The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey bent down over General Fentiman and drew the Morning Post gently away from the gnarled old hands.

It came up all of a piece, stiff as a wooden doll .

. .But how did the general die?

  • Series: Lord Peter Wimsey
  • Language: English
  • Category: Mystery
  • Rating: 4.06
  • Pages: 256
  • Publish Date: May 10th 1995 by HarperTorch
  • Isbn10: 0061043540
  • Isbn13: 9780061043543

What People Think about "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club"

Two old people died: a woman in her bed and her brother in his club. Lord Peter Wimsey was asked by an attorney of one of the interested parties to investigate. Unexpectedly the second half degenerated into a melodrama with all people talking about feelings of a young woman non-stop.

This is the fifth Dorothy Sayers novel I have read in her Lord Peter Wimsey series, and I continue to enjoy her writing, and Lord Peters character development.

. .' ABOUT THIS BOOK: Ninety-year old General Fentiman has been estranged for years from his sister, Lady Dormer. Lady Dormer dies at 10:37 AM the next day, which is 11 NovemberArmistice Day. That afternoon the General is found dead in his armchair at the club. Due to the terms of Lady Dormer's will and the time of her death, it becomes necessary to establish the exact time of the General's death. MY THOUGHTS: At the time I first read this, I wrote 'This is quite the best Lord Peter Wimsey novel I have read thus far'. I read the whole series as part of a challenge on Goodreads a few years ago, and developed a fondness for both Sayers and Lord Peter, but this remains the firm favorite. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club is #5 in the series and Lord Peter's personality is beginning to flower - he really is quite a sweetie with a kind heart, a man who likes to see people happy. But when it becomes imperative to ascertain the exact time of the General's death to determine the recipient of a half-million pound inheritance, Lord Peter will need to employ all his skills and those of his butler Bunter and good friend Inspector Charles Parker. Sayers is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between World War I and World War II that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.

Published in 1928 this Lord Peter Wimsey mystery is set around Remembrance Day. When Wimsey arrives at the Bellona Club he meets up with his friend, George Fentiman, who is a victim of poison gas and shell shock during the war. When the elderly general is found dead in his armchair at the club, there is an attempt to contact his estranged sister, Lady Dormer. Solicitor Mr Murbles asks Lord Peter to investigate which of them died first; as the terms of Lady Dormers will mean that if she died first, Robert and George Fentiman will inherit a fortune.

Not the best crime novel you're ever going to read, and lightweight compared to the later books, but it still has a nice few twists and turns in it along the way. I'm thinking primarily of the class issue (both the mere fact that for the people Sayers was mostly concerned with, having valets and butlers and maids still wasn't unusual, and other reasons); of the consequences of something so earth-shattering as WWI; and of the (changing) role of women within the novel (Though I suppose you could put up a damn convincing argument as to why that latter aspect really hasn't changed much at all.) The relationship between Sheila and George Fentiman is painful to read about, truly painful; all the more so because I think it's fairly clear that they are still in love despite it all. Their roles have shifted to encompass more than ever before; but there is a feeling both that this is not appropriate (as in the case of George's opinion) and that it hasn't been earned (see Robert's "I bet she never did anything in the Great War, Daddy" when talking about Ann Dorland's inheritance. The figures of women like Naomi and Ann symbolise the huge loss of life in the war, something which made it impossible for many women to even think of finding a husband; and, more disturbingly, they also show how much suspicion single women were regarded with at the time.

(For those thinking about doing the same: Each of the stories in the collection is around about three hours to listen to, so time your own commute out accordingly.) And really, the story is pretty perfect for the medium.

Well, not until they realize it is very important to know the exact time of the general's death because of a surprising inheritance. Next thing you know, any other weird things pile up and Lord Wimsey is asked to find out the exact time of the man's death. Lord Peter Wimsey is one of my favourite amateur investigators.

Everyone stuck inside a little box called marriage or poverty or shell shock or police rules.

I have grown to love this Lord Peter Wimsey mystery because of its somberness, although I remember that when I first read it as a teen I found it uninteresting. Another thing that struck me this time round (and I may be completely wrong) is that Ann Dorland, one of the heirs and thus a potential suspect, was a prototype of Harriet Vane, who will turn up in the next novel as LPW's love interest. A good mystery, of course: Sayers is nothing if not ingenious (although this is two times in quick succession that the victim has been an elderly person who would soon die anyway...) But it's the brooding, foggy feel of the book that really gives it its worth.

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