Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Don't you hate when you get up in the morning to do your normal morning routine only to find a dead body in your tub? That's what happens to Mr. Thipps. In steps Lord Peter Whimsey to help with the investigation. He's not a professional detective, but he has helped his friend the detective, Mr. Parker. Peter thinks this a job to match his wits, plus he does want to help poor Mr. Thipps and his mother from undue prosecution and hardship. He even takes in Mrs. Thipps when Mr. Thipps is hauled away on murder, even Lord Peter's mother, the Dowager Duchess lends a hand in the case and helping out. In addition to the body in the bathtub, there's another mystery Mr. Parker's been called in on, apparently, a friend of his, Rueben Levy, has gone missing, but where and why. The clues are few and baffling and red herrings swim in this sea of mystery. But in the end, Lord Peter figures things out and justice is served.

What drew me to this story is it's written by Dorothy L. Sayers who's considered the dam of mysteries, perhaps even equal to Agatha Christie. The writing was a little odd, as style tended to change rather dramatically at times. What kept me going was the character of Lord Peter and the mystery itself, even if some of the circumstances were obvious. Lord Peter is an enigma. At first, he comes off as a bored playboy who's into the current fashion and slang who takes up the case because he has nothing better to do. There are a few times he even mentions his boredom. Yet beneath the surface lies a sharp intellect and a compassion for his family and fellow man. In fact, he comes to dread that one of his suspects might be the criminal because he's come to admire that person. Mr. Parker reminds Lord Peter the pitfalls of being a detective. Lord Peter concedes and resumes the investigation, but shortly succumbs to an episode of the aftereffects of shellshock (aka PTSD). What is not known beforehand is Lord Peter served in the military during World War I and when he is stressed, he has a small nervous breakdown. So, here's a wealthy playboy who served in the military (for whatever reason), actually cares about his neighbors, and challenges his wits in a most disturbing fashion. Whereas the writing is different, the characterization was enough to keep me going.

4 comments:

hamilcar barca said...

did you notice any anti-Semitism in the book? the Wikipedia article on the book (and on Ms. Sayers) says there was a lot of controversy about this, but that the anti-Jewish parts in it have to be judged by what was acceptable in England in the 1930's.

Christina said...

I'm rather in the dark on anti-Semitism as I don't know enough about Jewish culture nor am I exposed to anti-Semitism in general. A couple of characters made some disparaging remarks about Jews, but they were so far in the book, I didn't pay much attention to it. I think the book was written as Sayers viewed the community around her at the time and nothing more.

hamilcar barca said...

that's the way i felt about Steinbeck's liberal use of the "N-word" in The Grapes Of Wrath and Of Mice And Men. i had to keep telling myself - this was just normal language for the 1930's.

Amanda said...

I don't remember a lot of that in Grapes of Wrath, but it's been a year and I've read a lot of books since then. I know Twain's supposed to have a lot of that in his books. I've yet to read Twain but plan to later this year. I guess I'll see.