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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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2,136453,064 (3.86)147
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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English (41)  Danish (2)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (45)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
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 |
Another comforting reread. Less comforting here, in that the villain is a young woman who some people read as a lesbian or asexual, with that behaviour being part of what makes her a character to be suspicious of, and in that Sayers has a rare character of colour here, the Reverend Hallelujah, who she doesn't handle particularly well.

It also doesn't help that once the medical part of the mystery is solved, a lot of the tension -- e.g. is Wimsey wrong? what on earth is happening here? -- goes out of it. I already solved the mystery the first time, through unfortunately having watched an NCIS episode with that exact cause of death just before I read it, and since then I've also listened to the radio play... The tension is, consequently, quite low for me.

Still, it's Sayers, which means it's otherwise well-written, and it involves Lord Peter, Bunter, Parker and Miss Climpson quite prominently, which is entertaining. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 28, 2013 |
Lord Peter Wimsey can be a lot of fun. I love the way he takes lines from poetry and mangles them for his own purposes. The relationship between Wimsey and the grumbling copper Parker is always amusing. The mystery itself is entertaining, and there are a few twists. The most difficult thing in this book is the racism of all the characters, in this Britain of the 20s. ( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 24, 2013 |
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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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