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on 1 February 2017
The setting of this book cries out for it to be read at Christmas, preferably with snow on the ground. Sit in front of a roaring fire with a mulled glass of something and enjoy.
It's a clever tale and you feel drawn in to the small community that's described. Lord Peter Wimsey is an amiable hero; you'd like to be his sidekick. Other characters e.g. the vicar are well described so you feel you know & like them.
A lovely piece of England post World War One. I recommend this book highly.
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on 21 May 2017
I read this some weeks ago now, and had some difficulties getting into it at first because I couldn't figure out where it was going when it kept going back into the detective's childhood. What on earth had all this to do with the murder he'd been sent to the island to investigate? Of course you soon realize it's all interwoven when the past catches up with the present, and vice versa. I loved it.
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on 20 April 2017
I bought this as a gift for a church bell-ringer. To my surprise, given that the whole plot turns on the technicalities of this particular art, he had never heard of it. When it was delivered I, of course, re-read it myself, sixty years after first reading it as a teenager. The intervening years had not diminished the enjoyment! In fact the increased remoteness from the lost world which it describes, in particular village churchgoing with three Sunday services per week, added to the charm. A classic 'who-dunnit' solved by a gentleman sleuth. A must read for anyone who the genre appeals to.
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on 5 January 2017
great novel....i really like it...well written, good settings, great characters...
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on 9 March 2017
Apparently she had great difficulty in getting her mind round the incidentals of bell ringing in the English style. Always interesting to have a murder story with no murder.
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on 14 May 2017
Re read after several years (book club choice) and found it as atmospheric as the first time. Some great characters, esp loved the vicar coming into his own in the floods! And the descriptions of the fens and the advancing floods- ooh. I know this area it really does feel like that even now.
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on 20 August 2010
Several years ago, I struggled with Five Red Herrings and never finished it. So, thinking I'd try her oeuvre again, I have just finished The Nine Tailors; may be it is the print size (compared to my copy of Five Red Herrings) because that certainly aids reading but, really, it's more than that. The Nine Tailors is a wonderful evocation of fenland something like ninety years ago when life really was so much simpler. The plot is good and characterisation excellent. Being familiar with some of those massive East Anglian churches, I can vouch for the architectural detail.
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on 15 March 2011
This, the ninth of Sayers's eleven full length Wimsey novels, is the one that lifts her above the category of twentieth-century female detective novelist, and places her among the literary greats.

It is a thoroughly satisfying mystery - sophisticated, complex, intellectually challenging. Everything in the plot is there for a reason; and the final explanation is ingenious and unexpected.

It is Sayers, so there is more than just a plot. The characters have a depth and realism far beyond the caricatures of Agatha Christie. They have individuality and weaknesses and baggage and unexpected strength in the face of adversity. They are, in short, people.

Wimsey himself appears more relaxed in this than in most of the other books. A far cry from the self-conscious man-about-town of 'Whose Body?' or the nervy war veteran of 'The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club', this is the Wimsey hinted at in 'Five Red Herrings': the born and bred countryman, at ease with himself, almost classless at times, an incomer who at once instinctively understands and is accepted by this tiny community.

The community itself is minutely and deftly drawn too - partly through its supporting characters, partly through Sayers's own narrative voice, stronger and more distinctive in this book than in the others, and often taking on the cadence and the overtones of a local character to remarkable effect.

And then there are the most powerful and enduring characters of all: the bells of Fenchurch St Paul and the place itself. `The Nine Tailors' is to the Fens what `The Return of the Native' is to the heathlands of Dorset. It is a work of art, a tone-poem, a sonorous evocation of place and time, a symphony of words and images that endure in the mind long after the last page is turned. (For more on the power of language in `The Nine Tailors', I refer you to my recent essay on The Art of Reading at [...])

Much attention is given in literary circles to the `great American novel'; little, if any, is given to the novel that depicts England. Yet `The Nine Tailors', for all that it is set in an obscure and bleak corner of the countryside, is as intimate and accurate a portrait of inter-war rural Englishness as anything ever written - and an enduring one at that.


