Five Red Herrings: Lord Peter Wimsey Book 7 (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries) Paperback – 1 Jun 1959
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She brought to the detective novel originality, intelligence, energy and wit. (P. D. James)
Sayers is one of the best detective story writers. (E. C. Bentley Daily Telegraph)
I admire her novels . . . she has great fertility of invention, ingenuity and a wonderful eye for detail. (Ruth Rendell)
She combined literary prose with powerful suspense, and it takes a rare talent to achieve that. A truly great storyteller. (Minette Walters)
The classic British detective series featuring amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.See all Product description
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An artist is found dead and at first it looks as though he could have simply slipped and fallen down some rocks into a stream but Peter Wimsey is sure it is murder because of something missing from the scene. The 'something missing' is carefully omitted at that point so that the reader has to work it out for themselves. I didn't work it out until much later in the story - others will probably work it out sooner!
There are plenty of suspects as just about all his fellow artists in the area have fallen out with him at some point or other. What's more most of them seem to have left the area at about the time of the murder and the police temporarily have no suspects to interview.
Wimsey is as puzzled as the police and sets about sleuthing in his own inimitable fashion to the annoyance of some and the amusement of others. I think my favourite part of the book was the reconstruction of the crime - which is really funny. I also liked the running theme of the various bicycles and train journey involved in the case.
If you want a murder mystery which will make you work hard to try and solve it along with Wimsey and the police characters then try this one but you will really have to concentrate and be able to remember all the various suspects and the sequence of events - not to speak of the lies and misinformation from most of the characters at one time or another.
This mystery involves six suspects, all artists who knew and who had argued with Campbell for different reasons. They are Hugh Farren, Henry Strachan, Matthew Gowan, Jock Graham, Michael Waters and John Ferguson. The problem is that all of them are possibly guilty of the crime and Lord Peter, and the police, are left to untangle all the different alibi’s and motives. This was not my favourite Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, but it was still a good read. As always, Lord Peter solves the crime and the location is an enjoyable one. At times, though, the endless lists of suspects and alibi’s got a little tedious. Lord Peter really brings the book alive, when the plot drags though and this is still a good addition to the series.
Sayers set the book in Galloway, an area which she sometimes visited on holiday and the locations are real. She said that she promised her landlord that one day she would write a book set in the area.
Sandy Campbell, the murder victim, was a talented painter. He was also a quarrelsome drunk. He is found dead, appearing to have fallen into a stream and fractured his skull, leaving a half-finished painting on the bank. Lord Peter is on a fishing holiday in the same area. He is called in and points out something which makes it impossible for Campbell to have done the painting, though Sayers teases us that, since readers should have noticed what the clue is, she won't mention it! Unfair!
Campbell has been murdered and his killer, according to Wimsey,painted the picture in his style, to make the death seem an accident. There are six artists locally who could have done it and who have quarrelled with Campbell. One, then, is the murderer and the others are the `five red herrings.' All are acting suspiciously, in one way or another; all seem OK people but however richly Campbell deserved his fate, the murder must be solved so that the others can live free of suspicion.
The Five Red Herrings is the Peter Wimsey story which is most obviously set as a puzzle for the reader. The plot is told from a variety of viewpoints - Wimsey, various highly competent police officers, the wonderful Bunter. Thus, Wimsey and Bunter are a bit less central to the story than in other novels.
Dorothy Sayers often depicted groups of individuals, whether artists, policemen, advertising executives, et al. She always does this in an interesting and incisive way. Her depiction of place is always good and Scotland comes alive even to someone like myself who isn't too keen on the place!
It does seem odd that this book was written after `Strong Poison' which began Peter's romance with Harriet Vane. She isn't in this book at all. Instead, this is quite a cerebral book in which Wimsey has no particular emotional involvement. There is a lot of detail about the movements of each suspect, involving railway timetables, and unless you are a lover of detail, this is all a bit boring, frankly. There's also a good bit of tedious dialect. It is all very clever - but I wasn't sure how much I cared. Wimsey is an attractive, indeed sexy, hero, in his upper-crust way, but this book is primarily a complex puzzle which does not engage on an emotional level. Wimsey's wit and pithy sayings are very appealing, though, and the devoted and resourceful Bunter is a delight, not least because of his beautifully dignified verbosity.
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