Dorothy L Sayers, the wonderfully talented novelist whose brilliant creation Lord Peter Wimsey captured the imaginations of thousands of readers around the world for many generations, wrote a number of novels including her signature protagonist. Ranging from the early books which were awash with criticism of the first world war, to the later novels in which tackled topics such as sexism and the class divide, Sayers always delivered a crime fiction novel with a moral compass, providing the reader with a stimulating intellectual challenge.
A multi talented writer who was also a renowned poet, translator and playwright, Sayers used Lord Peter as a means to live vicariously, painting a literary picture of a wealthy and sophisticated man about town whilst she herself was impoverished and struggling. Here I select my top five favourite of this inspirational author’s novels featuring the famous foppish sleuth, which will either help you get started on your Wimsey obsession or further your infatuation.
- Thrones, Dominations: Sayers’ final, unfinished novel that was polished off by the incredibly skilled Jill Paton Walsh (read my review of her excellent works HERE) is a masterpiece, expertly combining the domestic bliss of the newly married (spoilers!) Lord Peter and Harriet with the latest case, which expertly explores the fabric of society and finds it wanting.
- Five Red Herrings: As the title suggests, this is a novel full of twists and turns as Lord Peter desperately attempts to separate fact from fiction in the case of an artist who is murdered at a colony in Scotland. Sayers’ skill has always been characterisation, and this novel showcases this to the fullest as the reader explores the various resentments that linger amongst this group of seemingly pleasant artists who have been thrown by chance. The novel sets a number of puzzles for the reader to solve, and Sayers does not give anything away, providing a real challenge for even the seasoned whodunit reader.
- Murder Must Advertise: Like all of Sayers’ works Murder Must Advertise draws on the author’s own experiences, in this instance her previous work in advertising. This is one of the funniest of her works, as Lord Peter finds himself humorously out of his depth as he goes undercover to find out what happened to one of the agency’s copywriters, who fell down the stairs whilst trying to write a letter to the firm’s management exposing a scandal. Supposedly Sayers herself disliked the novel, which she wrote quickly in order to fulfil an obligation to her publisher, but despite this it remains one of her most renowned novels thanks to its ingenious plotting and superb critique of the English class system.
- Whose Body?: The very first introduction to Lord Peter is a thrilling tale of a deceitful murder, perfectly disguised and motivated by lust, hatred and revenge. As introductions go Lord Peter’s is fairly unconventional; he bursts into the novel in search of clues before burning out and suffering from shock as part of his posttraumatic stress, forcing his stoic butler Bunter and dedicated, put upon friend, policeman Charles Parker, to step in and provide the clues. It is always Wimsey who provides the brainpower and the overall solution, and this is evident even his first ever outing.
- Lord Peter Views the Body: Although not technically a novel, this thrilling collection of short stories is a great place to join Lord Peter on his adventures. From the bone chilling The Man with the Copper Fingers to the fascinating The Cave of Ali Baba, there is something for everyone in this brilliant collection that explores multiple facets of Lord Peter and Bunter’s detective history.