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This is the third Lord Peter Wimsey novel. Wimsey and Charles Parker are interrupted, while in a teashop, by a doctor who overhears them talking about crime. He relates a tale of how he was treating an elderly lady for cancer, whose niece insisted was much nearer than death than he felt she was. When she died suddenly, without leaving a will, the doctor insisted on an autopsy, leading to bad feeling with both the niece, Miss Whittaker, and the local community. Indeed, his actions led to him having to leave the area and begin work elsewhere. Of course, Lord Peter is immediately intrigued - how many people do 'get away with murder'? However, Parker is not conviced there is a case to answer. Presumably, as an officer of the law he had enough real work to be getting on with, but Wimsey is determined to investigate.

In this entertaining novel, Lord Peter uses the indefatigable Miss Climpson as his "ears and tongue and especially nose." A spinsterish lady, much in the style of a slightly younger Miss Marple, she is an enquiry agent for Lord Peter; settling herself into a boarding house near where the elderly lady died and sending letters (which you feel the author had great fun writing) reporting on the people and places involved. Before long there is a further murder and even Parker is convinced that something is amiss. Did Miss Whittaker hurry her aunt along to make sure she inherited? Who is the mysterious Mrs Forrest? Is Lord Peter Wimsey himself going to become a victim?

This is a real puzzle of a mystery, with endless clues and suspects and sometimes you do feel a little bogged down in information. However, the real fun and sense of righting a wrong does shine through and you happily embark on the journey with Lord Peter, Parker, Miss Climpson and, of course, Bunter. Very enjoyable, brilliantly plotted (if a little confusingly at times) and, of course, much of the pleasure is in the character of Lord Peter Wimsey himself. If you enjoy Golden Age detective fiction then you will love this.
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I first read this book about forty years ago and at the time I didn't think it very good for some reason. Re-reading it now it strikes me as very clever. I loved the way the evidence builds up in tiny snippets to make the case. Lord Peter Wimsey and Detective Inspector Parker are having dinner together and talking about crimes and whether a lot of crime - especially murder - is never noticed. A young man sitting at the next table overhears them and offers to tell them about his own experience.

He is a doctor and one of his patients who is suffering from cancer dies much sooner than expected and he is puzzled by the death. A post mortem is performed but reveals nothing untoward but the doctor becomes so unpopular in the area that he sells his practice and moves elsewhere. Wimsey is intrigued by the case and decides to investigate.

I enjoyed re-reading this book and I especially liked the indefatigable Miss Climpson - who is able to ask questions where the police doing so officially might find out nothing worthwhile. A lot of the detection is carried out by Miss Climpson in the guise of an elderly lady looking for a new place to settle.

