Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Complete Stories"

2007-04-22 · in Books, Lord Peter Wimsey · 159 words

A cheap-and-cheerful collection of all of Sayers' short mysteries -- which includes a lot of Lord Peter Wimsey stories, rather fewer Montague Egg stories (he's a travelling salesman who -- no great surprise -- solves mysteries), and a handful of standalone mysteries. The only thing it's missing is "The Wimsey Papers", which aren't really stories as such.

This collection really makes Sayers' skill at inventing mysteries obvious -- nearly all of the Wimsey stories could have been worked up to book length. (Indeed, one was; "The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face" is clearly an earlier version of "Have His Carcase", albeit with a different resolution.) Many of the stories here are rather more light-hearted than the usual Wimsey fare, though, which may not be entirely to the reader's taste.

Recommended for those who've enjoyed Sayers' full-length mysteries and are looking for a collection of ten-minutes diversions along the same lines.

Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy L. Sayers, "A Presumption of Death"

2007-04-06 · in Books, Lord Peter Wimsey · 215 words

The second Jill Paton Walsh-completed Lord Peter Wimsey book. In this case Walsh has had rather more of a hand in the plotting than she did in "Thrones, Dominations": this is based on "The Wimsey Papers", a collection of letters between characters in the Wimsey stories that Sayers wrote for "The Spectator" during the Second World War. (They aren't in the collection of Sayers short stories I've got, but you can find them online fairly easily.)

Since the letters weren't originally intended as a novel, the rest of this -- including the all-important murder mystery -- has been fabricated entirely by Walsh. It's very much a Harriet book rather than a Peter one, and there's a lot more background and character development than actual mystery-solving; I feel this is for the best, since the original Sayers material consists entirely of background! The overall effect is pleasing; it kept me interested all the way through, and I completely failed to predict the ending -- as usual.

The one detail that bugged me was the throwaway reference to Bletchley Park; it's perfectly accurate, but there's no way that Sayers could have written it at the time!

Recommended. I wish Walsh would write more, but that seems a bit unlikely now...

Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh, "Thrones, Dominations"

2007-03-30 · in Books, Lord Peter Wimsey · 217 words

I read all the Lord Peter Wimsey books in my early teens -- I have fond memories of borrowing Sevenoaks library's large-print editions, because the others were usually on loan, and reading them at arm's length. More recently I'd listened to some of the BBC radio adaptations of the books (which are mostly very good indeed), and I was surprised to discover that two more books had been written by Jill Paton Walsh in the late 90s.

This one's based on an outline and some fragments of a book that Sayers was planning to write but abandoned; it's set in 1936, some years after the last instalment of the story, and the authors therefore spend several chapters setting the scene before anybody dies. The mystery itself is standard Sayers fare, with an unusually dramatic (but reasonable) ending.

The obvious question here is how Walsh fares when writing a Sayers book. Well, I can't find anything to complain about; she nails Sayers' style very effectively, and develops the characters in an interesting and believable way. I'm now curious to read more of Walsh's work to see what her writing's like when she's not trying to imitate someone else; if it's half as good as this I'll be happy. Recommended.