Murderous Reviews – Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey #01) – Dorothy L Sayers (1923)
The body of a man, naked but for a gold chain and a pair of pince-nez, is found in the bathtub of Mr and Mrs Thripp. The unimaginative Inspector Sugg immediately leaps to the conclusion that this is the body of a missing financier, and that the murderer had to be one of the Thripp household.
Enter Lord Peter Wimsey, aristocrat and amateur sleuth, in Sayer’s first Wimsey novel.
I am not sure how I would have imagined Lord Peter if I had never seen the Ian Carmichael dramatisations. Carmichael inhabited the Wimsey mantle so thoroughly that I cannot now imagine him as anyone else, but what I was not expecting was that the novel would seem so fresh and contain so much humour after ninety years. Lord Peter wields a dry and voluble wit, and his relationship with Bunter is often amusing, but far more complex than one would have at first supposed.
There are some marvellous characters quite apart from the redoubtable Butler, Bunter, who employs his photographic skills to help in Wimsey’s investigations, no doubt an unusual and expensive pastime in the 1920s. There is also Wimsey’s mother, The Dowager Duchess of Denver, and a supporting cast of fully sketched individuals from various levels of society.
The general consensus seems to be that this is not the best Lord Peter Wimsey novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can’t imagine why I have never read any of these novels before now.