It is fairly clear from the start who is the murderer but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story. I just think the plot is so cleverly done and of course the series characters are as always good value. I had forgotten how much Charles Parker appears in these earlier novels as I have mainly re-read the later ones in the past.
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HALL OF FAMEon 5 November 2004
Dorothy Sayers, a.k.a. Dorothy Leigh Sayers Fleming, one of the first women to ever be granted a degree from Oxford University, created one of the leading figures in, and indeed in so doing helped to create the genre of, the British mystery novels. Lord Peter Wimsey, an elegant, refined London-based aristocrat with a taste for books and a penchant for the piano, is again here the leading figure, in 'Unnatural Death', also published as 'The Dawson Pedigree'.
Wimsey is an old Etonian, Balliol Oxford (of course), served with distinction in His Majesty's forces during the War (this book having been written in 1927, I shall leave it to your good services to deduce which War), who resides both town and country somewhat fashionably, and takes great pride in the ancient family history (by the time one gets to be the fifteenth Duke of anything, the family can be easily considered ancient). Wimsey has a vocation as criminologist, not out of necessity, surely, and not by training either (for such training did not formally exist, but, as an Oxford Arts man, he was trained for most anything intellectual, or at least, that is what an Oxford Arts man would tell you). An interesting addition to the beginning of the book is a short biographical sketch of the fictional Wimsey by his equally-fictional uncle.
All of this, of course, is but preamble to the latest mystery to come calling upon Lord Wimsey. There are the requisite features: a dead woman, Agatha Dawson, wealthy and having left a will that might not be a will, but rather a sham (a delirious woman whose nurse insists that there was no possible way of having made a will during the last month, yet oddly there is a document, complete with a witness who claims that dear old Agatha Dawson wanted nothing to do with the signing -- ah, the plot thickens here).
Of course, to most of the world, Wimsey is, well, following a whimsey of his own. The woman was after all elderly and in poor health; surely his investigations are misplaced. The doctor (not the one who tended Miss Dawson's death, to be sure, but an earlier doctor, suspicious of Dawson's sole heir, her niece) was accused of having blackened the name of Miss Whittaker, the niece, unnecessarily, particularly as no evidence of mischief had been uncovered. Wimsey with the assistance of Inspector Parker are able to rectify the situation vis-a-vis the doctor, but there is still the mystery.
Then, more death. This time the maid. To lose one woman may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two women... (well, you can fill in the rest yourself).
Of course I won't spoil it for you; perhaps my tag-team reviewers will do that for you, but I sincerely hope not. Suffice it to say, Wimsey proves himself a consummate actor in which the truth comes out (in London, and in style!).
One of the glories of Sayers work is the intricacies of her plots. She tends to get a huge number of people involved (the number of people who seemed to have trouped through the ill woman's bedchamber is in itself surprising, given the era) each with subplots and agenda that nonetheless get neatly resolved in the end. Sayers' development of character (even of the already dead ones!) is done with style and subtlety; while Wimsey is developed over several novels, one doesn't feel him a stranger by reading this one alone. The other characters fit their parts admirably (had Sayers not been a writer, she may well have made a good career as a casting director in Hollywood), in physical and personality attributes.
Her descriptions of the milieu, both in town (London) and in the country (the village and surroundings, in this case, of Hampshire, are interesting reading. Sayers is very much the cosmopolitan, and somewhat condescending toward the countryfolk. However, that is not a heavy element, and perhaps can be written off to her attempt to make Wimsey even more the worldly character he turns out to be over the course of her novels.
In all, an excellent read, a great diversion, and well worth musing over while sipping tea on a Regency-style sofa in one's dressing gown.
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on 18 July 2011
This was a great read: a clever plot, a story that moves on at a good pace and a satisfying resolution at the end.

The language in parts seems quite strange and inevitably very dated, but this does not detract from the quality of the writing overall, which is intelligent and peppered with all sorts of literary references that fit in very naturally. Reading this has inspired me to re-read more Dorothy L Sayers and I would certainly recommend it to all fans of the classic detective novel.
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First published in 1927, this is the third of Drothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. This review is for the 1975 full cast radio dramatisation starring Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter.

In this story a chance encounter with a Doctor sets Lord Peter off on a puzzling mystery. The Doctor lost his standing in his local community and subsequently had to leave his practice after he voiced his concerns over the death of an elderly patient. No-one else believed that it was suspicious, except Lord Peter. What follows is an interesting set up from Sayers, where Wimsey not only has to find the murderer and show how the crime was committed, but he also has to prove that a crime has indeed been committed. At his side is the ever reliable Inspector Parker and the infallible Bunter, and this story introduces a new ally in the form of Mrs. Climpson. Sayers skilfully builds up the mystery and peels away the layers to reveal the truth, in a fascinating tale that hinges on a dry piece of legislation, but told in an exciting fashion.

All the cast are on form here, Ian Carmichael really IS Lord Peter, Peter Jones strikes just the right note as Bunter, full of contrition as he makes a rare mistake. Gabriel Woolf is a joy as Parker. The three leads clearly got on very well in the studio, and there is a real feeling of warmth from them.