One must then turn, with the utmost reluctance and distaste, to the current sub-standard paperback edition of this masterpiece (978-0-450-00100-0). It appears to have been typeset and proof-read by persons with little knowledge of, and less interest in, either the English language or the basic rules of punctuation. It is further encumbered with an arch and self-congratulatory introduction by Elizabeth George, which adds little to one's appreciation of the work, and which - to add insult to injury - is inserted between Sayers's own foreword and the first chapter, thus breaking the rhythm of the author's original text. (No doubt the same vandalism has been committed in the latest impression of Gaudy Night, where any interruption between the Foreword and Chapter 1 would be even more obtrusive. Fortunately I still have my 1988 paperback of that work.)

A minor point, but a further niggle in light of these graver shortcomings, is the faintly 1970s typography employed for the section headings.

In summary, this edition gives the unfortunate impression of having been brought to press by an editor who neither recognised nor valued the calibre and significance of the book. I have now placed my 2011 paperback in the recycling bin and ordered a second-hand hardback. On the grounds of the punctuation errors alone, I would urge anyone who wishes to read what Miss Sayers actually wrote, to eschew the current paperback edition in favour of any other second-hand copy available.
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This is the ninth Lord Peter Wimsey novel, written in 1935. I read it first when I was about fifteen, when I found it boring. It took a bit more maturity before I realised what a good book it is.
The book's title is taken from an ancient English tradition of announcing a death by ringing a church bell. Three strikes on the lowered bell meant a child, six meant a woman and nine meant a man. The blows were called 'tellers' or 'tailors'. The nine tailors were the strikes on the bell that announced a man's death. In the book, the large tenor bell was used for this and was called 'Tailor Paul.' (This was a coded thank you to Paul Taylor from a bell foundry in Loughborough, who gave her the information on bell-ringing that she needed for the novel.)
Wimsey is stranded in a fenland village by a car accident and helps ring a nine-hour peal of bells (the nine tailors) when the team is left a man short. Next morning, the wife of Sir Henry Thorpe dies. Wimsey hears that, twenty years before, valuable jewels were stolen from a house guest of theirs. The butler and an accomplice were imprisoned, but the emeralds were never found.
At Easter, Sir Henry dies, too, and the family grave is opened. A mutilated body is found in the grave, thought to be that of a tramp labourer who vanished earlier in the year, but wearing (of all things) French underwear. Wimsey and Bunter, his valet, get hold of a letter from France addressed to him. The dead man seems to be Arthur Cobbleigh, a soldier believed missing in action in 1918, who had deserted and stayed in France. It begins to look as though Driver and Cobbleigh were trying to recover the emeralds and had perhaps found them. A coded document found in the bell chamber proves to be a cipher, which Wimsey decodes using his knowledge of change-ringing. However, the bells prove to have played an even bigger part in the mystery than Wimsey yet dreams.
The book has been criticised for having too much boring detail about campanology (the fifteen-year-old me heartily agreed) and it has also been debated whether the murder method would actually work (though modern science shows that it probably would). As usual with Dorothy L Sayers, the prose is written in a luminous, beautiful and erudite style. The characterisations are interesting and yet another facet of Wimsey's own immensely gifted character is disclosed. Not only is he a rich, brilliantly intelligent and a gifted musician and wit, a detective and government adviser who is pretty successful with women and swim like a fish, as disclosed in the other books - but he can do bellringing rather well. He really is the ideal man. Dorothy Sayers said that he was a cross between Fred Astair and Bertie Wooster, but he is far more than that. He is a brave soldier who came out of World War 1 with shell-shock and a deep sensitivity to the damage that investigating secrets could do and a horror of the fact that his work brought people to the gallows. He is a suffering superhero, fascinating and desirable. It has often been suggested that he was Sayers' dream man.
Dorothy Sayers is too intelligent to write a simple whodunnit. She is a thinking person who invites us to think, too.This book invites us to consider whether it is better to leave old secrets alone or seek to bring justice despite the damage this can do to innocent people. She also brings the fens alive for her readers, knowing and loving the area from spending a part of her childhood in a fenland village.
Harriet Vane, Wimsey's love interest, does not appear until the next novel in the series, and I do love most the four books in which she figures. There is no romantic and sexual tension in this book to heighten the drama. It is a bit slow to get going, too, but richly repays a reading.
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on 7 December 2016
I love these Golden Age of detective fiction novels. I believe Dorothy L Sayers grew up in the setting she has used, the Fens, which really brings it alive. Her description of the flood was amazing and gripping. I gave up trying to guess who did it due to the many twists and turns, and it was a surprise at the end.
Some people may find the character of Lord Peter Wimsey dated, but if you like Wodehouse, as I do, he is a great character.
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