A new twist in mysteries

Mar 23, 2002 (Updated Mar 25, 2002)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A look at the life of British aristocracy.

Cons:Anti-semitism and complicated language; therefore sometimes confusing ideas

The Bottom Line: Anti-semitism aside, "Whose body?" is not for everyone. It definitely demands an open mind and a good knowledge of British English.

When I first read this book about two years ago it disgusted me profoundly. I found the main character, Lord Peter Wimsey, exasperant, his servant too 'servile' and the language bewildering. Two years later I am inclined to be a little less partial; still...

"Whose body?" was the first mystery story Dorothy L. Sayers wrote, where she introduced us to her sleuth, the debonair, rich, book collector and nonsense-talking Lord Peter. He lives in a posh Picadilly apartment with a manservant by the name of Mervyn Bunter. I always thought Bunter could have been further developed; simply because he seems to have much more of a head on his shoulders and his feet on the floor than his employer does. In this, their first adventure, Lord Peter is made aware by his mother, the enchanting and very shrewd Dowager Duchess of Denver, of an unknown body being found on a neighboor's bathroom. No one seems to know who the unfortunate individual was, nor how he happened upon the bathroom of poor old Mr. Thipps. So in comes Lord Peter with his nonsense talk and his charming ways to investigate. He has a good friend who 'just happens' to be an actual detective and who will, in time, facilitate his work through official channels. I must say one thing that surprised me is how Lord Peter can make all the deductions until he finally elucidates the crime, while still being so much devoid of bright comments; but there we have it.

There is a lot of dialogue in this novel and I find that a plus. I am a big fan of dialogue in fiction because I find it a great tool for natural development of the story. However, not everyone will understand a Londoner's words and mannerisms and this could be confusing, even irritating, at times. Sayers is not, and I repeat, is not, your typical mystery writer 'a la Christie'. She was a scholar and a Christian writer at that and likes to bring these ideas into her stories. I think that's why she also decided to show in this book such anti-semitic ideas against the Jews, that not even the now deceased Dowager Duke of Denver (Lord Peter's father), could tolerate them in his castle.

What I did like about the book is what I always try to find in mysteries: the description of the different settings. Fine rare books and mahogany furniture, prime dining and a big estate in the country surround Lord Peter's life. Idealistic? Maybe, but no less charming.

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