Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy Sayers

I found this book in Mac’s Backs when I was up in Cleveland for New Year’s, and since I’ve never seen any other Sayers novels there (and because I still have some store credit there), I snapped it up right quick! It even took precedence over my library book for in-flight reading material, because I liked Gaudy Night so much I wanted my Sayers fix pronto!

This was, for the most part, a very good idea, especially the plane part, because I might not have been able to focus on this book were it not for lack of anything else to do. The story is interesting, don’t get me wrong, but Sayers buries the whole thing in so much train timetable nonsense and sometimes indecipherable Scottish dialect that more than once I found myself a bit confused by something but too overwhelmed to go back and figure it out. So I may be missing any subtler parts of this mystery.

But basically, you’ve got a dude. A belligerent dude, who is not terribly well liked by most of his friends. And so then he dies, seemingly accidentally, and that’s all well and good until one Lord Peter Wimsey is like, “Oh, ho, but this one piece of evidence that would totally make this an accident is missing!” and Dorothy Sayers is all, “But I’m not gonna tell you what that evidence is because where’s the fun in that?” except she actually writes, “(Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant what he was to look for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page.)” Which is both sexist and unnecessary, because I sort of knew what she was talking about but it didn’t help me figure out whodunnit any faster, so whatever.

Ahem. Anyway, dude-face is dead, and it’s an artist what killed him, and in particular one of six potential artists who had the motive and means to do it. Interestingly, most of these artists have gone missing, so it takes rather longer than it probably should to round them all up, figure out their stories, and solve the case. And even then, the case takes a while to solve, because it gets all Clue up in Scotland. Or, I should probably say that Clue gets all Five Red Herrings up in Mr. Boddy’s mansion, but I saw Clue first and I’m sticking with it. What I mean to say is that several people offer theories of what might have happened, and then Wimsey is all, “Nuh-uh, you’re wrong and I’m right like Sherlock Holmes!” and then, and I am not kidding about this, Wimsey stages a real-time reenactment of the crime that is, again, totally unnecessary but which is in fact delightful.

So. Minus points for the incredibly dense writing, but super-awesome plus points for lines like, “‘You shut up,’ said Wimsey, ‘You’re dead, sir.'” and, “‘Now, corpse, it’s time I packed you into the car.'” Though I admit that if anyone had ever said, “To make a long story short,” I would have had to shout, “TOO LATE!”

Recommendation: For fans of classic-type mysteries who are not adverse to a little translation in their reading or a little math (for the timetables).

Rating: 8/10, mostly for the delightful ending
(A to Z Challenge, Vintage Mystery Challenge, What’s in a Name Challenge)

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3 thoughts on “Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy Sayers

  1. Bev Hankins says:

    Love, love, love you review. Made me laugh out loud. This one isn't my favorite Sayers (I'm not all that into timetable mysteries)–but you're right that some of the dialogue totally makes up for that. I'll get you added to the tally board at the Vintage Progress site! Tally-ho! (as Wimsey might say…)

  2. Amy says:

    Try reading this one out loud in the car….yeah, time table mysteries are not so much with the audio. But then picture my dad doing the Scottish accent πŸ™‚

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