While ringing in the New Year, Lord Peter stumbles into an ominous country mystery...
Lord Peter Wimsey and his manservant Bunter are halfway across the wild flatlands of East Anglia when they make a wrong turn, straight into a ditch. They scramble over the rough country to the nearest church, where they find hospitality, dinner, and an invitation to go bell-ringing. This ancient art is steeped in mathematical complexities, and tonight the rector and his friends plan to embark on a nine-hour marathon session to welcome the New Year. Lord Peter joins them, taking a step into a society whose cheerful exterior hides a dark, deadly past.
During their stay in this unfamiliar countryside, Lord Peter and Bunter encounter murder, a mutilated corpse, and a decades-old jewel theft for which locals continue to die. In this land where bells toll for the dead, the ancient chimes never seem to stop. (from Goodreads)
After the OMG! intense feelings I had for Have His Carcase, I decided to wait on reading Gaudy Night for a bit– to save it for a special occasion, kinda. Instead, I went on to The Nine Tailors, the 11th book in the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series. Turns out that was a perfect thing to do because, chronologically, The Nine Tailors takes place between Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night.
Anyway, Dorothy L. Sayers sometimes latches onto a specific thing and makes it the focus of the mystery. For instance, advertising is a big thing in Murder Must Advertise. DLS used to work in advertising and used her experiences as basis for a lot of things in the book; presumably she did the same sort of thing in The Nine Tailors. The focus is not, as you might thing, people who put together suits or anything. Instead, it’s all bells. Church bells! Bells like these ones:
I know nothing about bells and I don’t particularly want to know anything about them, so I skimmed over a lot of the discussion about how the bell-songs are created and why they’re special or whatever. I don’t think it was actually relevant to the mystery, so I didn’t feel about skimming. The only real part I was mad about not understanding is in the epigraphs, as DLS puts a lot of hints re:the upcoming chapter in them, and I wasn’t able to play along as much as I usually like to.
The mystery! Was actually really, really good. For some reason I wasn’t expecting it to be, but it’s wonderful. There’s mistaken identities, runaway suspects, cryptograms and stolen jewels! It’s great! The way it unfolds towards the solution is great, too, as there’s enough unknown things to keep one guessing excitedly BUT not in an annoying way like in Have His Carcase where it seemed like it was needlessly complicated, just to up the page count or something.
I also very much liked the secondary characters, especially Hilary who reminds me a little of Harriet in that she’s headstrong and wants to be a writer (although she’s pretty stupid for not wanting a fortune as she thinks it’ll make her a better writer). The Rector and his wife are also great characters: bumbling and friendly and generally the sort of people you’d like to meet during a country murder mystery as there’s no way they’d try to kill you.
On the whole, despite the overabundance of bells, I very much enjoyed The Nine Tailors. It’s got all the good stuff of Dorothy L. Sayers’ writing with very little of the bad. I definitely recommend reading it!
Read: December 25-28, 2013
Do you like the sound of change ringing? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard it properly done before– there’s a church in Orange that chimes on the hour, but I have no idea if it’s somebody actually pulling it or what. I’ve definitely never heard anything like what’s described in the book: 9+ hours of ringing! What about you?