Saturday, January 28, 2017
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
I'd always wanted to read something by Dorothy L. Sayers -- I've read nearly all of Agatha Christie, and I do love the classic mysteries of the 1930s. The Nine Tailors seemed like a perfect choice for my next read for The Back to the Classics Challenge because I could count it towards my Classic With a Number in the Title.
Published in 1934, The Nine Tailors is one of Sayers' mysteries with amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, who has been described as a cross between Fred Astaire and Bertie Wooster. At the start of the novel, Lord Peter and his valet, Bunter, are driving through the Fens of east England on New Year's Eve to spend the holiday with friends. Due to bad weather and a driving mishap, they are taken in by the local rector, who is in need of an extra bell-ringer for the traditional nine-hour ringing of the bells to ring in the new year. Lord Peter fills in for a bell-ringer who is ill with the Spanish flu, and the very next morning, the wife of the local squire dies of the same illness. Several months later, the squire also passes away, and during the burial preparations, an additional body is discovered in the same grave as his late wife. Lord Peter's assistance is requested and the identity of the body (and the murderer) appear to be linked with the mystery of a valuable emerald necklace that was stolen years ago during the squire's wedding party weekend.
This mystery was rather different than what I expected -- I suppose I thought it would be fairly straightforward like Agatha Christie's classics. The Nine Tailors begins with a lot of information about church bells and ringing, and there's a cipher and red herrings and the body itself doesn't show up until about a third of the way into the book. There's also a lot of information about the Fens and sluices which I knew nothing about. I also noticed that a lot of the exposition in this book takes place in the form of dialogue, or rather, monologues -- especially Reverend Venables, the rector, who tends to ramble on a bit. But after I got used to it I really enjoyed this book. Lord Peter is quite charming and I liked the other characters, especially Hilary Thorpe, the daughter of the late squire.
It's the eleventh novel Sayers wrote with Lord Peter, and though I normally like to start a series at the beginning, I've noticed with a lot of mysteries it doesn't seem to matter that much. I was also hoping to see Harriet Vane but she isn't in The Nine Tailors, so I'll have to go back to the beginning and read the rest of them in order. I really enjoyed this book and particularly enjoyed the audio version narrated by Ian Carmichael which I was able to download from my library.
I'm counting this as my Classic With a Number in the Title for the Back to the Classics Challenge and as my book set in England for the 2017 European Reading Challenge.