Tag: Dorothy L. Sayers

WWW Wednesday

Posted September 23, 2020 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

It’s Wednesday again! So here’s the usual check-in. You can go to Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!

Cover of The Firebird by Susanna KearsleyWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: I’ve gone back to Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird after a long time away. It’s not capturing me (or in this case recapturing me) as her other books usually do. I’d hoped it was just my mood, and coming back to it now would let me slip back into it… but apparently not. It might still be my mood, but it’s a bit disappointing.

Non-fiction: I’m back to The Story of Wales, by Jon Gower. I think that was a mood problem, because I’m digging into it more now… and getting angry about the historical treatment of the Welsh, of course. People forget, or never knew, that before English rule suppressed native languages on other contents, they started in Wales.

I’m also a good chunk of the way into How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics. So far it’s talked a lot about the promise of psychedelics for treating depression, anxiety, stress in people with terminal illnesses, etc… but it hasn’t gone into the science much. It’s been more of a history, so far, along with an exploration of the user’s personal feelings and experience,

Cover of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. SayersWhat have you recently finished reading?

I finally finished my reread of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. It’s not one of my favourite Wimsey novels, though there are definitely fun bits, so I bogged down in it a while ago. Which means Strong Poison is next! Yay!

Cover of X+Y by Eugenia ChengWhat will you be reading next?

I’m slowly working through my “shelf of abandoned books”, so the next up on that shelf look to Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind, by Colin Renfrew, Feed by Mira Grant, and The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman. I’ll probably read a new-to-me book in tandem with trying to finish those; maybe Eugenia Cheng’s X+Y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender.

What are you reading? What’s got you enthusiastic at the moment? Let me know!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books for a Younger Me

Posted September 8, 2020 by Nicky in General / 6 Comments

It’s Tuesday, and I’m joining in with Top Ten Tuesday for the first time in a few weeks! The theme this week is “books for your younger self”, and I can think of a whooole bunch of different ways to interpret that. I’m going with a list of books I wish I’d read sooner than I did!

Cover of The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin Cover of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison Cover of Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart Cover of Pet by Akwaeke Emezi Cover of An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles

  1. The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. Okay, maybe this one’s cheating, but I’m reading this at the moment and being so annoyed at my slightly younger self for not jumping right on that.
  2. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. This book has been such a comfort to me; teenage me could’ve really done with it.
  3. Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart. Or really any Mary Stewart book; I was so snobby about romance novels, but reading Stewart and Heyer made me see. How much awesome could I have read if I started sooner?!
  4. Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi. I feel like I’d have appreciated this even more if I’d read it when I was closer to the age it’s aimed at. I liked it now, but… I’d have liked it more then, I think.
  5. An Unsuitable Heir, by K.J. Charles. Also one of the books that properly pulled me into romance, but this one is extra special because the existence of Pen as a character, as a person it was possible to be, would’ve possibly sped up figuring out some stuff for me.
  6. Spillover, by David Quammen. Because it helped me figure out that staying curious about stuff really does help with anxiety — and maybe if I’d read it a couple of years earlier, some of my anxiety would have hit less hard. Or maybe it’d have chosen a different path, who knows.
  7. Feet in Chains, by Kate Roberts. Or pretty much any Welsh classics, the existence of which I only discovered at the age of 21, having been told that Welsh people didn’t write anything worth reading.
  8. River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey. I needed Hero. Much like Pen, they’d have taught me a bit more about what’s possible. Also, hippos.
  9. Strange Practice, by Vivian Shaw. This is just so much fun, I’d have liked it to be in my life way before now.
  10. Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Or the whole series, of course, but I can’t believe I only picked these up in my twenties. Though that’s partly because they were out of print, I think? I can’t imagine my mother wouldn’t have bought me them sooner if they were in print.

Cover of Spillover by David Quamnem Cover of Feet in Chains by Kate Roberts Cover of River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey Cover of Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw Cover of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

How about you? Anything you wish you’d read when you were younger?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted July 29, 2020 by Nicky in General / 10 Comments

Hey folks! I’m not linking this one up, because I know I don’t have the energy to answer many people… but I’d love to hear from regulars. Lisa’s sick, and there’s an outside chance it might be COVID… so it’s quarantine for us.

Cover of The Lost Boys by Gina PerryWhat are you currently reading?

