Skip to main content

Review: Unnatural Death, by Dorothy Sayers

Pages: 264

Original date of publication: 1927

My edition: 1995 (Harper)

Why I decided to read: a character in Nightingale Wood was reading “the latest Dorothy Sayers” and that inspired me to pick up this one.

How I acquired my copy: secondhand bookstore, Brooklyn, May 2008

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, ever since I bought it used in a bookstore near where I used to live in Brooklyn. My interest in Sayers’s novels resurfaced a couple of months ago, and since I’m reading her books in order of publication, this one was up on deck next after Clouds of Witness.

One day, Lord Peter and his confederate, Inspector Parker, hear the tale of an elderly woman who died apparently of natural causes—but the young doctor in the case thinks there’s something suspicious in the circumstances under which she died—circumstances in which the old woman’s niece has a lot to gain or loose by her death. When Lord Peter investigates the story, he starts to unravel a tangled web of legal and medical issues, made more interesting by a sort of twist about halfway through the book.

As a character, Lord Peter doesn’t evolve much in favor of the story (beyond a biographical note at the beginning of the story, which didn’t help very much), but there are some great supporting characters, including Miss Climpson, a spinster who becomes Wimsey’s eyes and ears during the investigation—especially important considering that most of the main characters in the case never even have speaking roles, and Miss Cimpson’s letters to Wimsey give the reader a great idea of what’s going on. Miss Climpson is one of the sharpest women out there, and her skills are invaluable in the pursuit and catching of the murderer (yes, it’s murder that happens—it’s just the matter of how and why that need clearing up, and that are so much more important). The legal jargon that Sayers uses was a bit much for me, but in all I thought this was a strong mystery. It’s maybe not as good as some of Sayers’s other books, but I still enjoyed it.


Teresa said…
Oh Miss Climpson! I love Miss Climpson. Seeing her first appearance in Sayers made this book such a pleasure. (I read Strong Poison first, and she features prominently there.)

I agree with you that's it's not top tier Sayers, but even average/below-average Sayers is a pretty good mystery.
Hannah Stoneham said…
I have not read that many sayers (not including this one) and although I like Lord Peter - I have found them slighty variable as mysteries.
whereisrikki said…
I actually like Unnatural Death quite a bit. It's not my favourite Sayers, but the way they make a case out of nothing is pretty impressive.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

2015 Reading

1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…