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review 2019-03-22 14:54
The Five Red Herrings / Dorothy L. Sayers
Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers

The body was on the pointed rocks alongside the stream. The artist might have fallen from the cliff where he was painting, but there are too many suspicious elements - particularly the medical evidence that proves he'd been dead nearly half a day, though eyewitnesses had seen him alive a scant hour earlier. And then there are the six prime suspects - all of them artists, all of whom wished him dead. Five are red herrings, but one has created a masterpiece of murder that baffles everyone, including Lord Peter Wimsey.

 

Give this volume about 3.5 stars, I think. For me, it has been the least enjoyable installment of Lord Peter Wimsey. And still, it had its great moments. Dorothy Sayers is the only author that I have read who had produced Scots dialog on the page that hasn’t annoyed me to death! I found it was effective and even a bit humorous from time to time.

Where this book fell down for me was the intricacy of the clues. I know that Sayers prided herself on not “cheating,” giving the reader all the clues that they needed to solve the mystery right along with Wimsey (see Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul by Barbara Reynolds). However, I would have needed to make myself a detailed flow chart if I was going to solve this mystery! So I just drifted with the flow of her writing and enjoyed other details along the way.

The last few pages, including the re-enactment of the crime, were absolutely the best part of the book. I don’t usually laugh out loud when I’m reading, but I know for a fact that I produced several outbursts as I enjoyed this production! Well worth enduring all the train time tables!

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text 2019-03-22 10:00
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review 2019-03-19 15:12
Finally an audio version that does justice to this particular book.
Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers,Mark Meadows

I don't know if this January 2019 release signals a new series of audios of all of Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, but if it does, please God let them all be narrated by Mark Meadows.  Although my overall favorites still remain the Ian Carmichael audios (not the BBC full cast dramatizations, but those where Carmichael actually narrates the unabridged novels themselves), there doesn't seem to be a full set of those available any longer, and the alternatives produced in the interim are of -- putting it gently -- extremely varied quality.** 

 

This is particularly true for the first Wimsey book, Whose Body?, where those looking for an audio version so far have had the choice between two ridiculously over the top, trying-too-hard (and thus failing) British versions -- one male, one female -- and an American version failing even worse, for incongruously incorporating what the narrator obviously thinks Wimsey's nasal upper crust voice would have sounded like into an otherwise unabashedly American accent. 

 

Imagine my delight, therefore, in listening to this Mark Meadows recording and finding that Meadows quite literally hits all the right notes; chiefly with Wimsey's own voice, but actually with those of all the characters and, notably, also with Sayers's own narrative voice ... and with extra brownie points for also getting the occasional French and German bits right, with only a slight English accent to boot.  So even if this recording doesn't usher in a full series of new Lord Peter Wimsey recordings -- although I hope it may -- it's definitely the one I'd recommend as the one to turn to for those audio- rather than print-edition minded.  Who knows, you may even end up finding you like the usually shrugged-on Whose Body? better -- or at any rate not any worse -- than some of the later Wimsey novels.  (Five Red Herrings and Unnatural Death do come to mind in that department ...)

___________________________________

 

** The one notable older, "non-Carmichael" audio I have yet to listen to is Patrick Malahide's recording of Five Red Herrings.  Even with, as BT reports, his Scots accent somewhat regionally "off", I can't imagine it to be anywhere near as awful as the so far exstant versions of Whose Body?, however.

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review 2019-03-18 12:39
This is more like it.
The Gazebo - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop

(More than The Alington Inheritance, that is.) -- Still a bit too much of a whiny heroine, but at least we're firmly back in true and trusted Maudie territory.  And it has to be said, while the victim is no Mrs. Boynton (cf. Agatha Christie, Appointment With Death), by the time she finally meets her end few would argue that the world is not a better place without her in it.

 

There are some shades of Grey Mask here (broken off engagement sends the hero to "forn parts", where he roams the wilderness for a few years until he starts missing the old country and returns, only to be plunged straight into his former / still beloved's latest messy circumstances: if there's one trope Wentworth can be said to be overusing, it's probably this one; e.g., it's also the premise of Miss Silver Comes to Stay, and with a twist, of The Traveller Returns / aka She Came Back, and a key character's surprise return also features importantly in The Watersplash, albeit minus broken off engagement) -- and although this is emphatically not an inverted mystery, both the whodunnit and the core "why" is pretty obvious from the get-go.  (Or I've just read too many stories of that type.  But Wentworth really isn't exactly subtle about this particular bit.)  Despite a valiant attempt on Wentworth's part at creating a plausible back story for the "who" and "why", the motive still feels a bit contrived ... or let's say, it's the kind of thing that pretty much only Arthur Conan Doyle could get away with (or the creators of mysteries for young readers, where it's a particular favorite).  But at least Wentworth's attempt here is not any worse than those of other authors using this particular trope.

 

Most of all, though, Wentworth's fine eye for character(s) and human interactions shines once again -- in the portrayal of abusive relationships (there are several here) as well as the creation of the comic relief, in this instance, three gossipping old-maidish sisters -- who in another book might easily have had a different role (and indeed the local gossip is portrayed extremely negatively in The Alington Inheritance) but here it's clear that they are essentially harmless and, indeed, ultimately even helpful to the investigation.  And of course, watching Maudie and her most devoted fan (Frank Abbott) is always a joy.

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review 2019-03-16 14:00
If you thought Wentworth couldn't go any lower than "Grey Mask" ...
The Alington Inheritance (A Miss Silver Mystery) - Patricia Wentworth
The Alington Inheritance - Patricia Wentworth,Diana Bishop

... don't go anywhere near this one.

 

Whiny, immature, TSTL special snowflake heroine.  Insta-love.  Completely implausible, "fortuitous" (*major headdesk moment*) first encounter between hero and heroine.  Weak plotline that is further weakened by an "inverse mystery" structure -- it certainly does NOT help that we know whodunnit from the get-go.

 

One star for Maudie being Maudie.  Half a star for de-facto street urchin Dicke's occasional comic relief.

 

So much for the much-needed comfort reading I was hoping for ...

 

Next!!

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