My wife’s sick, so I’m pretty brain-dead. I’m supposed to be finishing up The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu before the end of the month, but I think the chances are slim. I’ve tried to pick up The Lost Boys, by Gina Parry, which is about the Robbers Cave experiment by Muzafer Sherif; I really want to be interested, but I don’t have enough brain.

Kassia St. Clair’s The Secret Lives of Colour is going down better, because it has very short chapters.

Cover of Return of the Earl by Sandra SchwabWhat have you recently finished reading?

The Return of the Earl, by Sandra Schwab, which was kind of cute but won’t prove memorable. I had to look up the eponymous Earl’s name again to write my review two days later, eek.

Before that it was Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, which was less forgettable but which I haven’t quite managed to review yet.

Cover of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky ChambersWhat will you be reading next?

I really have no idea. I’m being gently urged to reread some favourites, whether that’s Dorothy L. Sayers or Becky Chambers or something else, in the hopes that whatever it is will better suit my brain at the moment through its familiarity. Probably a solid plan, but who knows if I’ll stick to it.

What are you reading?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Read The Most Books By

Posted July 7, 2020 by Nicky in General / 11 Comments

It’s Tuesday again already? Gah. So this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By”. This one’s always tricky because sometimes you can read just one series by an author and it swamps the handful of one-shots by authors you like more. What’s more, I think my stats might be messed up by all the rereads. So I’m going to ignore the actual statistics here and go with the authors I think I’ve read the most of.

Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles Vess Cover of The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles Cover of Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates by Kerry Greenwood Cover Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn Cover of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

  1. Ursula Le Guin. She was pretty prolific! She’s got to feature on the list somewhere. I read Earthsea as a teenager and gradually moved through most of her science fiction and then her non-fiction essays… and no matter what she writes, it’s all so good. There are more memorable and less memorable forays (a lot of people discount or didn’t like Lavinia or the Gifts trilogy) but… in general, I’ve found something to enjoy in everything she wrote.
  2. K.J. Charles. Charles takes up a pretty good chunk of my shelf, and of course I don’t have all of them in paperback. I’m going to be willing to try just about anything she writes, and I’m a little sad I only have a handful to go. (Being Proper English, Rag and Bone, Slippery Creatures… and maybe some shorter stories? The Price of Meat and A Queer Trade, at least, and of course the crossover with Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin.)
  3. Kerry Greenwood. On the strength of the Phryne Fisher series alone, she’s probably pretty high on my list.
  4. Carola Dunn. Same, only with the Daisy Dalrymple books — plus one of her romance trilogies. She’s hugely prolific and I really need to decide on a few more of her romances to read, because I really liked Miss Jacobson’s Journey et al.
  5. Dorothy L. Sayers. She’s got to be up there in the list, given I’ve read all the Peter Wimsey books, the short stories, and The Documents in the Case…
  6. Marie Brennan. I actually haven’t read all her books yet, but I’ve read one or two of the Onyx Court books, and all the Isabella Trent books, a couple of novellas and at least two short story collections. I’m willing to try just about anything with her name on it.
  7. Guy Gavriel Kay. He’s got a fair few books out and I’ve even read all but two of them, so I think he must be a contender here! I actually got hooked on his oldest books (The Fionavar Tapestry), but he’s got a beautiful way with words. Just… don’t put him in charge of who pairs up with who.
  8. N.K. Jemisin. I might not actually have read more of her works than some other authors, but she deserves a place on this list for intentions. I’m behind, but I will read everything she’s written and everything she’s going to write, most likely.
  9. Mary Robinette Kowal. At this point I’m just eyeing up my shelves and going “oh, that’s a sizeable chunk of books and I’ve read most of them”… But after not entirely loving Shades of Milk and Honey, I was entirely converted, loved that whole series, loved The Calculating Stars, greatly enjoyed a short story collection… Pretty solid pick here, I think.
  10. Jacqueline Carey. From my first introduction to Kushiel’s Dart, I’ve loved Carey’s work, and I’ve eaten up all her Kushiel universe books… plus most of her others as well. I’m a little behind, as always, but always gonna love her lush prose.

Cover of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan Cover of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay Cover of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

I’ve no idea how that actually matches up to the numbers on Goodreads, but I haven’t been great about tracking that lately anyway! I think this is a pretty representative idea, anyway.

