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Julie Fredericksen

Usually I take delight in being the first reader to comment upon the book (being an American night owl who is awake when all in Britain are sleeping), but this time I can't offer my usual 100% for or against opinion.

As a whole, I did like the book, yes. I was somewhat bored by the all the information about the bells, but I put that down to my impatience with the "unneccesary" information and the need to "just get on with it". I was similarly bored by the overlong description of the Fens, but realized later on (with the flooding) that the explanatory info was necessary).

All in all, it was delightful fun. I became somewhat bogged down by who was who and what was what but did not feel the need to re-read passages or over-agonize over these things. I felt that details would be explained in the end, and I was right.

I do admit to Googling Lord Peter and was pleased to learn the additional information about him there. I had seen a British adaption of one of the novels in the 1970s and did not like the actor. I will probably hear from Cornflower readers when they read that I was delighted to find out that Lord Peter had previously fallen in love with a woman and had eventually married. No more said by me on this subject except to say that I think I might have have come by my opinion via the film.

I was also happy to learn that Wimsey's "man" was much more than just a manservant to him and was indeed his best friend.

Would I read another Lord Peter book? I doubt it, but I did so much enjoy the atmosphere of this lovely ENGLISH mystery!

Ruthiella

This was a re-read for me. I remember being very confused by the change ringing the first time around. I understood it better this time and I also google it and watch a bit of it on youtube which was helpful.

I like mysteries and I particularly like Lord Peter mysteries. I read somewhere that Sayers was not so well off when she began writing them, so she gave her protagonist all the luxuries and fine things that she could dream of. I think this really comes across in the books. Lord Peter really does lead a charmed life and I enjoy experiencing it vicariously through reading about it. Plus, I adore Bunter. I wish I had a Bunter! It would make my life easier.

Slowly, slowly as I read I figured out the murderer, aided of course by vague memories of my previous read and the fact that I have viewed the Ian Carmichael televised version of this title as well. Great fun. Thanks Cornflower!

Margaret Stedman

A re-read (I've lost count of how many times!) for me too. I love DLS and I particularly like Lord Peter. The Nine Tailors is 'my' book as my family name is Stedman, so how could I ever pass up a book which permanently links my name in such a romantic way to both bells and mystery, in the phrase "a short touch of Stedman's triples"??
The immense detail in this book is both intimidating and indispensible. Yet for an Antipodean such as I, this book rises above being merely English and is delightfully as British as the Empire.
Thanks Cornflower for the taste of nostalgia.

Barbara

I've lost count of how many times I've read the book. As I wrote on my own blog, the clues about the bells are all there. 'After the first reading you might wonder why you didn’t pay them enough attention. On subsequent readings, they give you the willies.'

Here's some examples of what I meant. The first person to give the hint is the kindly rector's wife. "It’s surprising, isn’t it?" she added, "How soft and mellow it sounds in here. But of course there’s another floor between us and the bell chamber."
If you’ve read the book before, you know that Deacon is up there and it gives you the shivers. She also says, "I think bells are rather frightening, somehow." Later, we get, '‘The bells, with mute black mouths gaping downwards, brooded in their ancient places.’
Wimsey, ‘Presently their hooded silence oppressed him. A vague vertigo seized him. He felt as though they were slowly collapsing together and coming down upon him … Suddenly he shouted in a great voice: "Tailor Paul!" and he must somehow have hit upon a harmonic of the scale, for a faint brazen note answered him, remote and menacing, from above.’
Hezekiah, ancient bell ringer. "They bells du know well who’s a haulin of ‘un. Wunnerful unnerstandin they is. They can’t abide a wicked man. They lays in wait to overthrow ‘un. … Yew ain’t no call to be afeard o’ the bells if so be as yew follows righteousness."
Nobby Cranton recounting what he saw in the church. "I felt as if there was hundreds of eyes watching me … I’m not what you’d call fanciful in a general way, but there was something about the bells that gave me the fantods."
Jim Thoday, describing how he got the body down from the belfry. " … and those bells! I was expecting all the time to hear them speak. I never have liked the sound of bells. There’s something – you’d think they were alive sometimes and could talk." He then recalls a story he read as a boy in which the bells ‘called out after a murderer.’

I think it's brilliant and I've been in love with Lord Peter for years. I can't imagine now what it must be like to read DLS for the first time.

Erika

Is it being American? I cannot re-read the Wimsey books (Is he ever well named!). They are too dated and the humor, such as it is, creaks. But the bell ringing once stood me in good stead and I am grateful. We spent a holiday in the Landmark Trust fisherman's cottage in St. David's, just a hop and a skip away from the bell tower and were invited to watch a rehearsal when we peeped into the entrance as the bells began to ring. It comes alive to me still and leaves a wonderful memory.

Barbara MacLeod

I started out well but gave up about 3/4 of the way through as it just got to tortuous. I really, really liked her idea of using the bells as a focus in the story. What I enjoyed was the way bells and bell-ringing were used in their day, e.g. announcement of a death. I was simply unaware of the many roles of church bells all those years ago.

