Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries No.1) – Dorothy L. Sayers
New English Library, 1989
Originally published in 1923
If there is such a thing as a respectable corpse, the one found by unassuming architect Mr Thipps is certainly the opposite: a naked stranger in a bath. At first suspected to be a missing financier, the body remains stubbornly nameless. To Lord Peter Wimsey, a wealthy young nobleman with a hobby of detecting, it’s the kind of puzzle dreams are made of. As he delves deeper into the case, however, ugly truths begin to fit together. This isn’t a game any more to Wimsey, but there’s someone out there who disagrees, and is very determined to win.
My mother having encountered and adored the Lord Peter Wimsey books last year, I decided to try them too. Sayers was a contemporary to Agatha Christie and the books have a few things in common: their characters’ easy callousness regarding murder for one, and of course the rich, elegant setting of 1920s London. There’s a wince-worthy vein of anti-Semitism through this book, though not one actually condoned by the narrative. Sayers writes with rather more description than Christie and has a light, playful turn of phrase, but handles darker angles well – there’s a very sympathetic portrayal of shell-shock, for instance – and the construction of the crime was masterful, if a bit laboured at the end. The Lord Peter Wimsey series continues with Clouds of Witness.