Who do you read most of? Do your shelves get dominated by never-ending detective series, or do you spread out your reading?

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Review – Unnatural Death

Posted October 10, 2019 by Nicky in Uncategorized / 2 Comments

Cover of Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. SayersUnnatural Death, Dorothy L. Sayers

I had a frazzling week or so there, and so naturally I turned to Dorothy L. Sayers for comfort. (You’ve all heard the story about when my mother used a Lord Peter audiobook to calm me down when I came out of anaesthesia after an operation, by this point, I’m sure.) Unnatural Death is a very clever story which I’ve never really considered a favourite, even though it contains so many things I love: Miss Climpson and the cleverness of her characterisation; quite a lot of banter and partnership between Peter and Parker; and yes, that ingenious murder method that puzzles Peter until almost the end of the book.

It begins in a restaurant: Peter and Parker are debating whether doctors report things they suspect to be murder, or whether any number of murders might be going unsolved and almost unsuspected. Peter says that doctors risk their livelihoods by making accusations, and someone overhears and breaks into their conversation to say it’s happened to him. Naturally Peter’s fascinated, and decides to look into it — and finds that by acting, he actually causes the killer to take further actions, intending to hide their tracks.

The murder method used is indetectable, even on autopsy, and the motive is completely unclear as well: the obvious suspect does not appear to benefit at all by the death of her elderly aunt. Nonetheless, Peter’s sure this is the perfect murder — a well-executed murder which almost defies detection — and he’s completely fascinated. It’s a bit ghoulish, honestly, and a little more examination of the mayhem he’s caused might be warranted on Peter’s part, but it makes for a fascinating story all the same. The motive and means are both ingenious, and we get some delightful bits of dialogue and character sketches along the way.

In short, though it doesn’t have a big hold on me as a sentimental favourite, nonetheless is a solid and clever read.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted October 9, 2019 by Nicky in General / 6 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

Cover of Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. SayersWhat are you currently reading?

It’s been a long week and I haven’t been sleeping enough, so I’ve turned to a solid and beloved reread: Unnatural Death, by Dorothy L. Sayers. It’s not my favourite of the series, but on reflection I’m not sure why I’ve always downplayed this one: Miss Climpson is a delight, and there’s so much good Peter-Parker bantering. And a good Bunter scene, though not enough of him on the whole.

Cover of The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia WaiteWhat have you recently finished reading?

I just finished The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, which was overall enjoyable but frustrated me in the home stretch with a stupid miscommunication thing, my least favourite trope in the whole wide world.

Cover of Grave Importance by Vivian ShawWhat will you be reading next?

I really want to finish rereading Dreadful Company and get to Grave Importance (Vivian Shaw). My wife’s been reading it and giggling away, and I’m feeling left out! Also, you know, I’ve been looking forward to this so much.

Luckily, we have an internet connection at home again (hi Zen Internet! bye Virgin Media!) and I don’t have to get up at an hour my body and brain don’t work at anymore, so that should be good for my reading after a rather slow week.

What are you currently reading?

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Review – The Documents in the Case

Posted September 26, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. SayersThe Documents in the Case, Dorothy L. Sayers

Somehow, I’d never read this one! Well, I have now. This showcases all Sayers’ usual eloquence and flair, and also her tendency to become enamoured of a set-piece that encapsulates a character and carry it on for pages at a time. Jack Munting’s letters to his fiancée are sweet, but they could probably been edited down a smidgeon, and some of the key scenes are likewise rather over-elaborated.

It’s a fascinating format, particularly when it sticks to the letters — it’s a little disappointing when it switches to a long statement, narrative-style, as if anybody ever actually remembers dialogue in such detail. It feels like she got tired of the format and had to round it off with a good long section of narrative just to make life easier. Still, I do love the way she teases out the conclusion, and the fact that it is based on an understanding of chemistry and right/left-handed molecules. Brilliant.

I do have questions about some of the characters: mostly lots to side-eye when it comes to Agatha Milsom, whose institutionalisation is never shown to us directly. It’s hard to judge if she’s actually mentally ill to a great degree, or (more likely) mostly just inconvenient to everyone. Sayers is rather harsh on her — as is Libby Purves, who wrote an introduction to this edition — but it seems to me that she is commenting on something real in the relationship between Mr and Mrs Harrison that other people don’t see. It isn’t the whole story, but the whole idea of her developing a monomania is so very Golden Age and so very irritating as an explanation.

