Archive for November, 2012

The Nine Tailors (1934) – Dorothy L. Sayers

Posted in Classic Mystery Reviews, Dorothy L. Sayers, Golden Age Mysteries, History of Mystery, Mysteries with tags , , , , on November 8, 2012 by cshmurak

I’d like to welcome Donna Fletcher Crow, one of my fellow authors from the brand new e-book 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror, 52 Authors Look Back.  Donna is stopping by as part of the 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror Blog Tour. And I’m guest blogging on Donna’s blog too; we are both talking about Dorothy L. Sayers today. As soon as you finish here, you can read my essay, “Lord Peter and Me,” about how the Lord Peter Wimsey series has influenced my writing, on “Deeds of Darkness; Deeds of Light”:http://ning.it/RXT0wV

 Now on to Donna’s review of The Nine Tailors!

In The Nine Tailors, which many of Dorothy L Sayers’ fans consider to be her best book,  the murder and subsequent detecting are intricate. The setting— a small village in the fen country of East Anglia— is atmospheric and developed almost as a character in the story; the information about bell-ringing is fascinating; the characters are developed as living, breathing people and Lord Peter himself is at the top of his literate form.

All very true, but one of my favorite things about the book is what it says about the English spirit. I recently read a fun post on Facebook— A notice posted in war-torn Britain in 1940 for golfers with stiff upper lips. The historical background is that German aircraft from Norway would fly on missions to northern England; because of the icy weather conditions, the barrels of their guns had a small dab of wax to protect them. As they crossed the coast, they would clear their guns by firing a few rounds at the golf courses.

Rules stated that during competitions, during gunfire or while bombs were falling, players could take cover without penalty for ceasing play. The positions of known delayed action bombs were marked by red flags at a reasonably, but not guaranteed, safe distance. A ball moved by enemy action could be replaced, or if destroyed, could be dropped not nearer the hole without penalty. A player whose stroke was affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb could play another ball from the same place— penalty one stroke.

The person who posted this concluded: “This is purely wonderful— and says more than anything else I have ever seen about why Hitler lost the Battle of Britain.” And that echoes what I have always said about The Nine Tailors, (written in 1934)— that if Hitler had read that novel he would have known better than to try to break the British spirit with the Blitz.

When the dikes break after torrential rains the village of Fenchurch St. Paul is flooded. Do the villagers panic? No, not in the least. The church, the center of village life, is built on high ground. The villagers calmly and quietly work together. Everyone in the community pitches in rounding up children, cattle, and cookpots and taking them to the church. They set up a schoolroom, arrange space for cooking and sleeping and care for their livestock. In other words, life goes on. And Lord Peter maintains his sense of humor.

I have found this to be so true of the British spirit. I have been there during strikes, shootings and terrorist attacks. Family members would ring from America and ask in worried voice, “Are you all right?” And many times I wouldn’t even know anything was going on. Just as in Fenchurch St. Paul, no one panicked, everyone worked together to do what needed to be done and life went on.

That is just one example of the many things I love about the writing of Dorothy L. Sayers and why, when I began my Elizabeth & Richard romantic suspense series which features a literary figure in the background of each book, the first literary figure I chose was Lord Peter Wimsey.

In The Shadow of Reality, literature professors Elizabeth and Richard attend a mystery week in the Rocky Mountains, fictionally set as an English weekend. The host of the weekend is playing his role modeled on that perfect English gentleman sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. And Elizabeth is captivated:The setting was all her fantasies come true:  an elegant English manor house in the 1930’s. The man was even more than she had dreamed:  Sir Gavin Kendall— sophisticated, brilliant, rich and captivated by her.  Until murder intervened. Will Elizabeth’s lifelong dreams become reality or will she fall prey to the vicious murderer lurking in the shadows at an exotic mystery week high in the Rockies? Will Elizabeth discover the narrow line between fantasy and reality in time to achieve her dreams? http://ning.it/OY5DXp

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.  She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave  and A Darkly Hidden Truth, as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener. To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/ You can follow her on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY