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When Alfred Thipps finds a naked male corpse in his bath at the same time as rich financier Sir Reuben Levy goes missing, the police see a connection. Thipps and his maid are arrested on suspicion of murder and the only person they can turn to is Lord Peter Wimsey, ably supported by Bunter. What unfurls is a carefully constructed mystery revolving around identity with Wimsey finding himself battling a chilling adversary who is completely untroubled by conscience.

My understanding is that this was the first Wimsey novel but even so, all the elements that make Sayers great are already here: the characterisations, the cosy sense of place and time and a story that keeps you guessing. That said, this is a novel that's a product of its time with the result that a couple of instances of anti-Semitism may disquiet modern readers and certainly made me wince.

Wimsey is a complicated character and Sayers' draws out the aftershocks from his breakdown during World War I. A scene where he essentially relapses is desperately sad and touching, as is Bunter's reaction to the same. My favourite aspect of these books is the devotion that the two men show to each other and Bunter really shines in this story with the way he takes responsibility for his master's well-being. Equally interesting though is the way Sayers draws a distinction between Wimsey - a man conflicted by the fact that his investigations will lead to death - and the murderer, who has deliberately excised their conscience and can operate untroubled by the consequences of their actions.

As a result, this is a novel that can be read on two levels - each equally entertaining and successful at holding the attention.
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on 10 November 2000
This was the first of Dorothy L. Sayers' detective novels, but 70-odd years after publication it's not the best introduction to Sayers or to her most successful hero, Lord Peter Wimsey. If that's what you're looking for, try Nine Tailors, Murder Must Advertise, or one of the books that include Harriet Vane (my personal favourite is Gaudy Night).
"Whose Body" is something of an apprentice work. Lord Peter is here more a bundle of characteristics than a character: a collector of rare books and incunabula, facile with quotations, fluent in French and probably in Latin, a skillful and sensitive pianist who never needs to practise, slightly built but possessed of "curious" strength and speed which he maintains without exercise. Over subsequent books, this caricature smooths and deepens into one of the most interesting and attractive detectives in fiction.
In spite of its awkwardness, Whose Body is worth reading. The plot is clever, the villain is believable and sadistic, and most of the supporting characters are a delight. Some of these characters are further developed in later novels: Bunter, Parker, the Dowager Duchess, Freddy Arbuthnot. Others fortunately are not. Sayers is much better with people she might recognise as "like us" then with people from other social groups.
Sayers developed into a powerful writer of fiction whose technique was imperceptible. Here she has less mastery of technique, so that the scenes that work have disproportionate impact. The encounter between the Dowager Duchess of Denver and the American millionaire Milligan is a tiny classic.
In summary, interesting and entertaining for existing fans, but a hurdle for newcomers to the world of Wimsey.
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on 11 February 2014
This may be, as another reviewer has said, an 'apprentice piece' but it's still a better book than some crime writers ever achieve. It's true that Lord Peter comes across as a little bit of a caricature compared with later works, but it was necessary to establish, in quite a short novel, at least the basics of his character and background, plus craft a decent mystery. Not an easy task. One might have hoped for a bit more suspense, but the detectin' is all there, and is satisfyingly plausible. As for the lack of the abstruse classical references that pepper her later work -- maybe that is not such a grievous loss! If I'd come to 'Whose Body' first instead of reading Sayers' entire crime oeuvre before trying it, I'm sure I should certainly have wanted to read more. In fact, I rather regret that it wasn't my introduction to this thoroughly engaging sleuth.

One small criticism. The little potted biography of Peter Wimsey that appears at the end of the book refers to almost the entire series and is, in places, a little bit of a 'spoiler.' If you plan to read more of them, I'd recommend avoiding it.
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on 28 November 2010
Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey) Women are good at writing crime. I wonder why? . This is the only one of Sayers that is cheap on Kindle, the others are the new price. Publishers must be having a revolution with this Kindle business. I bought this because I dont possess a hardback, it's one of the few I haven't got. I read Sayers as a teenager and she is worth a permanent place on my shelves. This is OK, the formatting is indents, that is like writing used to be about 1960 and on a bit. In those years we indented a paragraph by five spaces. So it looks a bit funny to our eyes, now, where everything is flush with the left hand margins. Good though, well worth the money. P S Have found at least one American spelling also also, worse "sea-green incorruptible" transcribed as "pea-green". tut tut. But still FIVE STARS.
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This is one of my least favourite books by Dorothy L Sayers but I still found plenty to enjoy in re-reading it for the first time in many years. I had to admire the way the crime was committed and the way the clues are scattered throughout the text. A dead body is found in the bath in a flat belonging to a Mr Thripps an acquaintance of Lord Peter Wimsey's and an expert on matters architectural.

