Monday, 15 October 2007

The Nine Tailors - Dorothy Sayers

I suspect one of the reasons Dorothy Sayers' books have not quite stood the test of time in the same way Agatha Christie's have is because the subject matter is sometimes totally archaic and obscure. The Nine Tailors in the title of this book is the name of a church bell, not a reference to clothes makers.

Lord Peter Wimsey has a car accident outside a village, arriving just in time to assist with a 9 hour church bell ringing marathon. He just happens to be an expert in ringing the specific bell whose normal ringer has been laid up with the flu. It's not long before an unknown body is found buried in one of the church graves (belonging to someone else). Identifying this unknown body and trying to work out how he died and who buried him is the challenge this time for Lord Peter.

There is a clever twist at the end but I spent most of the book bewildered by all the references to bell names and rings. Historically interesting and a clever puzzle but too obscure a setting for most 21st century readers.


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Anonymous said...

Hello, I just finished an audio presentation of this book (Nine Tailors) and I'm confused about the ending. I know the bells killed Deacon, but who was feeding him before he died? There was cheese by his body when Jim Thoday found him and Will Thoday hadn't left him any food when he left him there days earlier. I think the audio book must have left something out. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Anything written in the first half of the twentieth century - or in any other period in history for that matter - must be read in the context of the time. If you find Christie more approachable, that may be because she continued to write mysteries into the early 70s, while Sayers essentially abandoned the form after 1939. On the other hand, your opinion echoes that of Edmund Wilson, who found the campanology of The Nine Tailors boring, and Lord Peter himself unbelievable.

Comparing Sayers to Christie is rather like comparing a veal sandwich to a hamburger - though both are meat between two pieces of bread, they appeal to different tastes. I may like hamburger, but I also like a piece of veal now and then.