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Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (book review)

Goodreads description

The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death.

The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better.

In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

Thursday Quotables Meme

Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers is quirky, as I discovered a while ago when I read a couple of short stories. The mystery tends to be odd and unusual, and apart from this, the general tone follows the protagonist’s flamboyant and generally carefree personality. 

At least, this is on the surface. 

That’s what I thought until I came to the episode below, halfway through Whose Body? It really touched me, because I seem to remember that Sayers’s husband was a WWI shellshocked veteran. This little episode, together with another further down the story, gave so much more layer to a character that might have looked quite volatile otherwise. 

The story of Whose Body? is indeed quirky and unusual, with a strange idea at the base, but it’s also very well constructed, realistic and logical. 

 I really enjoyed Lord Peter’s fondness for logical thinking and his genuine interest for humanity. He is a very unusual character, even if on the surface he is very similar to many other amateur sleuths of the Golden Age of mystery.

 He is witty, and kind of volatile, and voluble, self-deprecating, but also eager when he puts his mind to a problem. And this is how the story is too. 

I really really enjoyed it. 

 Most certainly, this won’t be the last mystery by Sayers I’ll read.

Whose Body?


A log broke across and sank into a fluff of white ash. A belated motor-lorry rumbled past the window.

Mr. Bunter, sleeping the sleep of the true and faithful servant, was aroused in the small hours by a hoarse whisper, “Bunter!”

“Yes, my lord,” said Bunter, sitting up and switching on the light.

“Put that light out, damn you!” said the voice. “Listen—over there—listen—can’t you hear it?”

“It’s nothing, my lord,” said Mr. Bunter, hastily getting out of bed and catching hold of his master; “it’s all right, you get to bed quick and I’ll fetch you a drop of bromide. Why, you’re all shivering—you’ve been sitting up too late.”

“Hush! no, no—it’s the water,” said Lord Peter with chattering teeth, “it’s up to their waists down there, poor devils. But listen! can’t you hear it? Tap, tap, tap—they’re mining us—but I don’t know where—I can’t hear—I can’t. Listen, you! There it is again—we must find it—we must stop it . . . Listen! Oh, my God! I can’t hear—I can’t hear anything for the noise of the guns. Can’t they stop the guns?”

“Oh, dear!” said Mr. Bunter to himself. “No, no—it’s all right, Major—don’t you worry.”

“But I hear it,” protested Peter.

“So do I,” said Mr. Bunter stoutly; “very good hearing, too, my lord. That’s our own sappers at work in the communication trench. Don’t you fret about that, sir.”

Lord Peter grasped his wrist with a feverish hand.

“Our own sappers,” he said; “sure of that?”

“Certain of it,” said Mr. Bunter, cheerfully.

“They’ll bring down the tower,” said Lord Peter.

“To be sure they will,” said Mr. Bunter, “and very nice, too. You just come and lay down a bit, sir—they’ve come to take over this section.”

“You’re sure it’s safe to leave it?” said Lord Peter.

“Safe as houses, sir,” said Mr. Bunter, tucking his master’s arm under his and walking him off to his bedroom.

Lord Peter allowed himself to be dosed and put to bed without further resistance. Mr. Bunter, looking singularly un-Bunterlike in striped pyjamas, with his stiff black hair ruffled about his head, sat grimly watching the younger man’s sharp cheekbones and the purple stains under his eyes.

“Thought we’d had the last of these attacks,” he said. “Been overdoin’ of himself. Asleep?” He peered at him anxiously. An affectionate note crept into his voice. “Bloody little fool!” said Sergeant Bunter.

WHOSE BODY (Dorothy L Sayers) The first instalment of the Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery series is a witty, clever, unusual and very classy mystery novel.

The Thursday Quotables was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy. It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursday and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.


  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted October 15, 2020 at 14:57

    You know, Sarah, I do like some of Sayers’ work very much. My issue is the casual ‘isms’ throughout her novels. I know I should look at those books in the context of their times, but still… I agree, though, that this is an interesting whodunit!

    • Post Author
      Posted October 18, 2020 at 08:57

      I haven’t read a lot of hers, but definitely she’s ‘strange’ enough that sometimes she verges on weird. Which I don’t really mind.
      So I have to say that, after reading some weird short stories, I was pleasantly surprised by the humanity of this novel.

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