Whose Body?

Whose Body?

by Dorothy L. Sayers

The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better.

In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

  • Series: Lord Peter Wimsey
  • Language: English
  • Category: Mystery
  • Rating: 3.89
  • Pages: 212
  • Publish Date: July 11th 1995 by HarperTorch
  • Isbn10: 0061043575
  • Isbn13: 9780061043574

What People Think about "Whose Body?"

The very first Lord Peter Wimsey novel, and thus the genesis of one of the most engaging characters I've ever encountered, literary or otherwise. I have to assume that Sayers was a fan.) The actual mystery is brilliant: a man goes into his bathroom one morning to find a naked corpse in the tub, wearing nothing but a pair of golden pince-nez.

Time to meet Lord Peter Wimsey, archetype of amateur gentleman detective & his sidekick, the invaluable valet Bunter. With a taxi I can just Not in those trousers, my lord, said Mr. Bunter, blocking the way to the door with deferential firmness. We also learn that Bunter served under Lord Peter's command & during his relapses he takes care of him conscientiously & effectively. Detective Parker seems to be another sidekick to Lord Peter. One of the most interesting parts of the book was a conversation between Lord Peter & Parker which highlights their characters even more: Look here, Peter, said the other with some earnestness, suppose you get this playing-fields-of-Eton complex out of your system once and for all. If Sir Reuben has been murdered, is it a game? Thats what Im ashamed of, really, said Lord Peter. Yes, yes, I know, said the detective, but thats because youre thinking about your attitude. I dont think you ought to read so much theology, said Lord Peter.

Sayers wrote mysteries (notably, the Lord Peter Wimsey series) from the 1920s through the early 1950s. Lord Peter Wimsey has found his own critics as a character. The writing is definitely brilliant and, aside from Lord Peters own thought processes becoming the chief red herrings, those same wayward thought processes get the job of solving the crime done. Parker takes up a lot of Lord Peters slack when Lord Peter experiences agitation at getting too close to possible suspects. Lord Peter, at one point, does have an episode with flashbacks to the war.

As a mystery genre fan and avid reader of Agatha Christie, I thought for sure I would enjoy the much-reccomended Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Book collector Peter Wimsey is on the case!

British Jason #1: Jolly good book, what? But this mystery doesn't seem to care for the diabolical plot as much as others in the genre. Dorothy Sayers appears perhaps more interested in developing a deeper character. For instance, the reasoning behind Lord Peter's desire to catch criminals comes into question more than once through the book. Unnaturally delivered admissions of guilt absolutely abound in these books and it is taken to a RIDICULOUS extreme in Whose Body? Also, at one point the main character says something like "He's got a touch of the tar-baby in him." Perhaps it's all part of Sayers' attempt to create a well-rounded and representative person from 1920s England.

In her very thoughtful review of this book, Kelly expressed discomfort with what she saw as anti-Semitic elements present throughout the plot. It's true that some of the minor characters in this book express anti-Semitic opinion, but I think Sayers is using their prejudiced beliefs to make a point about how Jews were seen by the general population at the time - I don't think anyone can deny that in the 1920's, people were still racist as hell. Peter's mother doesn't understand Judaism very well, but there's nothing particularly unkind in her dialogue - in fact, she's basically saying, "Yes, Jews are different and I don't understand their religion at all, but they should be able to marry who they like." Furthermore, I think that based on what I know of Sayers' other books, the speech is meant to be a comic display of how little Judaism was understood at the time. I don't think Peter's mother is anti-Semitic, and I don't think the book is, either.

Lord Peter Wimsey is a charming, intelligent aristocrat who keeps occupied as a rare book collector and an amateur sleuth. Although the characters seem to think that the Jewish Reuben Levy is a good person, there were quite a few stereotypical comments about Jews scattered throughout the book.

Then I watched a documentary by Lucy Worsley about British murders that mentioned most of the same authors again. I found myself liking Wimsey....he's amusing, capable and at times, pokes fun at himself and his class with witty bad verse and even song. In his first case, Wimsey teams up with his friend Charles Parker, to solve the discovery of a murdered naked dead man in a bathtub, and the disappearance of a local financier, Sir Reuben Levy. The police (namely Wimsey's nemesis, Detective Sugg) want to claim the dead body in the tub as the financier....find a naked man, lose a naked man, they must be one and the same, right? Sugg is quick to rush to judgement in an effort to close the case -- he arrests the man who lives in the apartment where the dead body was discovered, and a servant girl. With his trusty man servant Bunter and Scotland Yard's Charles Parker in tow, Lord Peter Wimsey is on the case! At just over 200 pages, this book is a quick and fun read. I am definitely going to push on to book 2.....Wimsey's brain power and antics are just too fun! Sayers wrote 11 Lord Peter Wimsey books and five collections of short stories. Author Jill Paton Walsh completed an unfinished manuscript left by Sayers and also wrote 3 Wimsey books herself. I was led to finally read this series while watching the documentary A Very British Murder featuring Historian Lucy Worsley.

In the past couple of years I've ventured beyond the novels and the short stories (not being much of a short story reader, I've not read all of these) to read Sayers' collected letters, some of her essays (such as Are Women Human?) and Barbara Reynold's excellent biography, Dorothy L. This novel is where it started for Sayers' best known contribution to crime fiction literature, Lord Peter Wimsey. In addition, the perpetrator is not that difficult to pick (although admittedly the big reveal is not necessarily a feature of Sayers' novels), the perpetrator's method is complex and improbable and the novel contains one of my pet peeves in crime fiction - the extended confession in the form of a letter. I'm looking forward to a Lord Peter re-read over the next 12 months with my good friend and Sayers novice Jemidar.

I understand Sayers is a master and one of the classic mystery writers, in the vein of Agatha Christie. Also, I'd figured out who-dun-it about halfway through the book and from there it was a long slog towards Wimsey 'getting his man.' There were a few stellar lines. The only other line that really grabbed me was when Wimsey's about to be killed by the murderer and he grabs the murderer's wrist in an iron grip: When lovers embrace, there seems no sound in the world but their own breathing. In short - If you're interested in mystery classics, then it makes sense to pick this up.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a renowned British author, translator, student of classical and modern languages, and Christian humanist.