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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 November 2006
Is this the only Sayers mystery novel not to showcase Lord Peter? I'm not sure but it marks a whole other direction that Sayers could have taken in her writing.

Made up of 'the documents in the case': primarily letters, reports and a couple of witness statements, there is no overall narrator who pulls the whole story together and yet the reader is intriguingly drawn into not just the murder but the lives, inner and outer, of the characters involved.

Very much of it's time, this gives an intriguing view of London in the 30s when artists were still Bohemian and therefore morally suspicious, when the whole-food/healthfood/natural food thing was just absurd and ridiculous, and when there was a huge intellectual ferment over quantum theory/chaos theory and what that means for relion and life. I'm making this sound incredibly intellectual and dull but trust me it isn't: these themes are woven very skillfully into the narrative, but this is fundamentally a story of the clash of people and the resulting murder.

The characters were well drawn, if stereotypical: the slightly mad spinster with an obsession with sex, the modern young novelist with his intellectual theories, the beautiful but dumb wife married to an engineer much older than her, the morally dubious but brilliant artist... and yet while we read the book we believe in these people.

If you want a slap-bang murder on page 1 with lots of blood and gore, then this probably isn't the book for you; but if you want a light, yet entertaining read, with an ingenious murder at the heart of it, then I recommend this.
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on 29 June 1999
This book presents a series of documents relating to a suspicious death. The documents take the form of letters, medical reports, newspaper headlines, etc. The format gives less room for the witty conversational style of other novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, but I believe this is one of her best.
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VINE VOICEon 4 July 2013
My wife has been reading crime fiction all her life - she's in her 50s - and she just told me this is the best one she has ever read, so I though it was worth noting this here (she doesn't do reviews).

Her favourite authors are people like Patricia Wentworth and Agatha Christie as well as Dorothy L. Sayers so that gives you an idea of the type of books she likes.

I can confirm she couldn't put this book down - particularly near the end she couldn't go to sleep until she had finished it - so it sounds like it is worth a read. I'm very tempted to read it myself.
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on 6 May 2015
This is, I think, loosely based on the Edith Thompson/Bywaters case and Sayers wrote it with Robert Eustace. Eustace and Jepson together wrote "The Tea Leaf", one of the classic short story murder mysteries of all time, widely anthologised. ( I think Eustace also collaborated with Mrs. L. T. Meade). For this book, Sayers revived the epistolary novel - common in the eighteenth century and also used by Wilkie Collins in The Moonstone. ( It was used much later by Sarah Caudwell in Thus Was Adonis Murdered.) I liked the way that the letters gave different views of what was going on. Some of the characters are indeed stereotyped, notably the batty spinster, but I think the central characters are well observed. Sayers always wrote well on the subject of artists/writers/bohemian lifestyle, although she was not without the prejudices common to her time. I was not sure what I thought about this book when I started to read it, but got into it , liked it and re-read it - in fact, my copy fell apart. For those really interested in the genre, I suggest you also read F. Tennyson Jesse's A Pin to See the Peepshow which ( I think) is also based on the Edith Thompson case. Note: this book does not contain Lord Peter Wimsey.
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on 12 August 2009
Not Wimsey, but just as good. A really clever way to pull together a murder mystery, using letters and staements to see different views of the same action. Obvious almost from the outset whodunnit, but the journey to prove it is very interesting. And the science-y bits are an intelligent change from the pure emotion of some thrillers.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 December 2015
I've recently read my way through all Sayers Wimsey novels, with this one tacked on at the end. Now, it was a bit of a struggle to get through the Wimsey canon to be honest, and I don't really know why I carried on bothering. Can't stand the writing, the tone, the plummy dialogue when Sayers wheels Wimsey out (in contrast, the books with Harriet in were much much better but they were sadly few and sadly came to focus on Wimsey in the latter sections anyway).

However, this is fantastic - an epistolary crime novel. The scene is set up brilliantly and the case unravelled grippingly. I really enjoyed this. I like novels told through letters a great deal, and this really really worked here. The perspective is always fresh, the different points of view keep slanting the lens and kept throwing up interesting new details. I liked it a great deal.
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on 31 December 2013
I am fairly new to Dorothy Sayers and this one came recommended. It is a superbly written book with tension slowly rising throughout and some keenly observed human behaviours and frailties.The ending was right up my street too, but give away more than that would be a spoiler.
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on 24 February 2014
I had always rated Margery Allingham's literary skills above those of Dorothy Sayers; this epistolary masterpiece, however, builds in tension and creates a wonderfully believable story which matches the best of Margery Allingham's books.
It does not feature Lord Peter Wimsey but instead, some more everyday characters, whose idiosyncrasies are cleverly brought to light by the rather brusque central protagonist who shows a surprising sense of understanding.
There is also a meddling, self important "maiden" home help who creates many of the problems, and inadvertently sets the murder scenario on track.
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on 25 August 2011
Whenever I want to go back and read about old times I look for Ms Sayers. I am never disappointed and although this was slightly different in concept it was still an enthralling read.
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on 31 July 2013
Different, but still a very good read though not totally her writing. I wanted this to complete my Sayer's set
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