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Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey…

Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries) (original 1927; edition 1995)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

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2,181472,980 (3.85)148
Title:Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries)
Authors:Dorothy L. Sayers
Info:HarperTorch (1995), Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, Books Read 2012
Tags:fiction, crime, mystery, british

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Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers (1927)



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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Unnatural Death opens with a bystander overhearing a dinner conversation between Lord Peter and his best friend and colleague (besides Bunter, that is), Charles Parker, an Inspector at Scotland Yard. The bystander is a doctor who had public doubts about an apparent natural death due to cancer that defied his predicted survival timeframe. He paid a high social cost for expressing his concern and wanted to move on. Lord Peter took his doubts seriously enough to figure out the name and location of the decedent and embark on an investigation. This is the book where Charles is introduced to Miss Climpson, Lord Peter's premier confidential agent, hilariously misunderstood to be a love interest in a discreet love nest. Peter sends Miss Climpson to the village to dig up gossip and observe the local characters involved. And Bunter plays a role at appropriate moments, as does Mr. Murbles, Lord Peter’s solicitor. Charles Parker doesn't believe there's anything to investigate for the first half of the story, until additional people associated with the case die of apparent natural causes and a motive is finally uncovered. By the end, there were 3 murders, 3 attempted murders, and 1 suicide, all starting with an old woman supposedly dying of metastatic cancer in the hospice care of the day. The visual aid of a genealogical table at the end helps put the motive in perspective. I think it might be the highest body count of any of the Lord Peter mysteries, and certainly one of the most violent near misses. . The murderer is unrepentant and fighting to the end. This book was very much a contemplation on gender norms and roles and implicit lesbian relationships, as well as Lord Peter questioning whether his activities cause more harm than good ( )
  justchris | Jan 18, 2016 |
probably my least favorite Wimsey. The point of inheritance law involved is interesting --worthy of Cyril Hare or Michael Gilbert, but I have seen the murder method criticized as unreliable, and the ending is depressingly grim. ( )
  antiquary | Jan 4, 2016 |
While dining out one day, Lord Peter Wimsey and his friend Inspector Parker are discussing so-called accidental deaths that might actually be murders. A young doctor overhears them and joins their conversation. He shares the story of a former patient, an elderly woman with cancer who died rather suddenly. She was terminally ill, and no signs of foul play were found on the body, so everyone believed her death was natural; but the doctor was nevertheless suspicious because she had seemed to be improving lately. The woman's great-niece and presumed heiress was living with her at the time, so she had opportunity, but her motive was questionable because the old lady would die soon enough from natural causes. Lord Peter is intrigued by the case and decides to investigate. He employs Miss Climpson, a chatty but intelligent spinster, to temporarily relocate to the dead woman's village and do some discreet investigating. Meanwhile, he and Parker search for other suspects, motives, and possible methods of the murder.

After rediscovering Dorothy Sayers earlier this year, I've embarked on a project to read all her Lord Peter Wimsey books in publication order. This is book #3 in the series, but if I recall correctly, it can be read as a standalone. I enjoyed this book a lot, but I feel like it's a very unusual detective story. Despite a high body count, it doesn't feel very action-packed or plot-driven. The main mystery is not whodunnit, but why and how. One of the biggest clues to the motive is a tiny change in an obscure property statute. Nevertheless, I found the mystery compelling and was eager to solve the complete puzzle of how and why the murder took place. Also, Miss Climpson is delightful; this is her first appearance in the series, but I believe she'll be a recurring character in future books. She reminds me somewhat of a Jane Austen character -- one of the good-hearted chatterboxes, like a more intelligent Miss Bates. I wasn't completely on board with the characterization of the villain, whose psychology didn't ring true for me. I doubt this will be my favorite Sayers mystery, but I did enjoy it and look forward to reading the rest of the series.
1 vote christina_reads | Oct 28, 2015 |
In this mystery, Wimsey tries to determine, not who, but why, and most importantly, how, it was accomplished. The labyrinthine 1925 Administration of Estates Act features strongly. Although the plot would not pass muster in modern mystery writing, it was a fun read. This one introduces Lord Peter's elderly assistant, the meticulous Miss Climpson. Well-written and entertaining, this is a perfect example of the golden age of mystery writing. ( )
  VivienneR | Sep 26, 2015 |
Pgchuis's review Jun 29, 15 · edit
4 of 5 stars
Read from June 27 to 29, 2015

By means of a chance encounter in a coffee shop, Sir Peter hears of the possibly suspicious death of Miss Dawson. She was dying of cancer, but in the end died far sooner than her doctor had expected. He was allowed to perform a post-mortem but could find nothing to explain her death. For the first third of the novel, Peter Parker, Lord Peter's policeman-side kick, is not entirely convinced there is a crime to solve.

There is a lot going on in this story. I enjoyed the finer legal distinctions of the Law of Property Act 1925, which held the answer to the central puzzle, and I loved Miss Climpson, a sort of high church Miss Marple, whose letters were superb. On the other hand, the body count got a bit ridiculous, and I worked out who Mrs Forrest was very early on. The scene with Mr Trigg going to the dark house with the dying woman was far-fetched by any standards and the discovery of the "preparatory notes for confession" was extraordinarily convenient. On the other hand, I did love the bit where Sir Peter is suspicious of Mrs Forrest because she didn't enjoy kissing him.

More Bunter needed, though. ( )
  pgchuis | Jun 30, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sayers, Dorothy L.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayer, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bleck, CathieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carmichael, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffini, Grazia MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michal, MarieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Relander, InkeriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
‘No sign of foul play,’ says Dr Carr after the post-mortem on Agatha Dawson. The case is closed. But Lord Peter Wimsey is not satisfied . . .

With no clues to work on, he begins his own investigation. No clues, that is, until the sudden, senseless murder of Agatha’s maid. What is going on in the mysterious Mrs Forrest’s Mayfair flat? And can Wimsey catch a desperate murderer before he himself becomes one of the victims?
Contains the famous biographical note on Lord Peter Wimsey.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061043583, Mass Market Paperback)

The wealthy old woman was dead -- a trifle sooner than expected. The intricate trail of horror and senseless murder led from a beautiful hampshire village to a fashionable London flat and a deliberate test of amour  -- staged by the debonair sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.

"Here the modern detective story begins to come to its own; and all the historical importance aside, it remains an absorbing and charming story today."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:26 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The wealthy old woman was dead-a trifle sooner than expected. the intricate trail of horror and senseless murder led from a beautiful Hampshire village to a fashionable london flat and a deliberate test of amour-staged by the debonair sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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