Whose Body? (Lord Whimsy Series) – Dorothy L. Sayers

the Folio Society Edition - If you can't afford it, you can still stare at it and feel happy
The Folio Society Edition (A thing of beauty and so on and so forth) – If like me, you can’t afford it, you can still stare at it and feel happy

According to the Goodreads blurb

The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

The story is about an unidentified, naked, murdered body of a middle-aged man found in the bathtub of Mr. Thipps, who is the architect working on the church roof in Lord Whimsy’s mother’s village. Rather a long and convulated way of explaining how a peer of the realm gets asked to help in the case of a lowly commoner. One would think Identifying an unknown man in London even at that time must not have been easy, however there is a certain rich Jew who is missing (conveniently) from his home at the same time; as reported by Mr. Parker of Scotland Yard to Lord Whimsy; which helps the investigation along swimmingly. I mean, after all it was a relatively happier time when people weren’t disappearing and getting murdered with quite the regularity with which it happens nowadays, so it certainly makes perfect sense.  Inspector Sugg of Scotland Yard is Lord Whimsy’s nemesis, oddly reminiscent of Inspector Lestrade and Sherlock Holmes. There is also, Mr. Parker who maybe said to be Lord Whimsy’s Watson. Bunter, is Lord Whimsy’s Butler and personal – forensic helper in his quest for justice and is also an avid photographer, which helps while taking photographs of all the crime scenes.

Lord Peter Whimsy is a second born son of an aristocratic family, who went to war and came back not very happy. In the words of his Uncle after failing in his first serious love affair he ‘adopted an impenetrable frivolity of manner and a dilettante pose, and became, in fact, the complete comedian’. I love that language by the way. I understand the author’s genius for sure, if only Lord Whimsy could have been more lovable. His uncle describes him pretty well I think, explaining away his idiosyncrasies in a plausible and very believable fashion. Its only when you start reading that the things that that seemed so easily explained actually begin to grate on your nerves and make you wish to shake Lord Whimsy right out of his shoes. He collects old books and solves crimes as a hobby or rather ‘more than a hobby’. His older brother the duke is suitably embarrassed by his younger brother’s dabbling with common criminals and his mother the Dowager duchess is not.

The premise of the story was interesting and extremely clever, though for avid crime readers the story doesn’t really hold that much of a mystery.

Dorothy L. Sayers is an extremely famous crime fiction writer of her time (1893- 1957). She is pretty respected in the ‘period mystery’ genre and I have found most people are huge fans of her works. I however, took an instant aversion to Lord Peter Whimsy. For starters, I wonder if all the books carry the ‘Biographical’ bit by Lord Peter’s maternal Uncle, explaining everything about his history to the readers and moving beyond the the current story in order to do it. In a way, I can understand how it helps to ease in a new reader to Lord Whimsy’s world, but it seemed to eat up so many pages and tell us beforehand what some of the subsequent books will bring!

I think Lord Whimsy and friends would best be enjoyed when one is around 16-17 years old and then one would probably love them for the rest of one’s life. The 30’s were too late to be less judgmental and more easily accepting of life. I have tried really hard to write a proper review but its just such a chore.


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