Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Review: The Nine Tailors

The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers, is a murder mystery, so you might be surprised to find it reviewed here.  But I am an irrepressible fan of mysteries, and this one belongs here more than most.

I love just about all of Dorothy Sayers' novels about Lord Peter Wimsey- an English gentleman "between the wars" (that is, the two World Wars) who almost accidentally takes up crime solving and finds himself surprisingly good at it.  A sharp brain behind a (carefully created and cultivated) silly exterior, with a dose of shell shock from his service in the Great War, Lord Peter is a detective as precise as Agatha Christie's Poirot (and as underestimated, for the same reasons) but with a sense of humor.  His valet, Bunter, is also a central character in this book, and if Wodehouse's infamous gentleman's gentleman Jeeves has any true counterpart in fiction, it's Bunter.

This book in particular is set in a country town, and much of the book (and the mystery) is centered around the village church.  We particularly learn a lot about the Anglican traditions of bell-ringing.  (Those of you who are not liturgy nerds can skim most of those bits, but I loved it.)  The village rector (pastor) is the very image of a busy clergyman- in fact, so few clergy are depicted in fiction as being competent, or at least not-evil, that this character got me through quite a few tough moments in seminary.  And I guarantee that you've never read or heard of a mystery that shares the answer to this one!

Sadly this book does not involve Harriet Vane, Lord Peter's practical-but-brilliant eventual love interest, or his always-hilarious mother the Dowager Duchess.  But the teenage orphan at the center of the story, Hilary Thorpe, is likable and believable as a grieving, intelligent teen looking for independence and answers.

For anyone who likes Agatha Christie, or any of what the English refer to "cosy cottage" mysteries, this book is sure to please.  Certainly an old favorite of mine.

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