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The Documents in the Case
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This isn't a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. It consists of a series of letters, statements and newspaper reports and you really do have to pay attention to all the clues to work out who did it. The story focuses on a house in which an ill-assorted group of people live. The Harrisons own the house and employ a Miss Agatha Milsom as companion to Mrs Harrison and then two young men share the attic rooms.

The reader is given insight into their lives through a series of letters though it is revealed at the start of the book that one of the inhabitants is dead. The dead man is found dead in a shack in Devon where he appears to have eaten poisonous fungi. But he is an expert in such things and would never have picked, cooked and eaten a poisonous variety.

The only person who thinks it might have been murder is the dead man's son who has assembled the documents in the case. This is an intriguing read and the solution is ingenious though I don't claim to fully understand the science. This book is something of a curiosity and I think it is a book which grows on you with each re-reading. This is the second time I've read it and it made much more sense to me this time and I am starting to appreciate how clever it actually is.
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on 14 November 2006
Is this the only Sayers mystery novel not to showcase Lord Peter? I'm not sure but it marks a whole other direction that Sayers could have taken in her writing.

Made up of 'the documents in the case': primarily letters, reports and a couple of witness statements, there is no overall narrator who pulls the whole story together and yet the reader is intriguingly drawn into not just the murder but the lives, inner and outer, of the characters involved.

Very much of it's time, this gives an intriguing view of London in the 30s when artists were still Bohemian and therefore morally suspicious, when the whole-food/healthfood/natural food thing was just absurd and ridiculous, and when there was a huge intellectual ferment over quantum theory/chaos theory and what that means for relion and life. I'm making this sound incredibly intellectual and dull but trust me it isn't: these themes are woven very skillfully into the narrative, but this is fundamentally a story of the clash of people and the resulting murder.

The characters were well drawn, if stereotypical: the slightly mad spinster with an obsession with sex, the modern young novelist with his intellectual theories, the beautiful but dumb wife married to an engineer much older than her, the morally dubious but brilliant artist... and yet while we read the book we believe in these people.

If you want a slap-bang murder on page 1 with lots of blood and gore, then this probably isn't the book for you; but if you want a light, yet entertaining read, with an ingenious murder at the heart of it, then I recommend this.
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on 3 September 2017
But the interminable chemistry lectures at the end were irresistible page flickers over.The use of the letters format was interesting harking back to the early days of the novel. I was however left wanting to know more about Miss Milsom a truly ghastly character.
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on 24 February 2014
I had always rated Margery Allingham's literary skills above those of Dorothy Sayers; this epistolary masterpiece, however, builds in tension and creates a wonderfully believable story which matches the best of Margery Allingham's books.
It does not feature Lord Peter Wimsey but instead, some more everyday characters, whose idiosyncrasies are cleverly brought to light by the rather brusque central protagonist who shows a surprising sense of understanding.
There is also a meddling, self important "maiden" home help who creates many of the problems, and inadvertently sets the murder scenario on track.
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on 31 December 2013
I am fairly new to Dorothy Sayers and this one came recommended. It is a superbly written book with tension slowly rising throughout and some keenly observed human behaviours and frailties.The ending was right up my street too, but give away more than that would be a spoiler.
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on 31 January 2018
Ms Sayers is an intelligent writer or gripping novels.
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on 12 August 2009
Not Wimsey, but just as good. A really clever way to pull together a murder mystery, using letters and staements to see different views of the same action. Obvious almost from the outset whodunnit, but the journey to prove it is very interesting. And the science-y bits are an intelligent change from the pure emotion of some thrillers.
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on 10 January 2018
I found it confusing -perhaps age is beginning to affect me ... have enjoyed her other books
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on 25 August 2011
Whenever I want to go back and read about old times I look for Ms Sayers. I am never disappointed and although this was slightly different in concept it was still an enthralling read.
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on 19 May 2017
A cracking good read.
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