Books

A 1934 Murder Mystery With an Unlikely Culprit

Spoiler-Free Book Review:

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Shows strong research
  • Unexpected twist ending
  • Interesting, complex protagonist
  • Complicated mystery
  • Chapter titles inspired by campanology

Cons

  • Some of the figurative language is poorly done
  • Ending is improbable

Review

I read The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers for my Modern Christian Writers class. Honestly, other than a major setting being a church, I did not find the book especially religious in nature. I would say at least that it does not appeal just to a Christian audience–it will have much wider appeal.

My favorite aspect of this novel is the focus on change-ringing or campanology. I had never realized the ringing of bells such as those in a church was such a complicated, mathematical, graceful, and artful process. There is a whole set of terminology in change-ringing that Dorothy L. Sayers uses masterfully. The chapter titles are inspired by phrases and terms from campanology–for example “Tailor Paul is Called Before With a Single,” “Plain Hunting,” and “Mr. Gotobed is Called Wrong with a Double”.

Lord Peter Wimsey and his manservant Bunter are charming characters. Wimsey both confirms and denies stereotypes of the monocled aristocrat-detective. He is more empathetic than the typical Sherlockian detective, yet maintains that most people are idiots. Bunter is not a simple Watson either. He is knowledgeable about a variety of important and many obscure topics.

That being said, some of Dorothy L. Sayers’ language and diction was poorly constructed. For instance, she uses the simile “blind as an eyeless beggar”…which frankly, sucks. So she’s saying it’s as blind as…someone with no eyes? As blind as a blind person? Not only is that not creative, it’s also completely redundant.

The ending is far-fetched, but it is also hard to predict. I can see how some people would appreciate its originality while others may criticize its improbable nature.

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to mystery and music lovers in particular, but believe that many readers would appreciate the book’s creative aspects and strong research.

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