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by Dorothy L. Sayers
New English Library, February 2004
288 pages
ISBN: 0450017095

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the second reprint of a classic Dorothy Sayers that I have reviewed. I am again re-reading a book that impressed me deeply when I first read it in the 1960s.

The unusual feature for me is that these are short stories -- a type of crime fiction that I rarely read now. I prefer full-length books because I find that I read volumes of short stories too quickly as I reach the denouement of each story. Secondly, I like to get to know the major characters thoroughly as the story unfolds through the chapters but often in an anthology I have to learn about new characters in each tale.

My second reason does not apply here since all the stories are about Lord Peter and some familiar figures like his man, Bunter, his sister, Lady Mary, and the Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Parker. In fact I think these stories would lack depth if the reader was unaware of the full-length Lord Peter books although their references to social attitudes and the variety of new characters they introduce do give a good atmosphere.

I can remember three of these tales clearly -- the rest have gone into oblivion. The 12 tales are a real mixture of the light-hearted and the macabre. The detection of Lord Peter is of a high quality using his expertise in a variety of fields -- fine wines, cryptic crosswords, fine art and the French language. Few modern writers would include in a short story a complete crossword (answers supplied at the end of the book) or a lengthy conversation in French -- untranslated!

The suspense engendered in the macabre tales is considerable and the imagination of the author in devising the events is admirable. The 'silly ass' image of Lord Peter is present but the seriousness of some of the cases does contrast with that image. The three tales I recalled included two of the frightening ones that send a shiver down the spine, and one of the amusing genre.

The classics are still worth reading or re-reading since their clever detection and their peculiar period detail make a fascinating combination.

Reviewed by Jennifer S. Palmer, May 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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