A novel about a man who falls in love with a woman who is on trial for the murder of her lover is not my usual reading fare. But because famed English novelist Dorothy Sayers wrote it, I took a deep breath and reserved my judgment until I’d finished the book.
Wealthy Lord Peter Wimsey, amateur detective, was introduced in Sayer’s 1923 novel, Whose Body? Strong Poison came four novels later and in it Sayers interjected a love interest for Wimsey in the form of Harriet Vane. (Miss Vane, however, is no easy catch, and puts off matrimony until novel number ten.)
There are a lot of characters to love in this book. Wimsey is charming, funny and kind. His valet, Bunter, is every bit as clever and endearing as Wodehouse’s Jeeves. Miss Climpson and Miss Murchison are part of Wimsey’s “Cattery”, a group of unsuspicious looking spinsters whom he hires to do sleuthing for him. They are darling in their determination to help Lord Peter prove Harriet’s innocence.
My final verdict: The book is well-written, the characters are engaging, the mystery is intriguing, and the dialogue is terrific.
Here is a sample from page 97: At half-past four on the day which ended so cheerfully for Lord Peter, [Bunter] was seated in the kitchen of Mr. Urquhart’s house, toasting crumpets . . . . It was natural that the conversation should turn to the subject of murder. Nothing goes so well with a hot fire and buttered crumpets as a wet day without and a good dose of comfortable horrors within. The heavier the lashing of the rain and the ghastlier the details, the better the flavor seems to be. On the present occasion, all the ingredients of an enjoyable party were present in full force.