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Five Red Herrings (1931)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lord Peter Wimsey (7)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,455594,551 (3.6)230
The body was on the pointed rocks alongside the stream. The artist might have fallen from the cliff where he was painting, but there are too many suspicious elements -- particularly the medical evidence that proves he'd been dead nearly half a day, though eyewitnesses had seen him alive a scant hour earlier. And then there are the six prime suspects -- all of them artists, all of whom wished him dead. Five are red herrings, but one has created a masterpiece of murder that baffles everyone, including Lord Peter Wimsey.… (more)
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» See also 230 mentions

English (55)  Danish (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
On a lazy day i revisited Five Red Herrings an early Lord Peter Wimsey book and was reminded how much I disliked it.

The later books are full of depth of character and lovely little asides and real people doing real things even in the clockwork world of an English Murder Mystery.

But this! Train schedules and time-tables and alibis and an incredibly complex plot that I read twice and didn't totally follow. Not enough of the divine Bunter who has only one small scene worming information out of a Scottish ladies maid and of course no Harriet Vane at all.

Did i mention the book is set in Scotland? Sayers does a huge job in having everyone speak in broad Scottish dialect, and after the first few pages it REALLY gRRRRRR-ates on the air(ear) , mon. Just for fun in the middle of it all she introduces a Jewish traveling salesman - with a strong Yiddish accent - and a STUTTER!!!!! (OY! G-G-G-G-gevelt!)

One has to walk (as a writer) before one can fly. The later books are better. Won't be reading this one again. Shuddering delicately ( )
  magicians_nephew | Apr 23, 2021 |
Re-read, because I was in the mood for something familiar with trains. The trains in this are less interesting than I'd remembered, and of course reading it knowing the solution is a completely different experience, but it made a perfectly adequate bedtime book.
  KathleenJowitt | Oct 30, 2020 |
Better as it went along, when I finally figured out what she was doing (I didn't identify the murderer, I mean I figured out the author's narrative intention). It's in the title: five red herrings, and she very clearly (if I'd been paying proper attention) sets out 6 compelling suspects, only one of which will be the killer--no need to wonder if perhaps the maid did it, or the artist's wife's sister, no, it's going to be one of the 6. And the delight is that every Sayers mystery is structured differently. In this particular book there's a lot of setting up, and then the suspects have a chapter each to state their case, after which various stakeholders lay out their theories about whodunnit (in two marvelous chapters, very efficiently titled), after which Wimsey solves it all in the three final chapters.

At first I found the suspects hard to tell apart (all were male painters with nothing in particular for me to seize on by way of distinguishing), but I didn't worry about it, and it didn't matter, eventually they fell into place as "the one with the wife," "the one with the beard," etc.

And don't even bother trying to maintain a sense of the oft-cited train schedule--that's a joke, really, like the Californians on SNL who are experts on their local highway system. The characters in this novel are always saying things like "but he canna have made it to Strathmashie by 10:45 unless he took the 8:15 to Inverey and transferred to the Flichity train at 9:30." They know the schedule, so you don't have to. There are pages of it, and each time the characters earnestly began debate train times, I just giggle. I think that was the intended reaction.

(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s). ( )
  ashleytylerjohn | Oct 13, 2020 |
Lord Peter Wimsey is vacationing in a small Scottish village notable as a haven for artists and fishermen. When one particularly obnoxious artist is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, it looks like a tragic accident. If Wimsey hadn’t been on the scene, that’s what everyone would have continued to think. When Wimsey inspects the scene of the death, he realizes that there is something missing that should be there. Its absence leads Wimsey to conclude that a murder had been committed, and that the murderer was an artist. The field is narrowed to six suspects. Five of them are red herrings, while the sixth is the murderer.

The murder is so cleverly plotted that I found it too clever for me. One of the things I love about mysteries is watching for clues that point to the solution. I didn’t know enough about either art or fishing to be able to do that with this book. It was a bit long as well. I think I might have enjoyed Three Red Herrings more if it resulted in a shorter book! ( )
  cbl_tn | Sep 6, 2020 |
I enjoyed the full cast audio version of this Sayers classic with Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter. The mystery centers on the murder of an artist in a Scottish town. Another artist must have committed the murder. Train tables receive quite a bit of attention. Many people criticize these, but I'm not familiar enough with them to do so. In the end each investigator comes up with his own theory, but Lord Peter, of course, solves the problem. ( )
  thornton37814 | Jul 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sayers, Dorothy L.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayer, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergvall, SonjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bleck, CathieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldberg, CarinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffini, Grazia MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malahide, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michal, MarieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Næstved, HenningTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pekkanen, HilkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my friend Joe Dignam,
kindliest of landlords
First words
If one lives in Galloway, one either fishes or paints.
[Foreword] Dear Joe,
Here at last is your book about Gatehouse and Kirkcudbright.
[Afterword] The year 1920 is the generally accepted dawn of the Golden Age of detective fiction.
Quotations
(Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant what he was to look for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page.)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is the book Five Red Herrings (originally published in the US as Suspicious Characters).
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The body was on the pointed rocks alongside the stream. The artist might have fallen from the cliff where he was painting, but there are too many suspicious elements -- particularly the medical evidence that proves he'd been dead nearly half a day, though eyewitnesses had seen him alive a scant hour earlier. And then there are the six prime suspects -- all of them artists, all of whom wished him dead. Five are red herrings, but one has created a masterpiece of murder that baffles everyone, including Lord Peter Wimsey.

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