Dorothy Sayers, an English author, is best known for her amateur sleuth, Sir Peter Wimsey and between the two of them reinforce the tropes of the British detective novel. Although a scholar of classic and modern languages, Sayers worked for a living. Her first novel, Murder Must Advertise, had references to her time at an advertising agency where she helped create the promotional campaign for Guinness featuring zoo animals, most prominently the toucan.
This very modern job is in contrast to many of the allusions to Old Britain, its class system and the nature of relationships that are at the core of the Wimsey books. Wimsey is of course an aristocrat, lives as a gentleman, in other words doesn’t have much to do, is looked after by a ‘batman,’ basically a personal servant who assists in crime solving in addition to drawing Wimsey’s bath.
Sayers’ mysteries are intricately plotted with suspects’ actions timed to the minute, train schedules sometimes figuring in—a very British thing—and a lot of Wimsey’s patter to boot. The Nine Tailors was a revelation to me with a vivid description of the Fens in England, the sharp class distinctions and a devious solution. I’ve read it twice and can’t remember who done it and why, but there is a strange ceremony of bell ringing that figures into it. If it weren’t for Sayers, I would not know about Morris dancers, chimney pots, Maundy Thursday and many other quaint terms.
For more of Dorothy Sayers’ work click here to link to her books
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