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The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lord Peter Wimsey (5)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,045884,464 (3.85)253
Fiction. Mystery. The dignified calm of the Bellona Club is shattered when Lord Peter Wimsey finds General Fentiman dead in his favourite chair. A straighforward death by natural causes? Perhaps... but why can no-one rememeber seeing the general the day he died? And who is the mysterious Mr Oliver? Lord Peter moves between London and Paris, salon and suburbs, to unfold the intriguing case. The elegant, intelligent amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey is one of detective literature's most popular creations. Ian Carmichael is the personification of Dorothy L. Sayers' charming investigator in this BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
This mixes a touch of gallows humor and some sharp social commentary into to a cleverly plotted Golden Age mystery. What starts out as an inquiry into the time of death for an unfortunate member of the exclusive Bellona Club becomes a twisty-turny, complex whodunnit that never bogs down. I’m giving all the credit to amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey and his non-stop banter with a large cast of quirky characters but the post Great War setting plays a large part in it too. I'm hoping for more of Wimsey's gentleman's gentleman Bunter in the next entry. ( )
  wandaly | Mar 3, 2024 |
I dunno why I only gave it three stars the first time round! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and appreciated that it basically reads like a personal apology for Unnatural Death, as well as setting the groundwork for Strong Poison.

It's a very pleasing mystery, one-part puzzle box and two-parts psychological study, which centers, as many of Sayers' works do, on the intersections of love, gender, and money. In this case, the story is told against the backdrop of the Lost Generation and veteran culture in post-WWI Britain. The plotting is much tighter than any of Sayers' previous mysteries, and she does some interesting, subtle things with point-of-view that I think are emblematic of her strengths as a writer. The plot hinges on (mis)evaluations of character, and when the truth comes into focus, it's so satisfying.

Sayers also pokes a bit at the relationship between criminal justice and moral justice, which is a concern of her books that I hadn't fully appreciated before. The ending, which I'd remembered as simply grim, is actually one of many examples in Sayers' work of extrajudicial justice, in this case a compromise between the machinery of law and the flawed code of masculine honor.

We also meet the inimitable Marjorie Phelps, who is such a delight. One of this book's central questions is essentially the dull rom-com query "Can men and women be friends?" or as Sayers more intelligently posed it, "Are women human?" While the book wants to give Peter a cookie for answering yes, frankly it's 1928 and he can probably have his cookie. Peter is such a frustrating character - he code-switches continually; he is a "smiling public man" who facetiously(?) says all manner of sexist and racist crap in order to manipulate his audience. But here, as with his interactions with Miss Climpton, Peter Shows Up For Women and it's pretty great.

Faults: the murderer isn't terribly interesting, the text is kinder to some of its characters than a modern reader would be (although Horrors of War and all that), and the two-page epilogue is unnecessary. Still, I liked this a whole lot and am willing to argue that it's Sayers' first really great detective novel (to the extent that I am qualified to evaluate such things). ( )
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
Another quality Wimsey mystery. Not stunning but a great and highly enjoyable golden age mystery. Wimsey sometimes hides what exactly he's thinking but is generally pretty explicit about what's made him think about stuff - there are no clues hidden and you can work it out yourself. It's very of its time but that's a lot of the charm - the details of the period are fascinating in and of themselves. It deals with some heady issues (as if murder isn't heady enough, I guess) around stuff like PTSD - I mean it's not really talked about in depth or anything but war and the effects of it crop up a bunch of times, which is interesting. ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
Re-reading the Wimsey stories from beginning to end. ( )
  JudyGibson | Jan 26, 2023 |
(53) I am now officially enjoying this Lord Peter Wimsey detective series. I have to say, better than Rendell's Inspector Wexford; and even better than the few classic Christie and Tey detectives series I have dabbled in. In this installment, an old man is found dead in his armchair reading the paper at the Bellona Club on Armistice Day. Lord Peter is also a member and happens to be there when the body is found. It is only morning time so the General must have just arrived; yet Wimsey realizes that rigor mortis is already quite advanced. Hmmm?

This saga has twists and turns involving inheritance, an exhumation, a poisoning, maybe even a secret love affair. And what is this, Lord Wimsey is ready to go extra-judicial in this installment to help out his fellow club members? His decisions are just, but perhaps not all together legal which is an interesting development in the series.

I will definitely continue in the series. These seem to be available in Kindle library book form so perfect diversion easily accessible when I can't think what next to read. Excellent escapist reading. ( )
  jhowell | Dec 11, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sayers, Dorothy L.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayer, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergvall, SonjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bleck, CathieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carmichael, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Casas, FloraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffini, Grazia MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lohse, GudrunTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Luho, HelenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martens, Hilda MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palmiste, EndelKujundaja.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torim, MilviKujundaja.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this morgue?" demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside the "Evening Banner" with the air of a man released from an irksome duty.
[Afterword] The year 1920 is the generally accepted dawn of the Golden Age of detective fiction.
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This is the main work for The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. It should not be combined with any adaptation, abridgement, etc.
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Fiction. Mystery. The dignified calm of the Bellona Club is shattered when Lord Peter Wimsey finds General Fentiman dead in his favourite chair. A straighforward death by natural causes? Perhaps... but why can no-one rememeber seeing the general the day he died? And who is the mysterious Mr Oliver? Lord Peter moves between London and Paris, salon and suburbs, to unfold the intriguing case. The elegant, intelligent amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey is one of detective literature's most popular creations. Ian Carmichael is the personification of Dorothy L. Sayers' charming investigator in this BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation.

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