Monday, March 30, 2020

Lord Peter Wimsey: Shorts

Lord Peter Views the Body / Dorothy L. Sayers
NY: Harper Collins, c1993, c1928
336 p.

Short stories in a mystery series are always iffy. I found that Lord Peter Views the Body (considered #4 in the series but really a standalone) was a fun collection of 10 short stories and two novellas. 

The very first story, The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers, started us off with a bang. A sculptor in America is trying to take revenge in a horrific way; Lord Peter prevents the second part of his terrible revenge from occurring. Using science and gothic tropes both, this story is fascinatingly macabre. I am sure I read it somewhere else, probably in an anthology at some time. A classic! The last story, really a novella, is also strong. The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba features a vast gang of criminals with a mask wearing Master Criminal leading them all. Lord Peter infiltrates the gang, nearly finding it fatal. Again, a startling use of technology for 1928! A complex and fun story, although I can't quite place where it might sit in Lord Peter's timeline. 

The remainder of the stories in this collection vary. One or two are overly complicated (like the crossword puzzle, argh -- skipped through it) and others are entertaining. It's a pretty good collection, and shows other sides of Lord Peter and Bunter. I still prefer longer form from Sayers though. 

Hangman's Holiday / Dorothy L. Sayers
NY: Harper Collins, 1993, c1933
191 p.

Now on to the second title, Hangman's Holiday -- considered #11 in the series but again definitely a standalone. Only the first four stories feature Lord Peter. Of those, two feel like they could have anyone as a lead, although they are quite interesting, they don't necessitate Peter's particular character. The other two really highlight the high society, clever puzzles that Peter is excellent at, and were really fun.

The remaining 8 stories introduce Montague Egg, a travelling salesman and observant crime solver - I hesitate to consider him a sleuth, as he is just an amateur who happens to see things and put them together in the course of his job. He is like a type of Poirot in a way. I found his stories amusing and clever. While they are all quite different, they are the type of story you might expect from Sayers. From blackmail to poisoning to murder in the night, it's all there. 

These two collections are fortunate additions to Sayers' series (and a good intro to another character, Monty Egg). I found them both light, clever and enjoyable, which I didn't expect. Sometimes short stories work after all!


  1. Seeing this reminded me that I've not read a single book or story by Sayers. Considering her long popularity and how long I've been aware of her books, that makes me wonder how this could have happened. I'll have to fix that...with a different book of hers.

    1. Definitely try one! They are a little uneven but I've really enjoyed reading the whole series anyhow. I love Murder Must Advertise and the Strong Poison/Have His Carcase/Gaudy Night set most.


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