Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey #1) ★★★☆☆


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Title: Whose Body?
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #1
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 164
Words: 64K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

Thipps, an architect, finds a dead body wearing nothing but a pair of pince-nez in the bath of his London flat. Lord Peter Wimsey—a nobleman who has recently developed an interest in criminal investigation as a hobby—resolves to investigate the matter privately. Leading the official investigation is Inspector Sugg, who suggests that the body may be that of the famous financier Sir Reuben Levy, who disappeared from his bedroom in mysterious circumstances the night before. Sir Reuben’s disappearance is in the hands of Inspector Charles Parker, a friend of Wimsey’s. Although the body in the bath superficially resembles that of Sir Reuben, it quickly becomes clear that it is not him, and it appears that the cases may be unconnected. Wimsey joins Parker in his investigation.

Thipps’s flat is near a teaching hospital, and Wimsey considers the possibility that the unexpected appearance of a body may have been the result of a joke perpetrated by one of the medical students. However, that is excluded by evidence given at the inquest by the respected surgeon and neurologist Sir Julian Freke, who states that there was no subject missing from his dissecting room.

A prostitute’s chance encounter with Levy on the night of his disappearance, on the road leading to the hospital and to Sir Julian Freke’s house next door, provides Wimsey with the clue that allows him to link the two cases. Freke maintains that he was discreetly being consulted by Levy about a medical problem, and that Levy left at about 10pm. Freke’s manservant reports that Freke was inexplicably taking a bath at about 3 o’clock the following morning, judging from the noise of the cistern.

Wimsey ultimately discovers that Freke murdered Sir Reuben after luring him to his house with the promise of some inside financial information. Freke smuggled the body out onto the roof under cover of the cistern noise, took it into the hospital, and substituted it for that of a pauper who had been donated for dissection by the local workhouse. He then visited Sir Reuben’s home to stage his disappearance, returned, carried the pauper’s body over the flat roofs of the nearby houses and placed it in Thipps’ bath, entering via a bathroom window that had been left open. As a joke, he added a pair of pince-nez that had by chance come into his possession. Returning to the hospital, he prepared Sir Reuben’s body for dissection, giving it to his medical students for that purpose the next day.

Freke unsuccessfully attempts to murder both Parker and Wimsey. When it becomes clear that his actions have been discovered, he prepares a written confession of his long-held desire for revenge: many years earlier, he hoped to marry the woman who later became Lady Levy, but she chose Sir Reuben in preference to him. He also intended to substantiate his own theory of mind, in which conscience, a sense of responsibility and so on are merely “surface symptoms” which arise from physical irritation or damage to the tissues of the brain. As he completes the confession the police arrive to arrest him, preventing his suicide just in time.

My Thoughts:

Back at the tail end of 2018, I wrapped up my read of the Brother Cadfael series, a Medieval Mystery series that I enjoyed for the most part. Since then, outside of my one attempt to read PD James’ Adam Dalgiesh mysteries, my mystery reading has consisted of the Arcane Casebook series and Garrett, PI, both of which are as much fantasy as mystery. Dalgliesh (and James) horrified me with its tawdry revoltingness, Arcane Casebook I’m up to date on and waiting for the next book and the end of Garrett PI is soon approaching. I was therefore on the lookout for another pure mystery series I could get into. I did consider Sherlock Holmes, especially after Savage Dave’s excellent read through semi-recently, but for some reason it just didn’t grab me; maybe because I’m already re-reading so much and wanted something completely new? I don’t know, but Sherlock was out.

Somehow or other, I came across some references to Lord Peter Wimsey. There are a couple of ladies I follow who are into Mysteries and Golden Age stuff (namely, Themis, Brokentune and MurderbyDeath), so I’m sure it was one of them. For all I know it might have even been some offhand reference in the comments. I wish I could track it down. Needless to say, I have started this series and with a 3star start, it is looking quite promising.

This did not feel like a first in a series kind of novel. It is obvious that most of the characters have prior history with each other and Sayers’ doles out the hints like she was a true New England Yankee (ie, miser). But the first it is and you just have to suck it up and soldier on.

Peter is Bertie Wooster, except smart. He even has a butler who is quite competent. Bunter the Butler. Say that 5 times fast. If Jeeves wasn’t quite so smart and had been a sergeant in the British Army, then he’d be Bunter. Peter Wimsey, who I shall try to refer to simply as Wimsey in the rest of my reviews, is obviously suffering from shell shock and nerves and Sayers makes the most out of by making her detective character have a bit of weakness and humanity. He’s no Sherlock Holmes able to bend steel pokers. There’s one scene where Wimsey is having flashback nightmares to the Great War and Bunter has to talk him down. It was refreshing and distracting because it was so out of the ordinary for a mystery novel in my opinion. Does mean that Wimsey has great potential as a character.

The biggest reason this is gettin’ just 3 stars instead of more is because of Sayers makin’ Wimsey, and his older brother the Duke, drop their “g”s when talkin’. Very distractin’ don’t you know, especially when it is ongoin’ for the whole book. It bugged the everlivin’ daylights out of me and I’m really hopin’ Sayers tones it down in later books. Just sayin’…..

★★★☆☆

Rating: 3 out of 5.

ps,
which do you like better? The first row of stars or the second?
Personally, I like the second, but the problem is that I can’t copy/paste it into the title bar. Having my star rating visually in the title of my post is now part of my mystique. No way I’m changing that!