She certainly went to town on her research! I get the feeling she enjoyed the work of writing the book.

Also her ear for dialogue was marvellous. She captured the dialects of the characters so very well.

Audrey

Only half way through, but well sunk in and enjoying it very much. (I'm never going to be in the better-without-Harriet camp, though.) What I really love is the language of the bells. It's totally incomprehensible to me, but it's so poetical at the same time. It's possible that it all meant more to her {British} readers, or some of them at least, at the time, but I think it was brilliant of her to use it as she did.

Sandy

Thanks Cornflower for the opportunity to revisit the world of DLS. I have to confess that my favourite one is 'Gaudy Night' because I am just a romantic (!).

They are densely written and plotted with ingenuity. I think that they repay the effort of concentration and I am unable to scamper through them in the way that is possible with one of Agatha Christies'.

The rural setting, with the village and the obsession with campanlolgy seemed to be taken from a by-gone age and idealised (somewhat like Lord Wimsey himself).

Anyway, I just sat back and let myself be absorbed into this world and I had a very pleasurable time. In common with everyone else, I want my own Bunter!

Anne

I throughly enjoyed this book. I think I must have seen a tv adaptation of it a long time ago. I did get a bit confused with some of the characters through. I felt I had to plough through all the details about the bell ringing. I find the Sir Peter such an interesting character definitely from another age. Like Sandy my favourite Sayers is Gaudy Nights.

Mr Cornflower

I read this nearly thirty years ago and had actually forgotten the plot, so like a number of other readers I was rather bemused by the intricacies of who did what to whom. As a result there came a point where I more or less gave up trying to figure it out and just let the whole thing wash over me in a rather impressionistic way, and I'm not sure that's any less valid a way of reacting to the book. The setting is remarkably well done and atmospheric - this is also true of the two other books which I most enjoyed, Five Red Herrings (an artists' colony in rural southwest Scotland) and Gaudy Night (prewar Oxford). These three together are the books I'd recommend to someone who has never read DLS.

Moira

An enjoyable re-read for me. Much meatier than an Agatha Christie, but with the same comforting moral compass that detective fiction of this era generally has (another favourite is Marjorie Allingham, with a similar "well-born" hero and a romantic love-interest). They're obviously pretty dated now, but if you're prepared to weather a bit of stereotypical casting (absent-minded vicars, forelock-tugging yokels) and some slightly clunky dialogue, they repay the effort. In The Nine Tailors I found the bell-ringing stuff quite fascinating and also enjoyed DLS's amusing presentation of little bits of side information - the comparison between British change-ringing and the Continental carillon bells, as well as Lord Peter's discussion of why the Brits put an address at the head of a letter, whereas the French put it on the outside of an envelope.

Susan in TX

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt like I was learning so much. Bunter reminded me a lot of Jeeves, and I would take either one. I've only read one other DLS (years ago), but this made me want to read some more. Golden age mysteries are some of my favorite comfort reads. I did think the actual "whodunit" was sort of given away early on, but I love how Barbara traces out several of the references above. Makes it a little more chilling. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Cornflower!

Barbara MacLeod

Actually you have a good point (when trying figure out who did what when and where) about "just let the whole thing wash over ... in an impressionist way". Yes, I must learn lighten up a bit and keep going even if not getting the whole picture!

Ruth M

You don't have to be British to love DLS. Hailing from Kentucky, living in Virginia, I have adored her for years. She's my go-to re-read in tough times, cozy times, can't sleep times, need something wonderful, wise and well-crafted to get lost in. Have read all of her novels more times than I can count. This one is particularly atmospheric.

I think the word "dated" implies compare/contrast to the current time. These books are deliciously old, other, offering entry to another time and place. They seem timeless to me.

ChrisCross53

A re-read, but the ending still surprised me! I really enjoyed this, and Sayers is such an intelligent writer, who creates a sense of time and place with effortless ease, and lays clues for us to follow if we can. I love the names of the bells, and the terminology and lists of instructions she includes - they have the same mesmeric feel as the shipping forecast, or the football results. Some of her comments, like the view of French peasants you mention, or her portrayal of poor Potty the 'imbecile' may be decidedly non-pc today, but they reflect the period she was writing in. http://chriscross-thebooktrunk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/nine-tailors.html

Anji

It was lovely to pick up DLS and to reacquaint myself with Lord Peter. It has been years since I have read any of the Lord Peter mysteries. I did also find the stories far meatier than any Agatha Christie novels.

I also watched the television series staring Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter and I remember being so disappointed with the choice of actors in remaking of the mystery, years later.

