"The fascination of [Dorothy L. Sayers's] books is not only in the solving of bizarre crimes in out-of-the-ordinary locations (an advertising agency, an Oxford women's college, an East Anglian belfry), but also in the character of her detective, the super-sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. He is a languid, monocled aristocrat, whose foppish manner conceals the fact that he has a first-class Oxford degree, was in army intelligence during the First World War, collects rare books, plays the piano like Rubinstein, dances like Astaire and seems to have swallowed a substantial dictionary of quotations. He is aided and abetted by his manservant Bunter, a suave charmer adept at extracting confidences from the cooks, taxi-drivers, waitresses, barbers and vergers who would collapse in forelock-tugging silence if Wimsey himself ever deigned to speak to them. Several of the novels describe the unfolding relationship between Wimsey and the crime novelist Harriet Vane. Seldom have detective stories been so preposterous or so unputdownable."
So says the Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide in its entry on Dorothy L. Sayers, and that prompted me to choose one of her works for the Cornflower Book Group's March book. Bearing in mind - again according to the Guide - that some readers prefer the stories which don't feature Harriet Vane, I've chosen what is said to be one of the best of the other novels, The Nine Tailors, published in 1934.
"When his sexton finds a corpse in the wrong grave, the rector of Fenchurch St. Paul asks Lord Peter Wimsey to find out who the dead man was and how he came to be there.
The lore of bell-ringing and a brilliantly evoked village in the remote fens of East Anglia are the unforgettable background to a story of an unsolved crime and its violent unravelling twenty years later."
That's enough for me to want to pick it up and read forthwith - and test that 'unputdownable' claim above - and I hope that this choice will find favour with lots of people. If you haven't read along with the group before perhaps you'll feel like doing so now; we're not scary or intimidating, I hope, we just like to share our thoughts on the book in question, and while opinions often diverge, any debate is friendly and respectful.
Surely every library will have a copy of this book in their system (those whose catalogues I've checked do), and for those who want their own, shops and internet retailers will supply it easily: I see that The Book Depository are currently charging slightly more than Amazon but they offer free international delivery; Amazon US has it, too. There are also plenty of used copies available, there is a Kindle version, and for fans of audiobooks, a BBC Radio 4 Full-cast Dramatisation.
We'll be talking about Rebecca West's The Fountain Overflows from the 25th. of February, so let's begin our discussion of The Nine Tailors four weeks after that on Saturday, 24th, March. Please join us.