46 thoughts on “Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey #1) ★★★☆☆

      1. The mannerisms — all of them — and the Woosterisms are all toned down in the later novels, even though they don‘t go away entirely. Chiefly, you get to (or, well, I hope you will) see Wimsey as a person of great intellect and sensibility, who sometimes simply cloaks his insecurities and embarrassment by mannerisms. He‘s definitely a whole lot more layered a character in the later books than he is in this first one. IMHO the best ones overall (Wimsey & Harriet Vane as characters, their story arch, mystery plots, supporting characters, setting, social / wider issues addressed etc.) are the 4 books dealing with Wimsey & Harriet Vane‘s courtship. Another stellar entry is “The Nine Tailors“ (if you can see the bellringing thing for what it is, i.e., chiefly a hook to hang the tale on). A lot of people really also like “Murder Must Advertise“ (which is based on Sayers‘s personal pre-novelist work experience) — I do, too, though I prefer the second book in the series, “Clouds of Witness“. And now I‘d better shut up … 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I like the yellow stars, but I am used to the first row already that have become a standard in your reviews. also thank you for the shout out. I had a definite hit with my Sherlock reads the last year as well as the Cthulhu Casebooks. If you are up for something a bit new, you could see about maybe looking up Josh Reynold’s Royal Occultist series? Josh being a well known WH author has his own series that has nothing to do with warhammer, but the Royal Occultist sounds a bit like that other series that you had high praise for, was it the Arcian Casebooks?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the input. I think for the rest of the year I’m going to try the orange stars and see what I think. The end of the year is definitely going to have some changes in it. I just need to figure out what they’ll all be 😀

      The Arcane Casebook is what you’re thinking of. And I’ll go check out the Royal Occultist. If they’re similar, that would be great, as I am loving the arcane casebook series 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Reynolds also does the odd blog on WP and has dropped some hints here and there look up Hunting Monsters in your reader search bar, his site should be the first to pop up. We are in a two week lock down now that went in last night so I have a bit of time on my hands again…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can only second everything that TA has already said: The books get better, the mannerisms get toned down.

    I had to read Whose Body? twice to actually enjoy the first book, but I am so glad I stuck with the rest of the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This reminds me that I need to pick this series back up! Dorothy Sayers has some other great stuff out there too (as a friend of the Inklings how could she not?). Her collection of theological essays called “Creed or Chaos” was quite interesting, and her translation of Dante’s divine comedy is on my TBR (I read the Inferno a while ago, but have all three books now so it’s time for a re-read)..

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That was a great tv show. Fry and Laurie captured Jeeves and Wooster perfectly, didn’t they? And that show really captured the spirit of the books.

      I think Sayers was modeling Wimsey, in part, on Wooster. This series came out after and during the Jeeves series.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s part of the fact that they are aristocrats. They also say ain’t.

    Bertie’s, I mean Whimsey’s, status and history as a member of the British aristocracy who is nevertheless eager and willing to relate to all kinds of people, will become important in later books, leading sometimes to comedy, sometimes to tragedy, and eventually building him up as the perfect romantic lead. But the dropped g’s are here to stay.

    However, since I have never read this first book, I don’t know whether Sayers toned down the dropped g’s in later books. I remember them showing up occasionally, but not incessantly.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I have figured out the problem. Writers love us some language, so we all want to write in dialect when we start out. We think we are Shakespeare or Chaucer or something. Then we find out we have to pare it back for the sake of readability.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh boy, you have no idea. There were times I was ready to cast this into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth because of the dropped “g”s. I take my grammar very seriously! Almost as seriously as my Ironing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can definitely empathize with your annoyance at all those dropped “g”: nothing takes me out of the narrative flow like this kind of constant irritation… 😉
    As for the stars, the second row gets my vote: it’s much more visible (you know, old lady, tired eyes and all that jazz…). If you can’t copy/paste it in the title as an image, could you add the stars as symbols from the keyboard? Just sayin’… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the input. I have found that I can copy/paste the keyboard short stars into the title, so that solves that. (or, it is what I have been doing, so I’ll just keep doing that).

      I hear you about the tired eyes. I’m finding that bigger and brighter is better now for almost every website 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I NEVER would have picked this series based on this cover. and yet, once I was done with the book, I completely understood the cover. Unlike some others I’ve seen, this makes total sense. AFTER the book is read anyway 🙂

      Like

    1. It is amazing how much literature there is from before 1950 that you’d never know existed if it wasn’t in one’s reading genre. I got lucky with hearing about this. I never would have found it on my own.

      Your suggestion is what is going to happen. I like having the rating in the title too much to give it up. People can tell if I loved, hated or meh’ed a book without even reading the review. Quick communication can be key sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. For some reason your comment went into spam. I’m becoming more and more convinced that WP is doing what it can to force people into a paying route with them. sigh.

      Thanks for letting me know. Do you like it better because it matches the font size, or something else? With some later reviews I ended up changing the stars to an orange’y color to match my avatar’s fire color 😀 That “green” reminds me too much of devilreads. I’ll have to play around to see if I can change the star size.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ugh – BrokenTune had one of my comments end up in spam too. I’m really starting to hate WP.

        I like the simplicity of the design – the gold-ish ones look ‘puffy’ to me and a little cartoonish. Which is fine – I just prefer the classic flat style, and I ike the color matching your avatar. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

                1. To be fair, this year alone I’ve made over 3K comments just on my blog. So add in the 35+ blogs I follow and well, that’s a lot.

                  I looked and I think I’ve had to contact them 4 times over the last 4 years? and 3 out of the 4 times were very good experiences and they took care of things right away. I blogged about the 1 time it wasn’t such a good experience, hahahahaa 😀

                  Liked by 1 person

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