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Unnatural Death (1927)

por Dorothy L. Sayers

Otros autores: Ver la sección otros autores.

Series: Lord Peter Wimsey (3)

MiembrosReseñasPopularidadValoración promediaMenciones
2,774703,903 (3.85)258
The wealthy Agatha Dawson is dead and there are no apparent signs of foul play. Lord Peter Wimsey, however, senses that something is amiss and he refuses to let the case rest--even without any clues or leads. Suddenly, he is faced with another murder--Agatha's maid. Can super-sleuth Wimsey find the murderer and solve the case before he becomes the killer's next victim?… (más)
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Lots going on here. In addition to the mystery itself, Unnatural Death is an exploration of the female spinster, of inheritance law and notions of "pedigree", and of the ethics of detection as a hobby.

It can be hard, in an older book like this, to figure out whether a character's distrust of lesbians, people of color, and other marginalized groups is a) shedding light on a contemporary social issue vs. b) a conduit of the author's own beliefs. This is something I've been struggling with while reading Golden Age of Mystery stories by Christie, Sayers, and Tey, as they are all undoubtedly products of their time.

It's true Sayers doesn't merely let simple stereotypes sit uninterrogated. Lord Peter playing on the public eagerness to hate the mixed-race Reverend Hallelujah Dawson turns out to have been a reckless endangerment of an innocent man-- albeit one written as so affable and harmless he is void of real agency or character. The independent Mary Whittaker, who chooses a woman as her life companion, is a fully realized character with intelligence and desperate emotion-- but Lord Peter's ultimate distrust of her turns out to have been absolutely the right move, since she turns out to be a predator who killed her aunt and did away with her implied lover. And we must remember the elder Miss Whittaker and Miss Dawson apparently lived in peace and respectability in their lifelong "companionship", though Miss Climpson, a character we are designed to find endearing, decries that sort of lifestyle as unnatural, and ends to book being menaced by the evil man-hating Mary.

Is Sayers starting to move towards something? I can imagine a version of this book where all of this ties into Lord Peter's realization of the dangers of his hobby of playing detective, and where the message is ultimately that assuming someone's guilt or innocence based on whether the Miss Climpsons of the world dislike them is an immense gamble and a foolish enterprise, as these suspects are not archetypes but people, shaped but not defined by their origins and orientations. Not super nuanced-- basic empathy stuff. Instead, however, we are left with a book where the ultimate message is "whew, it's good he wasn't a bad one, you know, the ones we hate" and "it's a shame she wasn't a good one, you know, the ones who didn't intrude on us." Because in Sayers' formulation of the world, you must be very careful of these people, and find out which "kind" they really are.

At least, that's what I thought of the book.
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
Unnatural Death (1927) (Wimsey #3) by Dorothy L. Sayers. A conversation between Lord Peter Wimsey and his friend Inspector Parker of the Yard is overheard by a man sitting near them. Intrigued, the man enters the conversation with a tale of his downfall. He is a doctor from a small town. One patient, a wealthy woman, dies under what is probably natural circumstances, cancer, but the doctor suspects foul play from the niece who is living with her patron.
His suspicion leads to his being ostracized from the community, thanks to tales about his infatuation with one of the nurses attending the patient. Over the course of a few months bis practice slows to a trickle and he is forced to move to a new town where gossip will hopefully not follow.
Whimsy, without more than the sketchiest of details, sets out to right the wrong to this unnamed doctor and discover what has actually transpired. What follows is a brilliant bit of detective work, a majority of which is handled by Wimsey’s spy, the elderly Miss Climpson.
A nifty tale that highlights Wimsey’s twisted and brilliant mind. In due course he finds the name of the doctor and nurses involved as well as the bitter town he had to leave and the patient who looks more and more like a victim. There is also convoluted family with its own dirty secrets, mysterious cousins and mostly forgotten uncles that add to the drama.
And in due course he reveals what really happened. A nifty thriller with a deft murder plot tossed in. Don’t miss it.
  TomDonaghey | Apr 3, 2021 |
In which Sayers makes it clear that she is so much more than a mere writer of mysteries. Wimsey still spouts his doggerel on occasion, but he is also forced to confront the fact that his meddling has resulted in the deaths of two rather harmless people. In the first book he apprehends a murderous sociopath, who did it partly for the interest. In the second book, the accused is exonerated, his sister his preserved from imminent marriage to a socialist hypocrite, and the abused wife of a minor character is freed from his brutal tyrany. Wimsey might have started to think that he could do naught but good, but here the effects of his actions are disastrous and the moral questions are troubling. The surreal encounter with the second victim is distressing, and the ending is dismal. But Wimsey will persist in solving quite a few more crimes.

The plot is intricate and well-formed. The investigators are forced to admit that the murderer would never have been brought to justice if it weren't for one small mistake and some luck. The murderer's later actions are less and less well considered, and eventually lead to their apprehension.

There is a good deal of humour, mostly due to the introduction of one new character, Miss Climpson. ( )
  themulhern | Mar 6, 2021 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Unnatural Death
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #3
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 222
Words: 81K

Synopsis:


From Wikipedia.com

Lord Peter Wimsey and his friend Chief Inspector Parker are told about the death, in late 1925, of an elderly woman named Agatha Dawson who had been suffering from terminal cancer. She was being cared for by Mary Whittaker, her great-niece and a trained nurse. Miss Dawson had an extreme aversion to making a will, believing that Miss Whittaker, her only known relative, would naturally inherit everything. Wimsey is intrigued in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of any crime (a post-mortem found no sign of foul play), nor any apparent motive (on Miss Dawson's death her estate did indeed pass, as she had expected and wished, to her great-niece).

