|About the Book|
The very first Lord Peter Wimsey novel, and thus the genesis of one of the most engaging characters Ive ever encountered, literary or otherwise. Actually, make that at least two (since Bunter is equally astounding), and maybe three (because the Dowagers quite engaging, too). In rereading this, I found myself surprised at how solid the characters are at the very beginning of the series- they are essentially the same fully-realized people they are ten books later, though we only see certain facets of them here. More dimension follows later.There is so much that I love about this book, including the very first page- its first two words, and indeed the first two words Wimsey ever utters to us, are Oh, damn! Just a few lines down is the sentence that encapsulates so much about Sayerss writing, the perfect litmus test for the Lord Peter series: His long, amiable face looked as if it had generated spontaneously from his top hat, as white maggots breed from Gorgonzola. Either you find that quirkily poetic and want to read more, or you should be reading something else entirely.(Curiously, this is only the first of no fewer than three completely random and incidental mentions in this volume of that particular cheese. I have to assume that Sayers was a fan.)The actual mystery is brilliant: a man goes into his bathroom one morning to find a naked corpse in the tub, wearing nothing but a pair of golden pince-nez. He has no idea who the man might be or how he came to be dead in his tub. Meanwhile, a financial bigwigs gone missing, and while he bears a superficial likeness to the corpse found across town, they are clearly not one and the same.But as satisfying as the cases are, more satisfying by far is the chance to meet Lord Peter as he babbles foolishly in the way only the very rich can get away with, picking apart the mysteries while quoting poetry in between snifters of Napoleon brandy and bidding on early editions of Dante. And early-20s England is painted beautifully—which is not entirely surprising, given that the book was written in, erm, early-20s England. Quite.There are some rough edges, to be sure (the odd temporary shifts into second person perspective leap to mind), but they are ultimately very forgivable in a first novel and almost seem charming in light of the later works.If youd like to give it a whirl before expending any energy to get an actual copy of the book, the novel is now public domain, and appears in its entirety here: [http://digital.library.upenn.edu/wome...]. And the preface is quite good, too.