Lord Peter Wimsey is one of the greatest of all fictional detectives and 'Murder Must Advertise' presents us with one of his most intriguing mysteries. Set in the confines of 1930's advertising agency, Pyms Publicity. Lord Peter is called in to investigate the death of copywriter Victor Dean.
Not only is the story first rate, with all the expected twists and turns, but the atmosphere of the agency drawn from Sayer's own experience is vividly real. Sayers' was arguably the most complex of the pre war 'Queens of Crime' and this book certainly works on a number of levels. For those who are unfamiliar with either Sayers or Wimsey, this book makes an excellent introduction, and demonstrates why their popularity has persisted.
When Lord Peter Death Breden Wimsey, privately investigating the "accidental" death of an employee of an advertising firm, takes a copywriting job there, he raises curiosity among the female employees. Known on the job only as "Breden," he is regarded as "a cross between Ray Flynn and Bertie Wooster, " complete with silk socks and expensive shoes, and obviously not from the same background as the rest of the staff. Assigned to advertise Dairyfield's Margarine and "domestic" tea, he occupies the dead man's office, churning out slogans while poking into relationships and possible motivations for murder. He soon discovers that the dead man, with limited resources, actively participated in the drug culture of upperclass parties, though how he became involved is an open question.
Lord Peter, as aristocratic as his title would imply, is adventurous and imaginative, a man of action and intelligence who does not hesitate to get down and dirty if necessary (though he'd prefer not "too" dirty). With a "tongue that runs on ballbearings," he can talk his way into and out of almost any situation, and as an ad agency employee, he provides the reader with some terrific one-liners and quips as he tries to sell products. Author Dorothy Sayers, who worked in an advertising agency herself for seven years, brings the agency to life with all its petty infighting and cynicism, creating a vibrant environment in which Wimsey's familiar wordplay and cleverness can be highlighted during his investigation of the murder--and the gruesome murders which follow in its wake.
The author's total control is obvious as she carefully introduces quirky and memorable characters, provides Wimsey/Breden with a sounding board for his discoveries (his brother-in-law, a police superindendent), integrates him successfully into all levels of society, and creates a realistic picture of life in the 1930s--while keeping the reader completely engaged with the mystery and with Wimsey's shrewdness. The wordplay and dry humor throughout the novel are delightful, and the conclusion, in which Wimsey/Breden finds a unique way of bringing the investigation to a satisfying resolution comes as a surprise. Described on several Sayers web sites as the best of the Lord Peter Wimsey series, this novel is a classic--as entertaining now as it was when it was written in 1933. n Mary Whipple
on 18 April 2001
One of my favourite Dorothy L Sayers novels (only to be topped by Five Red Herrings and The Nine Tailors), Murder Must Advertise is a clever mystery that takes you inside several layers of London society in the 1930s. It differs from Sayers' other novels in so far as our dectective, Lord Peter Wimsey, becomes part of the advertising agency he is investigating, instead of standing aloof from the situations, as he often does in his other novels. In fact, sole of the aspects I enjoy most about the novel are those related to Wimsey "playing" at being a copy writer. A fun read and a great twist at the end.
Dorothy L Sayers’ detective fiction output was not large. From the total of eleven novels, two at least have never been regarded as highly by critics and readers as have the others. “Murder Must Advertise” is one of them.
Re-reading it recently, I decided that most of its weaknesses are less apparent if it is treated as a light entertainment. Why should I expect the scholarly Miss Sayers to always provide verisimilitude, evidence of thorough research and scientific investigation? It soon becomes clear, in this book, that the pukka, debonair Lord Peter Wimsey is highly unlikely to be doing a stint as an advertising copywriter, that he would be fool enough to dive from a great height into a fountain, and that a murder such as the one he is investigating could ever be committed.
Deciding not to take these things seriously, I enjoyed my time with the book, especially the description of Lord Peter Wimsey winning the cricket match for his advertising agency. It became impossible, however, at the end to regard the book as light entertainment. The tone changes. Miss Sayers is forced to meet the problem of dispensing justice to the killer, once identified. Her solution is heavy-handed.