Wimsey sends his private investigator, Miss Katharine Climpson, to the village of Leahampton to investigate. She discovers that shortly before her death Miss Dawson had dismissed her maids, the sisters Bertha and Evelyn Gotobed. Wimsey places advertisements in the press asking them to get in touch. A few days later, Bertha is found dead in Epping Forest. On the body is a £5 banknote, originally issued to a Mrs Muriel Forrest who lives in an elegant flat in South Audley Street, Mayfair. Wimsey and Parker visit her. She claims not to remember the banknote, but thinks she may have put it on a horse. Wimsey tricks her into providing her fingerprints on a wineglass. In a drawer he finds a hypodermic syringe with a doctor's prescription "to be injected when the pain is very severe".

Evelyn Gotobed tells Wimsey of an episode shortly before the sisters were dismissed in which Miss Whittaker had tried to get them to witness Miss Dawson's will, without the latter's knowledge. A mysterious West Indian clergyman named Hallelujah Dawson had also turned up, claiming to be an impecunious distant relative.

Mrs Forrest asks Wimsey to visit her at her flat in London where she clumsily makes advances to him. Wimsey suspects blackmail. He kisses her and realises that she is physically revolted by his caress.

Wimsey discovers a motive for Miss Dawson to be killed before the end of 1925: a new 'Property Act' coming into force on 1 January 1926 will change the law of inheritance, resulting in an intestate's property no longer passing to a closest-relative great-niece but being forfeit to the Crown. Much play is made of a fictionalised uncertainty in the meaning of the word "issue".

Mary Whittaker – who Miss Climpson has concluded "is not of the marrying sort" – disappears from Leahampton along with Vera Findlater, an impressionable young woman who is besotted with her. Several days later Miss Findlater's body is found on the downs, apparently killed by a blow to the head. Mary Whittaker has it seems been kidnapped. There are indications that the culprit is a black man, and a distinctive cap found nearby is linked to Hallelujah Dawson. However, a post-mortem finds that Vera Findlater was already dead when she was struck, and Wimsey realises that the whole scene has been faked in order to frame the entirely innocent clergyman. Tyre tracks from Mrs Forrest's car are found nearby, and Wimsey suspects her and Mary Whittaker of acting in collusion.

Wimsey's manservant, Bunter, realises that the fingerprints on Mrs Forrest's wineglass are identical to those on a cheque written by Miss Whittaker. Wimsey at last understands that Muriel Forrest and Mary Whittaker are one and the same person, and that she carried out the murders by injecting air into her victims' bloodstream with a hypodermic syringe, causing blockage and immediate death through heart failure. Meanwhile Miss Climpson, unable to contact Wimsey, heads to South Audley Street where she is attacked by Mary Whittaker. Wimsey and Parker arrive just in time to save Miss Climpson from becoming the final victim. Whittaker is arrested, and commits suicide in prison.

My Thoughts:

Much, much, much better than the previous book. No french letters, of any kind! Or any stinking lawyers either!

Of course, Lord Peter screws up and gets a woman killed. Which leads to some serious soul searching on his part. It is easy to forget that Sayers was a lay theologian in her own right but she really delves into some aspects of the moral rights and responsibilities of someone who is not authorized by the Law to investigate crime. Wimsey really shows that he's not just a bored toff looking for a thrill. He has a sincere desire to see justice done.

It is also interesting to see how crime was investigated about a century ago. The issues they had to deal with (missed communications, travel issues, the press, inter-departmental rivalry, etc) made me realize that while investigation methods might have changed due to technology, people are still exactly the same and act the same then as they did then. As the Teacher of Israel says, there is nothing new under the sun.

With this book, my hope for this series is re-kindled. I tore through it one Saturday too, so I wasn't dillydallying around.

★★★✬☆ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Feb 3, 2021 |
Bit cringey in places with old values not standing up to modern scrutiny, but the detective side of things was interesting ( )
  Vividrogers | Dec 20, 2020 |
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» Añade otros autores (14 posible)

Nombre del autorRolTipo de autor¿Trabajo?Estado
Sayers, Dorothy L.autor principaltodas las edicionesconfirmado
Bayer, OttoTraductorautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Bleck, CathieArtista de la Cubiertaautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Carmichael, IanNarradorautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Crowley, DonArtista de la Cubiertaautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Damkoehler, KatrinaDiseñador de cubiertaautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
George, ElizabethIntroducciónautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Griffini, Grazia MariaTraductorautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Michal, MarieArtista de la Cubiertaautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Relander, InkeriTraductorautor secundarioalgunas edicionesconfirmado
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But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn.
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"But if he thought the woman was being murdered—"
[Biographical Note] I am asked by Miss Sayers to fill up certain lacunae and correct a few trifling errors of fact in her account of my nephew Peter's career.
[Afterword] The year 1920 is the generally accepted dawn of the Golden Age of detective fiction.
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The wealthy Agatha Dawson is dead and there are no apparent signs of foul play. Lord Peter Wimsey, however, senses that something is amiss and he refuses to let the case rest--even without any clues or leads. Suddenly, he is faced with another murder--Agatha's maid. Can super-sleuth Wimsey find the murderer and solve the case before he becomes the killer's next victim?

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