Top positive review
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A good introduction to Sayers and her work
on 20 June 2007
This is a nicely put together, if somewhat pedestrian anthology of short stories. Obviously, the stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey are the big selling point (and in fact, he features in the first four), there are seven featuring Montague Egg and the last two are stand-alone stories involving neither character.
All of the stories are written with the skill that you'd expect from Sayers and in the Wimsey stories there are welcome appearances by the Dowager Duchess and Bunter (who I learnt for the first time, has Mervyn as his first name). My favourite was probably The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey' because whilst the set-up was a little contrived (would a jealous man really haul himself and his wife over to the Basque region on the off-chance of meeting the man he believes fancies her?), it's the sheer pace and skill of the writing that carries it off.
As an introduction to Montague Egg, I found myself interested in his methods but I think that there is a certain similarity with Wimsey that meant I couldn't quite believe in him as a character in his own right. I liked the device of the Salesman's Handbook and I also liked the repeated image of him toddling around the country in his Morris car, persuading people to buy the fine wares of "Plummet & Rose, wines and spirits, Piccadilly" but there isn't quite enough of him for me to be a fan.
The final two stories in the collection - 'The Man Who Knew How' and 'The Fountain Plays' actually read to me as precursors to the kind of short story that Roald Dahl was famous for - each has a twist in the tale that would not be out of place in an episode of Tales of the Unexpected and I found them very enjoyable.