Originally broadcast as seven half hour episodes, all seven are here complete with theme music and credits at the end of each episode. They are split across three discs in a double size jewel case. Liner notes are limited to a chapter list and a brief note about Sayers' career. Sound quality is excellent - for a series nearly 40 years old is sounds really clear. 5 star in all for another enthralling outing for Wimsey and Co.
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on 26 August 2002
A delightful old time detective story with believable characters. A thoroughly entertaining way to spend an afternoon is to listen to these excellent CDs and lose yourself in the story as Peter Wimsey investigates with very little to go on.
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on 27 March 2016
Ian Carmichael is SO good as Lord Peter Wimsey. He and Gabriel Woolf (as Detective Chief Inspector Parker) sound so natural that it's difficult to believe at times that this is just a story. Highly recommended!
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on 18 May 2015
Quintessential Wimsey with Ian Carmichael. Highly enjoyable. I preferred this unabridged reading to the BBC full cast drama - although the drama version is fantastic as well (also with Ian Carmichael).Great storyline in my opinion one of DLS best.
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HALL OF FAMEon 12 December 2005
Dorothy Sayers, a.k.a. Dorothy Leigh Sayers Fleming, one of the first women to ever be granted a degree from Oxford University, created one of the leading figures in, and indeed in so doing helped to create the genre of, the British mystery novels. Lord Peter Wimsey, an elegant, refined London-based aristocrat with a taste for books and a penchant for the piano, is again here the leading figure, in 'Unnatural Death', also published as 'The Dawson Pedigree'.
Wimsey is an old Etonian, Balliol Oxford (of course), served with distinction in His Majesty's forces during the War (this book having been written in 1927, I shall leave it to your good services to deduce which War), who resides both town and country somewhat fashionably, and takes great pride in the ancient family history (by the time one gets to be the fifteenth Duke of anything, the family can be easily considered ancient). Wimsey has a vocation as criminologist, not out of necessity, surely, and not by training either (for such training did not formally exist, but, as an Oxford Arts man, he was trained for most anything intellectual, or at least, that is what an Oxford Arts man would tell you). An interesting addition to the beginning of the book is a short biographical sketch of the fictional Wimsey by his equally-fictional uncle.
All of this, of course, is but preamble to the latest mystery to come calling upon Lord Wimsey. There are the requisite features: a dead woman, Agatha Dawson, wealthy and having left a will that might not be a will, but rather a sham (a delirious woman whose nurse insists that there was no possible way of having made a will during the last month, yet oddly there is a document, complete with a witness who claims that dear old Agatha Dawson wanted nothing to do with the signing -- ah, the plot thickens here).
Of course, to most of the world, Wimsey is, well, following a whimsey of his own. The woman was after all elderly and in poor health; surely his investigations are misplaced. The doctor (not the one who tended Miss Dawson's death, to be sure, but an earlier doctor, suspicious of Dawson's sole heir, her niece) was accused of having blackened the name of Miss Whittaker, the niece, unnecessarily, particularly as no evidence of mischief had been uncovered. Wimsey with the assistance of Inspector Parker are able to rectify the situation vis-a-vis the doctor, but there is still the mystery.
Then, more death. This time the maid. To lose one woman may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two women... (well, you can fill in the rest yourself).
Of course I won't spoil it for you; perhaps my tag-team reviewers will do that for you, but I sincerely hope not. Suffice it to say, Wimsey proves himself a consummate actor in which the truth comes out (in London, and in style!).
One of the glories of Sayers work is the intricacies of her plots. She tends to get a huge number of people involved (the number of people who seemed to have trouped through the ill woman's bedchamber is in itself surprising, given the era) each with subplots and agenda that nonetheless get neatly resolved in the end. Sayers' development of character (even of the already dead ones!) is done with style and subtlety; while Wimsey is developed over several novels, one doesn't feel him a stranger by reading this one alone. The other characters fit their parts admirably (had Sayers not been a writer, she may well have made a good career as a casting director in Hollywood), in physical and personality attributes.
Her descriptions of the milieu, both in town (London) and in the country (the village and surroundings, in this case, of Hampshire, are interesting reading. Sayers is very much the cosmopolitan, and somewhat condescending toward the countryfolk. However, that is not a heavy element, and perhaps can be written off to her attempt to make Wimsey even more the worldly character he turns out to be over the course of her novels.
In all, an excellent read, a great diversion, and well worth musing over while sipping tea on a Regency-style sofa in one's dressing gown.
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on 9 September 2013
I have recently begun to re-read the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries on Kindle. The impact has not diminished; Dorothy L Sayers continues to shine as the standard to which all mystery writers should aspire. Brilliant
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