The Documents in the Case

The Documents in the Case

by Dorothy L. Sayers

The grotesquely grinning corpse in the Devonshire shack was a man who died horribly -- with a dish of mushrooms at his side.

Why would an expert on fungi feast on a large quantity of this particularly poisonous species.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Mystery
  • Rating: 3.99
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: July 11th 1995 by HarperTorch
  • Isbn10: 0061043605
  • Isbn13: 9780061043604

What People Think about "The Documents in the Case"

Sayers, Lord Peter Wimseys novels, so was keen to try this stand alone story. At the beginning of the book, it mainly Agnes voice we hear, as she pours out her interest about the two young men who have moved upstairs and the change it brings into the Harrisons lives.

There is usually no rabbit-out-of-the-hat ending in novels by Sayers, when the detective assembles all the possible suspects and picks out the least likely one as the murderer. And when he comes to know that his young stepmother Margaret is having an intrigue with the painter Harwood Lathom who has been sharing their building, and this Lathom was staying with the unsuspecting Harrison at The Shack a couple of days before the death, his worst suspicions are aroused: he is sure its murder. It is presented in the form of a dossier prepared by Paul Harrison to Sir Gilbert Pugh, Director of Public Prosecution, comprising various letters in chronological order and statements from Harrison himself and John Munting, Lathoms friend who is a bestselling author, to fill in the gaps. The letters are written by Agatha Milsom (Margaret Harrisons companion) to her sister; John Munting to his bride-to-be; George Harrison to his son and Margaret Harrison to Harwood Lathom. In the letters Munting writes to his wife, however, Harrison is shown in more favourable light as a traditional middle-aged husband who is played upon by a drama-queen wife. Lathom keeps up his affair with Margaret (her true nature is revealed in the letters she writes to Lathom, which are included here) as well as his friendship with the cuckolded husband: he gets so chummy with the latter so much as to stay for extended periods with him at his village hideaway. One day, he forces Munting to accompany him there against the better counsel of his conscience to find Harrison having met his end in Agony. The second part is mostly narrated by Paul Harrison and Munting, with brief letters and reports from the inquest inserted in between, and is the conventional amateur murder investigation.

This is not your usual Dorothy Sayers: no Lord Peter Wimsey, no Lord Peters idiosyncratic butler, no Harriet Vane. Ninety pages of analysis follow, still largely in the form of letters by characters from part 1, determined (or reluctant) to sort out what really happened.

Sayers & Robert Eustace Epistolary novel concerning a possible murder, and the lengths a son goes to, to find out what really happened; slow-moving classic tale, not one of Sayers' best - three-and-one-half stars. We get to see the four main characters through the eyes of each of them via correspondence with the others and some court documents, and of a couple of the peripheral characters as well, beginning with the loopy "companion/help" for Mrs. Harrison - she's a middle-aged, quite repressed spinster lady with peculiar ideas about romance. Anyway, various odd things happen in the inter-relationships between Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, the companion, the artist, and the novelist, and later with Mr. Harrison's son Paul, who questions his father's peculiar death.

Having just read a book of letters, these come across as far too verbose and writerly, and the statements filled with asides and inner thoughts just seem unlikely. However, Sayers has the gift of subtlety and quiet humour that infuse her characters with definite qualities - likeable or unlikeable - and allow us to get really stuck into the story.

I'm making this sound incredibly intellectual and dull but trust me it isn't: these themes are woven very skillfully into the narrative, but this is fundamentally a story of the clash of people and the resulting murder.

Slowly the personalities emerge and the reader is pleasurably encouraged to change their own perspectives of the characters as their individual idiosyncrasies, temptations and motives are revealed. Lathom has been painting a picture of her - a very clever thing, certainly, but it seems to have turned her head completely." (How clever this portrayal of a character is done within the context of a letter!) Suspense is slowly drawn out as the reader begins to question, along with Mr. Harrison's son, whether murder did in fact occur, and exactly how it could have been possible. Suspense is slowly drawn out as the reader begins to question, along with Mr. Harrison's son, whether murder did in fact occur, and exactly how it could have been possible. And I remember waking this morning very late, with the feeling that someone was dead." My interest wanted somewhat in the middle, but I persevered and was so glad I did as the mystery began to be revealed in developed in the final third of the book.

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