WHOSE BODY? By Dorothy L. Sayers (1923)

Thanks to a tip from his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, Lord Peter Wimsey learns that a dead man has been found in Mr. Thipps bathtub. Interestingly, the dead man is naked but for a pair of gold pince-nez. Also, he bears some resemblance to Sir Rueben Levy, a financier whose disappearance is being investigated by Lord Peter’s friend, and Scotland Yard investigator, Mr. Parker. When poor Mr. Thipps is arrested Lord Peter and Parker work together to find out who the dead man is and what, if anything, he has to do with the missing Sir Rueben.

This is a story dominated by dialogue, most of it coming from Lord Peter, who has a tendency to drop g’s and use “what?” not in the form of a question. It’s an interesting approach to unraveling a mystery, primarily using the dialogue to reveal information pertinent to the case. But it does make for a quick read. It also allows for the personalities of the characters to come through easily. 

Lord Peter Wimsey is introduced as the model gentleman detective. Like many who have read the Lord Peter mysteries, at first I found the character very irritating. His constant breaking into song, poetry, French, or Latin really got on my nerves, but only of a short time. Very soon I found that what looked like blithering was this Wimsey’s way of deflecting, and of putting others off their guards. If one looks closely, you can see that he possesses layers to his character not commonly seen in fictional detectives. He doesn’t remain detached, but is clearly empathetic towards others, expressing his worry and concerns about the innocent and the guilty. Sayers also reveals that Wimsey became a detective, not just for his amusement, but as a distraction from the horrors he experienced in WWI. We find that he suffers from “shell shock” and even see him during an episode in which he has a flashback. Through these characteristics and experiences he is revealed as more than an aristocratic dilettante playing at detective.

Sayers also introduces several other characters. Poor, nervous Mr. Thipps who becomes the primary suspect, and his elderly, deaf mother. Lord Peter’s mother the Dowager Duchess of Denver, who “was always of the greatest assistance in his hobby of criminal investigation, though she never alluded to it, and maintained a polite fiction of its nonexistence.” And of course, Mervyn Bunter, Lord Peter’s valet. Bunter is very competent at his job, not only as valet, but as assistant in Lord Peter’s investigations. It is also highly amusing to see that Bunter has no hesitation throwing his employer under the bus in order to get information from other servants. 

‘I’m sure it’s a shame, Mr. Bunter,’ said Mrs. Pemming, warmly. ‘Low, I calls it. In my opinion, police-work ain’t no fitting occupation for a gentleman, let alone a lordship.’

‘Everything made so difficult, too,’ Said Mr. Bunter, nobly sacrificing his employer’s character and his own feelings in a good cause…’”

The plot of the mystery is somewhat lacking. The mystery of the unidentified body and the missing man is easily solved, and the culprit can be identified almost at once. There are a few red herrings, but they go nowhere fast. I still found it enjoyable to follow Lord Peter through the investigation though, and overall, found it to be an enjoyable read.

Whose Body? has flaws, but it does succeed in being an engaging read with great characters and loads of charm. Sayers is an author I have not read much of (only The Nine Tailors many years ago), so I look forward to discovering her.

My Judgement – 4.25/5

Prior Rulings – Sergio @ Bloody Murder, Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy

Murder Mystery Bingo – Weapons: Blunt instrument, Crime Scenes: Bathtub, shower, or bathroom

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