Jill

Although vaguely aware that in bell ringing certain peals had meaning it was not until reading this delightful novel that I realised just what intricate messages each bell and peal signified. The sense of place is strongly portrayed and I had to adjust my mental picture of the church when so many refugees and animals from the flooded fens could be housed there for such a long period. This was my first DLS novel but I would love to read more in this fascinating and nostalgic series. I do also recall seeing some BBC productions based on these novels a very long time ago.
PS After reading Julie Fredrickson's comments I too googled Lord Peter Wimsey and I'm gobsmacked at the backstory devised for this character, including tracing his lineage back to the crusaders. Amazing.

Lyn

DLS is my favourite Golden Age writer & I've read all the books many times. This one, Strong Poison & Gaudy Night are my favourites & I'm also in the better-with-Harriet camp. I love the atmosphere of NT. Sayers grew up in the Fens & based the Rector on her father & it shows in the level of detail in the book. The mystery is suitably mysterious & the bells are very sinister & Wimsey & Bunter are enjoyable sleuths to spend a few hours with.

Claire

In keeping with everyone commentating I've very much enjoyed reading Nine Tailors. I notice many, like me, have been confused with who was doing what to whom and when etc! I wonder if anyone else was reading on a Kindle or similar? I think if I'd been reading a book I'd have flipped backwards and forwards and tried to keep track. I find this really tricky to do reading an e book. Is it just me!? I've already decided to read another DLS, probably Gaudy Night, and will definetely be returning to the good old fashioned paper book (which I think Lord P. would prefer anyway!). Thank you Cornflower.

Chloe

Normally not a lover of crime or detective novels, Lord PW is so famous I thought I'd give this one a try. It was fun, though I found the bellringing mathematics and some of the plotting impenetrable.
And I know it's meant to be so, but everyone was too much according to type - kindly, bumbling but clever vicar plus kindly, reverent, respectful yokels. The village idiot in particular was a step too far for me. I know it was written in simpler times and I'm not criticising it for that, just I found it made it harder to be absorbed by the text as so much of it jarred.

I remain undecided if a plot so clever 90% of readers can't follow is a good or a bad thing. I'm glad it wasn't just me. Either way a good choice, thanks.

Chloe

She had a good line in titles, I've never heard of Five Red Herrings but how perfect for a Scottish mystery. And Gaudy Night somehow is Oxbridge in two words, whether it has become so thanks to the book I'm not sure

Sandy

Yes I was reading it on my Kindle and I know what you mean. But I rarely track back when reading & I trust that all will become clear with time, so my style of reading fits well with the Kindle.

MelD

Yes, me too. I was too lazy to flip back through the Kindle version, so let it "wash over me" ;)

MelD

A long time ago (20 yrs?), I think I listened to an audiobook that featured Wimsey, but apart from that, I don't think I've read any of the stories before this one.
Although the change ringing was way over my head, I enjoyed reading about it. I had no idea that there was so much meaning or music involved with preset peals etc. This aspect of the story was very detailed and I did rather bumble through those bits, though I think I got the idea. Now I see why it's actually a "hobby"!
I adore the period feel and am rarely, if ever, offended by non-pc style - it's just part of the context and the way people thought in those days (my 95 yr old Granny still doesn't understand people, no matter how perfect their English, if they aren't white British...!), that's social and cultural history for you. The descriptions of lifestyle and traditions mean a lot to me and I like the detail that DLS offers here - I'm now curious to see if that runs through all her books, so will definitely be reading Gaudy Night, which sounds to me as if I will love it. A recommendation for my anglophile non-British daughter/son-in-law planning to spend a few years in the Oxbridge area LOL?!
The story was clever in its twists and turns and held my attention, which in truth flagged occasionally, but I was pleased when I finished the book and all the threads came together; I hadn't really thought about the stretch in the time period, but I think it's probably true that that ploy gave the story time to mature.
And yes, I can imagine American readers having a little difficulty with the language, depending on their personal accents/experiences.
I'm enjoying reading your club books - so far most have been books I might not have thought of reading otherwise, which has to be a good thing ;)

Claire said in reply to Sandy and MelD

Thanks for responses re Kindle. I obviously need to relax a little!

P.K.

This book was most enjoyable, and I did get quite confused with the characters. I had no knowledge of bell ringing and it was quite enlightening. Some readers found the book dated, but that is what I liked about it, the time, language and social interactions. Thank you for highlighting this book, I look forward to reading more titles by Dorothy Sayers. Must try those tea cakes.

rj

I bought my first copy of a Lord Peter mystery when I was in 6th grade, with my Christmas money. It was a set of 4 mysteries, but I had to wait to get this one out of the library, because it wasn't in print then.

I wore out that library book, and it is so nice to be able to have a copy of my own. I still love the atmosphere, especially the image of the flat fens. So different from growing up in a very hilly town. I find that the description of place is almost transporting (unlike Clouds of Witness, which I always find claustrophobic).I've gotten to the point where the mystery is secondary to my enjoyment, since the characters are like old friends now.

fifiquilter

The vicar, in this instance, is far from stereotypical, being based on Dorothy's own father, who was latterly vicar of a fenland parish. There is a great deal of true affection in the characterisation of the vicar and his wife

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