In any case, it’s entertaining and clever, and there are some great character studies. Worth a read, even though it’s not an absolute resounding success on all fronts — it’s pretty darn entertaining despite that.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Clouds of Witness

Posted April 16, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. SayersClouds of Witness, Dorothy L. Sayers

Listening to the radioplay and watching the TV adaptation of Clouds of Witness with Lisa made me really appreciate the actual book all over again. Every detail that she quibbled in the radioplay or TV series had an answer in the book; Sayers really knew what she was about. (Which is not to say that she never dropped a brick, but she made choices in her books for good reasons, and adaptors of her work should pay attention to her intentions there. (I’m looking at you, whoever adapted The Nine Tailors for TV — never mind that you’re blatantly disregarding history by having the Spanish flu occur in the 30s.)

Anyway, the book itself: in this second book of the series, Lord Peter finds his own brother accused of murdering his sister’s fiancé, and has to rush back to England from Paris to help investigate what happened. The book isn’t short of physical peril for Peter: he nearly drowns in a bog, is shot by his sister’s other fiancé, attacked by a farmer, and flies from the US to the UK in a two-person aircraft to hurry back with evidence for Gerald’s trial. He gets to be a hero here for Gerald’s sake, and readers see more of his depth of feeling, sense of responsibility and duty, and of course his wit and brains.

People often think little of mystery books, and consequently of Dorothy L. Sayers, and it’s true there aren’t many mystery novels whose solution turns on the plot of an 18th Century French novel. Still, Sayers ensured there is at least one (and several other books with equally erudite references and plots).

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Whose Body

Posted April 3, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Whose Body by Dorothy L. SayersWhose Body? Dorothy L. Sayers

We were watching the Petherbridge TV adaptations again, Brexit is terrible, and it was that kind of day. Of course I gave into the temptation — threw myself into it, more like, from Peter’s first “oh damn” to the denouement. When I review a book over and over again like this, I start to think about new ways to approach the review: it’s no good me telling you every time that this book is the first book in Sayers’ favourite series, in which Peter investigates the mysterious discovery of the body of a vagrant, shaved and cleaned up to look like a wealthy man, found in an architect’s bath wearing nothing but a pair of pince-nez. You’ve heard that from me before.

So what really caught my attention this time was the fact that even here, with Peter being a new series detective, when a lot of other Golden Age novels settled for dealing with the puzzle and leaving the detective to enigmatically take care of themselves around the edges of the mystery, Sayers is doing interesting things. She discusses Peter’s character at length — the shell shock is a prominent feature, yes, but also she deals with the fact that he’s an aristocrat, and thus there’s something very public school about how he approaches crime. The scene between Peter and Charles during which they discuss the rights and wrongs of pursuing criminals is great.

What also struck me a lot this time is how casually anti-Semitic it can sound. There’s one line about Sir Reuben having “the shekels” to stop a deal that just… modern Twitter shudders at the phrasing. Sayers thought she was actually quite positive toward the Jewish characters, but… gah.

It remains entertaining, and I was glad to focus on the scenes that give Peter a little more depth — but I’m also excited to get to Clouds of Witness and onwards.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Busman’s Honeymoon

Posted February 13, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. SayersBusman’s Honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers

Busman’s Honeymoon isn’t the most substantial story, though it does have insights into married life and the kind of compromise necessary to couples. Harriet and Peter talk out the problems they encounter, and it’s a delight. In this book they finally get married — mostly covered in excerpts from letters and diaries, including some delightful glimpses into Peter’s mother’s life and way of thinking — and go off to spend their honeymoon in their new house, a place Harriet knew as a child. When they arrive, the owner is unexpectedly absent, and things are all at sixes and sevens… and of course, it turns out that the owner is actually dead.

Naturally, Harriet and Peter are drawn into the investigation, finding that it quickly disturbs their married bliss… and that they can find a way through it by communicating, being patient with one another, compromising (although never in a way that compromises their values). Anyone who knows my usual rants about the issues with romance novels and indeed with people in general will see how that delights me!

And as always, it’s cleverly and often wittily written, full of allusions and references. Sayers isn’t afraid of making you work at it, sometimes, and that’s also fun.

Rating: 4/5

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