Book Review: Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers (Four Stars)


Book Review: Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey #3) by Dorothy Sayers

Four Stars

“I’ve seen enough to know that nothing is a certainty.”

Perhaps the best of the series to date. Sayer opens with Winsey guessing there’s been a murder and who done it, and then follows his investigation through many by-ways and dead ends. In the meantime, the body count rises.

“I have no use for men. They always look on women as sort of pets or playthings.”

Almost a century ago, Sayer investigated with insight and sensitivity gender, race and class issues, which we think are the purview of modern advocacy groups. That her conclusions would not please everyone is a given. She uses the term epicene in a relevant way.

“… with the cheerful brutality of the man who has never in his life been short of money.”

A distinguishing feature of the Wimsey stories is Wimsey’s sensitivity to the consequences of his meddling. People, often innocents, are caught in the crossfire between his hobby and the murderers who wish to escape justice. And it bothers him. He goes so far as to discuss it with a cleric, whose gentle counsel doesn’t let Lord Peter off the hook.

“Remember that if we all got justice, you and I wouldn’t escape either.”

The identity of certain cast members is obvious to reader long before Lord Peter because Sayer allows us into the heads of other parties, though not the villain(s).

“There must be something which kills without a trace. It’s a thing one might be wantin’ one’s self any day.”

Charles Parker, Scotland Yard inspector, is a much better partner than Doyle’s Watson.

“You’re over-civilised, that’s you’re trouble. Compared to you, I am a child of nature.”