Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey #3) ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Unnatural Death
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #3
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 222
Words: 81K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

Lord Peter Wimsey and his friend Chief Inspector Parker are told about the death, in late 1925, of an elderly woman named Agatha Dawson who had been suffering from terminal cancer. She was being cared for by Mary Whittaker, her great-niece and a trained nurse. Miss Dawson had an extreme aversion to making a will, believing that Miss Whittaker, her only known relative, would naturally inherit everything. Wimsey is intrigued in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of any crime (a post-mortem found no sign of foul play), nor any apparent motive (on Miss Dawson’s death her estate did indeed pass, as she had expected and wished, to her great-niece).

Wimsey sends his private investigator, Miss Katharine Climpson, to the village of Leahampton to investigate. She discovers that shortly before her death Miss Dawson had dismissed her maids, the sisters Bertha and Evelyn Gotobed. Wimsey places advertisements in the press asking them to get in touch. A few days later, Bertha is found dead in Epping Forest. On the body is a £5 banknote, originally issued to a Mrs Muriel Forrest who lives in an elegant flat in South Audley Street, Mayfair. Wimsey and Parker visit her. She claims not to remember the banknote, but thinks she may have put it on a horse. Wimsey tricks her into providing her fingerprints on a wineglass. In a drawer he finds a hypodermic syringe with a doctor’s prescription “to be injected when the pain is very severe”.

Evelyn Gotobed tells Wimsey of an episode shortly before the sisters were dismissed in which Miss Whittaker had tried to get them to witness Miss Dawson’s will, without the latter’s knowledge. A mysterious West Indian clergyman named Hallelujah Dawson had also turned up, claiming to be an impecunious distant relative.

Mrs Forrest asks Wimsey to visit her at her flat in London where she clumsily makes advances to him. Wimsey suspects blackmail. He kisses her and realises that she is physically revolted by his caress.

Wimsey discovers a motive for Miss Dawson to be killed before the end of 1925: a new ‘Property Act’ coming into force on 1 January 1926 will change the law of inheritance, resulting in an intestate’s property no longer passing to a closest-relative great-niece but being forfeit to the Crown. Much play is made of a fictionalised uncertainty in the meaning of the word “issue”.

Mary Whittaker – who Miss Climpson has concluded “is not of the marrying sort” – disappears from Leahampton along with Vera Findlater, an impressionable young woman who is besotted with her. Several days later Miss Findlater’s body is found on the downs, apparently killed by a blow to the head. Mary Whittaker has it seems been kidnapped. There are indications that the culprit is a black man, and a distinctive cap found nearby is linked to Hallelujah Dawson. However, a post-mortem finds that Vera Findlater was already dead when she was struck, and Wimsey realises that the whole scene has been faked in order to frame the entirely innocent clergyman. Tyre tracks from Mrs Forrest’s car are found nearby, and Wimsey suspects her and Mary Whittaker of acting in collusion.

Wimsey’s manservant, Bunter, realises that the fingerprints on Mrs Forrest’s wineglass are identical to those on a cheque written by Miss Whittaker. Wimsey at last understands that Muriel Forrest and Mary Whittaker are one and the same person, and that she carried out the murders by injecting air into her victims’ bloodstream with a hypodermic syringe, causing blockage and immediate death through heart failure. Meanwhile Miss Climpson, unable to contact Wimsey, heads to South Audley Street where she is attacked by Mary Whittaker. Wimsey and Parker arrive just in time to save Miss Climpson from becoming the final victim. Whittaker is arrested, and commits suicide in prison.

My Thoughts:

Much, much, much better than the previous book. No french letters, of any kind! Or any stinking lawyers either!

Of course, Lord Peter screws up and gets a woman killed. Which leads to some serious soul searching on his part. It is easy to forget that Sayers was a lay theologian in her own right but she really delves into some aspects of the moral rights and responsibilities of someone who is not authorized by the Law to investigate crime. Wimsey really shows that he’s not just a bored toff looking for a thrill. He has a sincere desire to see justice done.

It is also interesting to see how crime was investigated about a century ago. The issues they had to deal with (missed communications, travel issues, the press, inter-departmental rivalry, etc) made me realize that while investigation methods might have changed due to technology, people are still exactly the same and act the same then as they did then. As the Teacher of Israel says, there is nothing new under the sun.

With this book, my hope for this series is re-kindled. I tore through it one Saturday too, so I wasn’t dillydallying around.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Clouds of Witness (Lord Peter Wimsey #2) ★★✬☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Clouds of Witness
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #2
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 243
Words: 92K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother, the Duke of Denver, has taken a shooting lodge at Riddlesdale in Yorkshire. At 3 o’clock one morning, Captain Denis Cathcart, the fiancé of Wimsey’s sister Lady Mary, is found shot dead just outside the conservatory. Mary, trying to leave the house at 3 am for a reason she declines to explain, finds Denver kneeling over Cathcart’s body. Suspicion falls on Denver, as the lethal bullet had come from his revolver and he admits having quarrelled with Cathcart earlier, after receiving a letter (which he says has been lost) informing him that Cathcart had been caught cheating at cards. He maintains that he stumbled across the body after returning from a walk on the moors, but will say no more.

Wimsey arrives to investigate, along with his friend Inspector Charles Parker, who will find himself becoming increasingly attracted to Lady Mary throughout the novel. They find a series of unidentified footprints and a discarded jewel in the form of a cat. It is clear that both Denver and Mary are hiding something: Denver refuses to budge from his story that he was simply out for a walk, while Mary is feigning illness to avoid talking to anyone.

