Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Whose Body? (1923)

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

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

In 2013, I am going to try to reread all the Lord Peter mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. The first mystery in the series is Whose Body? (My original review.) In this mystery, readers are introduced to Lord Peter Wimsey, an aristocratic gentleman whose hobby is being a detective. The mystery begins with a telephone call from his mother...

The case Peter Wimsey is working on involves an unidentified dead man in a bathtub. WHO IS HE? Where did he come from? Was he murdered there? Or did someone dump his body there? Since no one knows his identity, it's hard to arrive at motives and work out a narrative for the crime. 

The case Wimsey's friend, Inspector Parker, is working on involves a missing person. A well-known Jewish financier has gone missing. There is no body, no evidence of violent crime, but Parker suspects that a crime has been committed.

These two friends are helping each other out, helping piece clues together for both cases. Though neither man is sure that the two are connected cases. It does help having someone to reason things out with.

Favorite quotes:

"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)
"Have you any Scotch blood in you, Parker?" inquired his colleague, bitterly.
"Not that I know of," replied Parker. "Why?"
"Because of all the cautious, ungenerous, deliberate and cold-blooded devils I know," said Lord Peter, "you are the most cautious, ungenerous, deliberate and cold-blooded. Here I am, sweating my brains out to introduce a really sensational incident into your dull and disreputable little police investigation, and you refuse to show a single spark of enthusiasm."
"Well, it's no good jumping at conclusions."
"Jump? You don't even crawl distantly within sight of a conclusion. I believe if you caught the cat with her head in the cream-jug you'd say it was conceivable that the jug was empty when she got there."
"Well, it would be conceivable, wouldn't it?" (51)
 "There's nothing you can't prove if your outlook is only sufficiently limited. Look at Sugg." (69)
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)
Read Whose Body?
  • If you like vintage mysteries, cozy mysteries, or mystery series
  • If you enjoy mysteries set in Britain
  • If you want to spend time with some memorable characters

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Beckie B. said...

My book club gave this one mixed reviews. Not many likes. But after our discussion of Sayre's contribution to modern mystery fiction, we had more appreciation. Thanks for your posts.

SuziQoregon said...

I've never read any of this series but I have this one on my shelf. Hope to get to it soon. I've also started reading the Nero Wolfe series (another vintage mystery series)this past year.

Kailana said...

I really must read Sayers!

ChaosInMyBody said...

Becky, I have never read any of her books, actually I didn't even know about these books; they sound really good though so thanks for opening my eyes to them!
Amy Yingling
The Crafty Book Nerd

Unknown said...

I just finished re-reading this book this morning. Honestly, I enjoyed it, I don't think it is Sayers' best work. Her books steadily improve as she goes along!!