a liking to in real life. He has a rather frivolous attitude toward just about everything, including his cases. Often the main concern on his mind is the wearing of proper trousers. He readily admits that his interest in solving mysteries is driven by intellectual exercise; he has little moral interest in punishing wrong-doers. When it comes to crime, he displays a computer-like intelligence, but in all other matters he seems rather air-headed and flighty. If anything the reader identifies with Parker, who fights crime for a living and takes his role as a lawman seriously. One gets the impression that putting up with Lord Peter’s shallow flippancy is a necessity he willing endures in order to get his man and set things right. On the other hand, two qualities I do enjoy about Lord Peter are his interest in collecting rare books and the fact that he enlists the help of his mother—by all measures a charming character—in solving his cases.

As for the mystery itself: “Very pretty,” as Parker remarks, “a bit intricate, though.” For the most part, Sayers’ writing is quite smart and engaging. The solution to the mystery is revealed a little too early, however, and is not surprising enough. Towards the end of the book, a couple passages written in the second person seem like ostentatious stylistic diversions that distract from the story rather than help it. Overall, however, Sayers tells her story very well. Her prose recalls the solid, traditional storytelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Maurice Leblanc sprinkled with risqué suggestions of sex and violence more suited to the modern reader. Though published over 90 years ago, today’s audience will still find Whose Body? fresh and exciting. Despite my few misgivings mentioned above, I enjoyed this book very much and will certainly seek out the further escapades of Lord Peter.
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on December 27, 2016
I recently reread "Whose Body?," Book 1 in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, and it's obvious why this author became so popular. The characters are highly developed, interesting and likable; and the scene descriptions are very detailed. And the stories are not your average murders. In this book, one man has gone missing, and one is found naked and dead who resembles the missing man, but it isn't him. Is the missing man alive or dead? The dead man does not appear to have been murdered, but he has been newly shaven, his hair cut and placed naked where he would be easily found. Looks like someone wanted people to think the missing man is dead. So confusing. Many suspects are explored, but things just don't make sense. You have to pay close attention to this one if you want to get ahead of Lord Peter Wimsey. He's quite brilliant in a Sherlock Holmes kind of way. I plan on binge reading a few more of this wonderful author.
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on April 4, 2015
Dorothy Sayers was one of the leading British female mystery writers and her later writing, which combined mystery with social issues, was excellent. "Whose Body", however, was the first of the Lord Peter Wimsy mysteries, written before she had found her voice. In this novel, Lord Peter is a foolish twit and the mystery is overly contrived. It's worth reading from an historical viewpoint -- if only the history of the development of the detective story. Lord Peter is a continuation of the gentleman detective, the wealthy amateur, as distinguished from the hardboiled creations that were developing in the United States. Lord Peter is also a key figure in the work of female mystery writers, perhaps even first among equals alongside Henry Gammage (Elizabeth Daly) and Albert Campion (Marjorie Allingham), a tradition being continued by Martha Grimes in the Richard Jury/Melrose Plant series.

But in the end, "Whose Body" is of more interest as a view of Ms. Sayers literary development rather than for itself.
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