Ah! well, many whodunits have disappointing endings. Approach this one as I have suggested, and you’ll enjoy most of it. Don’t expect Harriet Vane to feature, however. Dorothy L Sayers never mentions her by name, only referring to the woman in Lord Peter’s life who is being “deliberately excluded from these pages”.
on 27 April 2015
I've read this book so many times over the years. They don't get much better than this. Between the two World-Wars, an advertising agency in London welcomes a new copy-writer who immediately gets down to work and at the same time snoops around, trying to get to the root of the unexplained death of his predecessor.
Scenes from a creative office are interspersed with dream scenes as the investigator "seduces" a dope addict while dressed as Harlequin and playing a penny-whistle.
Ideal for those readers for whom the crime is incidental to enjoyment of a crime novel.
on 17 July 2015
Lord Peter can do no wrong, well almost. But kissing another woman, even for the sake of solving a crime, when his heart belongs to Harriet? Tut tut! I first read the stories of Lord Peter Wimsey as a teenager, but as an adult I appreciate the qualities of the character and Dorothy L Sayers has the rare quality of treating readers like adults and the fact that not everything has to be spelt out to be understood is a definite bonus.
on 20 September 2015
I bought this for my book club friend. She read it first of Dorothy L Sayers' books and enjoyed it very much. We had just finished Gaudy Night with varying degrees of pleasure and so will now be reading others on the list.!!
This wonderful book is the eighth Peter Wimsey novel, published in 1933. Most of the action takes place in an advertising agency. Wimsey is asked for help by Pym's Publicity, a very respectable firm. (It is based, apparently, on a firm called S. H. Bensons, where Dorothy Sayers worked for some years. ) Victor Dean, an employee, fell down some stairs and died, leaving a half-finished letter to Pym's management suggesting wrongdoing at the firm.
Wimsey pretends to be an advertising copywriter and investigates the office staff. He turns out to be extremely good at the job and even develops a very successful advertising campaign. Is there anything this man cannot do?
He discovers that Dean was socially involved with posh cocaine users. They are linked, through a Major Milligan, with a cocaine-selling ring which is under investigation by Parker, Wimsey's brother-in-law, who is a senior policeman.
Needing to infiltrate the posh group, Wimsey dresses up as a masked harlequin, and by his amazing stunts, he gets the attention of Dian de Momerie, the group's leader. Once again, he proves himself incredibly gifted, a born athlete and acrobat, an ideal man. So he investigates both the group and the firm and, after many twists and turns of the plot, he solves the murder.
Dorothy Sayers wrote that she was merely filling in time while writing this book because she did not yet have enough information to write `The Nine Tailors.' She didn't think it was an entirely convincing story, because she did not know the drugs world at all. She knew the advertising world, though, and she makes that come very much alive. She was good at creating character, too, and she knew the upper crust world very well. I think this is a very successful and entertaining novel. As always with Sayers, whose books are much more than whodunnits, there is plenty to enjoy and think about. She is funny and erudite and writes telling phrases and little incidental comments which I find very enjoyable.
Dorothy L. Sayers worked in an advertising firm for seven years and she clearly enjoyed it very much. After leaving, she had an affair and a baby, a son whom she always described as her nephew and who was brought up by a cousin. Life was very different for her than it had been when she was a part of sophisticated London life. She depicts it with great affection.
Murder Must Advertise is one of my favourite Sayers novels. I love its humour and the picture of a way of life now gone but highly attractive in its way. A really good book!
on 15 December 2015
I'm giving this 5 star simple because it's a good read,although I have not listen to this one yet.l love the author for her story telling in such a way that I almost believed I am there with her heroes and villains.wonderful miss sayers.
on 8 November 2015
It's dated of course but it moves along at a cracking pace and it's rather nice that it's set in a time when honour was important. Also there's a refreshing absence of swearing. Having come back to Sayers after many years I find I prefer her to Agatha Christie.