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.

14 comments:

  1. I love this novel but it sure does have a lot of education in it! Which came in handy when I actually went. And then in Bath, we happened to meet a bellringer about to start a long peal, and he asked if I knew anything about bellringing. I said I'd read The Nine Tailors, and he told us that was the book that got him started 50 years ago, and then invited us up to have a look. We got a personal introduction to bellringing, so that was really neat!

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    1. What a great experience! It's wonderful to learn about how books influence people's lives.

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  2. Love Sayers, but you probably already know that, Karen! I've read this several times but also love the Carmichael recordings. Why doesn't Overdrive have the lot? I reread the four Harriet books just before Christmas. Gaudy Night is one of my favourite comfort reads.

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    1. My library has most of her works on audio but I don't know all the narrators -- I certainly hope they're not abridged! I haven't read any of the Harriet Vane novels but they sound very comforting which is something I can definitely use.

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  3. I need to reread this. It has been a while. My favorites are the ones with Harriet Vane. Gaudy Night is especially good.

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  4. Karen,
    I'm interested in this one because of the setting. East Anglia is where nearly all of my English ancestors came from--hundreds of years ago. I've been to England three times, but never to East Anglia, so it would be intriguing.

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  5. This one is probably least favourite with most fans because of all the bell-ringing details and such, but I still enjoyed it. You will love Gaudy Night.

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    1. Yes, there was a lot of technical information about bell-ringing. I think if I'd read the print version I would have been skimming more of that.

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  6. I read my first Sayer recently. It was fun but not sure if I will read any more.

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  7. I'm a huge fan of Peter Wimsey mysteries, and this one is one of my favorites. I feel like many of Sayers' mysteries stand on their own as novels aside from the whodunnit aspect.

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  8. Great review, thanks. I just embarked in reading (actually listening to) (and possibly watching) all of Sherlock Holmes, after that, I really need to read something by her.
    For audiobooks you know, I always check the except on audible.
    You do not need to be a subscriber - I don't, as I don't have the money to spend so much on audiobooks, plus my public library has all I need (I'm fortunate: apart from physcial audiobooks, they also have 2 databases to choose from and download from home: overdrive of course, but also Hoopla - with great choices and they seem to be always available, whereas you often have to put a hold on Overdrive).
    But because of a few bad surprises, I always listen to the excerpt of all possible audio versions of a book on Audible and then make my choice from that. Plus they do tell you clearly if it's unabridged or not.
    Emma Words And Peace/France Book Tours

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  9. Apart from the Harriet Vane novels, this is my favorite Lord Peter mystery--I found all the info on bellringing to be fascinating and I thought the mystery and setting particularly good.

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  10. I've read a couple of Sayers' but not this one. I've never quite enjoyed her as much as Christie and Marsh.

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