Wimsey investigates several false leads. The footprints turn out to be those of Mary’s secret true fiancé, Goyles, a socialist agitator considered ‘an unsuitable match’ by her family. He had crept into the grounds for a pre-arranged rendezvous at 3 am, when the couple had intended to elope. Mary assumed that he was the killer and has been covering for him, but when she learns that he had fled in terror after discovering the body, she breaks off their engagement in disgust at his cowardice.

Wimsey’s investigations lead him to a violent local farmer, Grimethorpe, with a stunningly beautiful wife. Wimsey finds the lost letter that was sent to Denver wedged in the window of the Grimethorpes’ bedroom, proving that Denver had been visiting Mrs Grimethorpe on the night of Cathcart’s death. This is what he has refused to admit, being determined to shield his mistress even at the price of being wrongfully convicted of murder.

Eventually, the jewelled cat leads Wimsey to Cathcart’s mistress of many years, who had left him for an American millionaire. Wimsey travels to New York to find her, makes a daring and dangerous transatlantic flight back to London, and arrives just in time to present his evidence at Denver’s trial in the House of Lords. Wimsey brings a letter that Cathcart had written to his mistress on the night of his death. After hearing that she was leaving him, Cathcart had written back stating his intention to commit suicide. He had then taken Denver’s revolver from the study and gone out into the garden to shoot himself. The confounding factor in the investigation had been the coincidence of Denver returning from Mrs Grimethorpe’s, just in time to find the body, at the same time that Mary had emerged from the house for her rendezvous with Goyles.

Denver is acquitted. As he is leaving the House of Lords, Grimethorpe appears, shoots at him, flees, and is knocked down and killed by a passing taxi. Mrs Grimethorpe, finally free of her husband, declares that she has no interest in continuing her affair with Denver. In the final scene of the book, Inspector Sugg finds Wimsey, Parker, and a friend on the street after midnight, hopelessly drunk, celebrating the end of the case. Sugg assists them into cabs, and reflects, “Thank Gawd there weren’t no witnesses”.

My Thoughts:

This started out so strong. I was highlighting quotes a lot (for me) and the story was moving right along. Lord Peter wasn’t missin’ his “g’s” as much and I was seriously thinking about giving this 4 to 4.5stars.

Then I came to the last 10% of the book. Which is where the trial of Peter’s brother takes place. And everything screeched to a complete halt and bored me to death. Lord Peter isn’t involved. We get pages of the lawyer pretty much summing up the entire book and showing the “jury” (ie, the readers) what really happened. A linchpin of his argument was a letter from the dead man to his mistress. In french. Fething pages of french letter. Sayers does provide an interpretation after the fact, but the original had no place in the novel. I kept hitting the “next page” on my kindle and it kept going and going and going. The lawyer had slowed the pace to frozen molasses but the french letter? It dammed up the flow completely. It was like the Hoover Dam suddenly appeared from out of no where!

Up to that point, I saw why this series is held up as great writing and great story telling. I was enjoying myself immensely. Sadly, the ending killed this book for me. Bleh and poop!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Currently Reading & Quotes: Clouds of Witness

I have always been a sincere Christian myself, but I cannot feel that our religion demands that we should make ourselves conspicuous – er – in such very painful circumstances.’ ~page 43

Ughh. How cowardly and unmanly. This wasn’t Lord Peter Wimsey who said this, but someone else. Good thing this guy wasn’t a First Century Christian. He’d have denied Christ to avoid the arena in a heartbeat.

I think my mother’s talents deserve a little acknowledgment. I said so to her, as a matter of fact, and she replied in these memorable words: “My dear child, you can give it a long name if you like, but I’m an old-fashioned woman and I call it mother-wit, and it’s so rare for a man to have it that if he does you write a book about him and call him Sherlock Holmes.” ~page 139

Oh, this made me laugh my head off. Good stuff!

‘Damn it all, we want to get at the truth!’
‘Do you?’ said Sir Impey drily. ‘I don’t. I don’t care twopence about the truth. I want a case. It doesn’t matter to me who killed Cathcart, provided I can prove it wasn’t Denver. It’s really enough if I can throw reasonable doubt on its being Denver. Here’s a client comes to me with a story of a quarrel, a suspicious revolver, a refusal to produce evidence of his statements, and a totally inadequate and idiotic alibi. I arrange to obfuscate the jury with mysterious footprints, a discrepancy as to time, a young woman with a secret, and a general vague suggestion of something between a burglary and a crime passionel. And here you come explaining the footprints, exculpating the unknown man, abolishing the discrepancies, clearing up the motives of the young woman, and most carefully throwing back suspicion to where it rested in the first place. What do you expect?’
‘I’ve always said,’ growled Peter, ‘that the professional advocate was the most immoral fellow on the face of the earth, and now I know for certain.’ ~Page 202

Lawyers have always been slimey and they always will be.

So 3 quotes from the first 200 pages. That has got to be some kind of record for me. The cover though rather confuses me. While this takes place in the Flapper era, flapper’s aren’t involved and the only young women involved are blondes. I’m guessing it’s some sort of royalty free cover to go with a royalty free edition? Not really important, just one of those things I wonder quickly about and then forget. Hence it’s inclusion here and not being saved for a review 😀

I am loving this though. Looks like a High Rating Ahead!

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


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

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!