The police naturally suspect Thripps himself though it is patently obvious to everyone that he couldn't have done it if only because he would have found it physically impossible to heave the body around. Peter's friend - Inspector Charles Parker - is simultaneously investigating the disappearance of financier Reuben Levy, to whom the corpse bears a passing resemblance.

The detection of the crime is well done with everything slotting into place and making it perfectly possible for the discerning reader to get ahead of the detectives and work out who did it ahead of the revelation. Some modern readers may find the class consciousness hard to take but this is how it was when the book was written and modern readers need to bear that in mind when reading the book.

This first book shows Peter Wimsey in his silly ass incarnation - almost a double of Bertie Wooster with Bunter playing a very effective Jeeves. Freddie Arbuthnot makes a brief appearance in this book and appears in later books too though he is rather more loquacious in this one than he is in later books.

This is a good start to the series and establishes the series characters very well
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on 28 February 2010
Whilst the novel undoubtedly lacks much of the finesse and sure-footedness of later works, it is a more than passable introduction into Lord Peter's world. Wimsey is debonair, humorous and sympathetic and the relationships between him and Bunter and Parker are well introduced. As the novel moves forward one begins to realise that Lord Peter is not just an aristocratic caricature but has hidden depths that would be more fully developed later in the series.

The plot is intricate and yet not confusing and though as always with Sayers she does not keep you guessing until the final page, the solution is both plausible and somewhat surprising. One has to though, ignore Sayers' irritatingly scathing presentation of figures of authority, in particular the idiotic Suggs. Despite some faults therefore the novel is definitely worth reading.
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on 10 March 2014
Generally, this was an interesting piece of classic detective fiction, but I personally struggled. The protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey is incredibly irritating and generally the plot seemed far-fetched, with the conclusion lacking any of that usual Sherlock-esque "it all comes clear!" feeling.
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VINE VOICEon 1 October 2005
From the very beginning we are capture by her writing style and characters. She only gets better from here. It is the interaction and relationship of her characters that make the story come alive.
We start off with two mysteries at once. A naked man wearing sunglasses is found in someone else's bathtub. Across town an important person goes missing. The local policeman had figures it out already (or has he). He has even nabbed the suspects. Lord Peter (armature sleuth) and friend of Inspector Parker must figure out if one plus one is one or two.
Whose body?
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 19 November 2012
Lord Peter De'Ath Bredon Wimsey is the second born son of the, now deceased, 15th Duke of Denver. A highly intelligent person of privilege he was Oxford educated (where he received a First) he is also a veteran of the horrors of the trenches of WW1.

As a result of his service the ex-Major suffered from boughts of shell shock (now called PTSD). During these times his man-servant, and former sergeant, Bunter looks after him.

Lord Peter was a man of what should have been changed times; he did not see Bunter as a servant but rather a friend. In one of the books Lord Peter is a guest of another person and that person invites Bunter to sit and eat a meal with them. Bunter politely refuses and Lord Peter comments that "Bunter likes me to know my place".

It is these relationships which make the characters both accessible and likeable.

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Published in 1923 "Whose Body?" was the first published case of Lord Peter Wimsey, though not necessarily the characters first case - it is mentioned that Lord Peter investigated the loss of and instigated the recovery of The Attenbury Emeralds - this story has been written by Jill Paton Walsh and was published in 2010.

Lord Peter is asked by his mother, the Dowager Duchess, to investigate the disappearance of her friend's husband; meanwhile the local plod, in the shape of Wimsey's friend Charles Parker, is looking into the murder of a man found in a bathtub. Each man reaches a sticking point in their own investigations and so they decide to swap cases bringing fresh eyes and perspective on to the enquiries.

The reasoning for the crime is explained in a letter given to Wimsey and read at the end of the book. It is, of course, a variation on the bad guys monologue, and goes some way to filling in what would have been massive holes in the story.

This is Wimsey's first case, and DL Sayers first story, and at times it can struggle: characters are fleshed out in the following books, stories are better written and conclusions don't need the guilty party to explain why, and so on. Yet this is an important book in the series, not just for the fact it is the first but for the establishment of the most basic relationships.

It may not be of the standard of her later stories but it is a story which I have always thoroughly enjoyed.
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on 16 December 2013
This is the first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, and the first Dorothy L Sayers book I have read. The hero is much more than a crime-solving Bertie Wooster; he is highly educated with a back story involving the First World War, the lasting effect of which is described in a way that feels surprisingly contemporary, given that the book was written in 1925. He is also a fully fleshed-out character with the baggage of a family. For a book of the era, it was also unexpected to see passing reference to street prostitution. Furthermore, the procedural examinations of the murder victim and scenes were more advanced than we might have expected at that time. Well worth a read.
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