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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 29 November 2020

"The Nine Tailors" by Dorothy L Sayers

Widely regarded as the best of the Lord Peter Wimsey books. On New Year's Eve, Lord Peter and his man, Bunter, are stranded in the middle of the fens when their car goes off the road; they find shelter in the vicarage. We discover that one of Lord Peter's many talents is that he is a bell ringer and can stand in at the last moment for a ringer down with influenza on the night when a nine hour peal is to be rung. Sometime later a body is discovered (in someone else's grave) but for most of this book murder takes a back seat to the campanology (the art of bell-ringing) which informs almost every aspect of this book (including a fiendishly difficult cipher):
  • The art of change ringing is peculiar to the English, and, like most English peculiarities, unintelligible to the rest of the world.” (1.1)
  • By the English campanologist, the playing of tunes is considered to be a childish game, only fit for foreigners; the proper use of bells is to work out mathematical permutations and combinations.” (1.1)
Towards the end, even the bells take second place as the fens are flooded (again with minute detail about sluice gates and cuts. Nevertheless, Lord Peter satisfactorily solves not only the crime to hand but also one committed many years ago.

The Nine Tailors refers to the nine strokes of the bell that tolls (or tells ie counts, hence tailor) for the passing of a man (six for a woman, traditionally) to be followed by one toll for every year of his life.

I enjoyed it especially because one of my friends at university was Mike Wilderspin, descended from an early motor mechanic who was celebrated by DLS as Ezra Wilderspin, "the blacksmith – an excellent fellow.” (1.1) Mike was an excellent fellow too.

Some great moments:
  • The narrow, hump-backed bridge, blind as an eye-less beggar, spanned the dark drain at right-angles, dropping plumb down upon the narrow road that crested the dyke.” (1.1)
  • He spat upon his hands, grasped the sallie of Tailor Paul, and gently swung the great bell over the balance. Toll-toll-toll; and a pause; toll-toll-toll; and a pause; toll-toll-toll; the nine tailors, or teller-strokes, that mark the passing of a man. The year is dead; toll him out with twelve strokes more, one for every passing month.” (1.2)
  • When I was a lad, there wasn’t none of this myster’ousness about. Everything was straightforward an’ proper. But ever since eddication come in, it’s been nothing but puzzlement, and fillin’ up forms and ’ospital papers and sustificates and such, before you can get even as much as your Lord George pension.” (2.2)
  • Five minutes’ practice before the glass every day, and you will soon acquire that vacant look so desirable for all rogues, detectives and Government officials.” (2.3)
  • Bells are like cats and mirrors – they’re always queer, and it doesn’t do to think too much about them.” (3.2)

A detective story that becomes just a little bit more ... although most of the references to bells might as well have been written in Sanskrit.

November 2020

This review was written
by the author of Motherdarling

I have set myself the task of reading all the Lord Peter Wimsey novels (mostly again) in order. The ones I have read and reviewed in this blog so far include:
  • Whose Body in which my Lord and his manservant, Bunter, are introduced
  • Clouds of Witness in which Lord Peter must sleuth to get his brother Gerald, Duke of Denver, off a murder charge; Bunter assists; policeman Parker falls in love with Peter's sister Mary
  • Unnatural Death which introduces another Wimsey sidekick: Miss Climpson; Bunter is involved
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club; Bunter is involved as is Miss Climpson
  • Strong Poison which introduces Harriet Vane, a detective writer who becomes Lord Peter's love interest; Bunter realises Lord Peter's affection first
  • The Five Red Herrings; Lord Peter in Scotland; Bunter in the background
  • Have His Carcase: Harriet and Peter investigate the death of a gigolo with dreams; Bunter has a small supporting role
  • Murder Must Advertise: Peter goes undercover at an advertising agency; Bunter plays a very small role; policeman Parker has married Mary and they have sons

There are also Wimsey books written since the death of DLS by Jill Paton Walsh. These include:
  • The Attenbury Emeralds in which Lord Peter, in 1951, recalls the circumstances of his first case, the Attenbury Emeralds, which have gone missing again.
  • The Late Scholar: in which Wimsey returns to Oxford

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