Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Whose Body?

Whose Body? Dorothy L. Sayers. 1923/1995. HarperCollins. 224 pages. 

"Oh damn!" said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus.

Whose Body? is Sayers first mystery novel. It stars Lord Peter Wimsey, a man who enjoys doing detective work as a hobby. In Whose Body? Wimsey becomes fascinated by a curious case. His mother phones him to say that a dead body has been found in Mr. Thipp's bathroom. Though he had plans for the day, he reasons that it's not every day you get to go see a crime scene like this one. The dead man is naked in a bath tub, naked except for a pince-nez. He is able to examine the crime scene thoroughly before Inspector Sugg--the 'official' investigator arrives. Wimsey does NOT get along with Sugg! However, he is quite good friends with Inspector Parker, who has quite an interesting case of his own.

These two friends exchange details about their cases and decide to help one another out as needed. Parker is happy to 'help' Wimsey piece together the details of his case. (Why did the dead body have such horrible teeth--and toenails? He has well manicured hands. He's well scented. He's clean-shaven.) And Wimsey is happy to 'help' Parker with his case. (Parker has no body, no "proof" that a murder has been committed. But this important (Jewish) financier has gone missing.)

Can both crimes be solved? Are they in any way connected?

I loved Whose Body. I just LOVED it. I think Lord Peter Wimsey is such a great narrator! The writing style is 'just right' for me. It matches my taste exactly. It's funny--witty--and charming. Wimsey has quirks and flaws--which are necessary in my opinion. But he's also very intelligent, very clever.

Some of my favorite lines:

"Sugg's a beautiful, braying ass," said Lord Peter. "He's like a detective in a novel." (18)

"I love trifling circumstances," said Lord Peter. "so many men have been hanged by trifling circumstances." (20)

"Parker, acushla, you're an honour to Scotland Yard. I look at you, and Sugg appears a myth, a fable, an idiot-boy, spawned in a moonlight hour by some fantastic poet's brain. Sugg is too perfect to be possible." (23)

"Look here, Wimsey--you've been reading detective stories; you're talking nonsense." (29)

Assigning a motive for the murder of a person without relations or antecedents or even clothes is like trying to visualize the fourth dimension--admirable exercise for the imagination, but arduous and inconclusive. (82)

"One demands a little originality in these days, even from murderers," said Lady Swaffham. "Like dramatists, you know--so much easier in Shakespeare's time, wasn't it? Always the same girl dressed up as a man, and even that borrowed from Boccaccio or Dante or somebody. I'm sure if I'd been a Shakespeare hero, the very minute I saw a slim-legged young page-boy I'd have said: "Odsbodikins! There's that girl again!" (123)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Bev Hankins 6:23 PM  

Becky, I'm so glad you liked your first outing with Lord Peter. He's my literary crush...he could talk piffle to me all day.

This is your first installment for the Vintage Mystery Challenge, isn't it? May I go ahead and like up your review?

Becky 6:58 PM  

Yes, it is my first for the Vintage Mystery Challenge! And yes, you can link to it!

chrisa511 11:12 PM  

Oh yay!!!! I'm so glad that you loved it :D :D I totally want to read this whole series. I have the next one on my shelf, but of course with all of the OTHER books at my house, have not gotten to it yet :/

Alex 8:03 AM  

Your post has made me want to go back and reread my favorite detecting character. You can really get the flavor of the times in a Dorothy Sayers mystery and Peter is just the best. Have you read any with Harriet Vane, those are my absolute favorites - be sure to see the PBS shows with Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walters.

Birdie 11:24 AM  

Oh, I love Whose Body?. I think that and The Nine Tailors are my favorite Lord Peter Mysteries. I also will readily confess to a crush on Lord Peter. He's so intelligent and humorous, even though "his face looked as if it had generated spontaneously from his top hat, as white maggots breed from Gorgonzola"

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