Tag: Dorothy L. Sayers

Top Ten Tuesday

Posted April 28, 2015 by in General / 10 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who _____”. So, because I’m predictable like that, let’s have my top ten characters who love books!

  1. Matilda, from Roald Dahl’s MatildaI don’t know about anyone else, but I used to sit and stare at things and wish I could have powers like Matilda. But even better would’ve been to read as fast as her.
  2. Mori, from Jo Walton’s Among OthersI think this one is extra-specially predictable. Shush.
  3. Hermione Granger, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry PotterI’m in the middle of my rereads of these books and remembering just how much I loved Hermione — I was that know-it-all who sucked up to the teachers, though I didn’t have such good and loyal friends as Harry and Ron surrounding me. And unfortunately, I still didn’t have powers.
  4. Cath, from Rainbow Rowell’s FangirlWhy is this list so populated with people like me…?
  5. Harriet Vane, from Dorothy L. Sayers’ Wimsey mysteries. Well, she’s more of a writer and we don’t see her reading much, but we do see her engaging with literature, and practically sparring with Peter via quotations from books.
  6. Beauty, in Robin McKinley’s BeautyGimme the Beast’s library, please.
  7. Alec, from Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint. I suddenly remembered a scene with Richard bringing Alec a book and the hunger Alec seemed to feel about it…
  8. Jean, from Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora. Jean!
  9. Memer, from Ursula Le Guin’s VoicesI need to reread this one now I’ve remembered about it!
  10. Jo March, from Louisa May Alcott’s Little WomenI think I actually came across Jo and Matilda not that far apart in time. Both of them lived in a world of books that only encouraged me to read more!

That was actually harder than I anticipated. Huh. Looking forward to seeing what themes other people are going with!

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Review – Clouds of Witness

Posted March 16, 2015 by in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. SayersClouds of Witness, Dorothy L. Sayers
Featuring Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey, Peter Jones as Bunter, and Gabriel Woolf as Inspector Parker

This is the second of the Lord Peter radioplays, at least going chronologically by the order of the books. It’s longer than Whose Body? and a bit more personal: Lord Peter has to defend his own brother, the Duke of Denver, against a charge of murder. As usual with the Wimsey radioplays, the cast is excellent, and the parts chosen directly from the novels for dramatisation are great. I think only Ian Carmichael could get exactly the right tone for me in the part where Wimsey climbs on Parker’s back, looks over the wall, and then announces that it’s a marvellous ditch which he is going to proceed to fall into.

And of course, the ending with everyone drunk is pretty funny…

The main thing that doesn’t really work for me is, unfortunately, the sound effects. The gun sounds are more like party poppers — hardly the dramatic scenes needed. And I could maybe wish that Ian Carmichael wouldn’t sing — it’s in character, but something about it grates.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Whose Body?

Posted March 12, 2015 by in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers, audio editionWhose Body?, Dorothy L. Sayers
Featuring Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Wimsey, Peter Jones as Bunter, and Gabriel Woolf as Inspector Parker

I think the casting for the BBC radioplay adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayers was nigh on perfect. Ian Carmichael might’ve been too old to play Peter, but it doesn’t show in his voice, and he perfectly conveys the warmth and humour, the silliness, and the underlying strength. I can never get used to the new voice actor for Parker in the later episodes, either: Gabriel Woolf sounds just perfect as Inspector Parker.

It might not be a high octane crime novel (rather more toward the cosy side), but I still found the adaptation to be a good one, bringing across moments of confusion, embarrassment, discovery and conflict. It does a pretty good job with narration (weaving some of it into Peter’s character) and in choosing which scenes to represent, and how. One thing I do miss is the Dowager Duchess’ rambles. There’s more sense in them than you’d think at first blush, but of course it would cause anyone to tune right out in audio form.

These are all now available on Audible, which is certainly more convenient than having all the CDs, and definitely worth trading a credit a month for. Needless to say, given my affection for both Sayers and these radioplays, I’ve sped that process up rather and have (I think) all of them.

Rating: 5/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted February 24, 2015 by in General / 10 Comments

This week’s topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a great one: top ten heroines. Let’s see…

  1. Yeine, from The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. Seriously, seriously kickass lady who navigates politics, would prefer a fair fight, and becomes a goddess. Why not?
  2. Tenar, from The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin. That was always my favourite book of the bunch. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but Tenar is strong in a way that has nothing to do with physical strength.
  3. Mori, from Among Others by Jo Walton. Because she’s quite a lot like me, only she really can see fairies and she has a streak of pragmatism I could really use.
  4. Harriet Vane, from the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. Bit of a change of pace from the first three, being a different genre. But she’s a woman in a man’s world, pursuing both writing and academia, a strong woman who knows her own mind and sticks to her principles. But at the same time, she’s not perfect: she snarls at Peter, she’s unfair, etc, etc.
  5. Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève, from Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. If there’s anything that can hold her back, I don’t know what it is. She’s gorgeous, she’s a spy, she manipulates politics and gets involved in all kinds of stuff on behalf of her country.
  6. Katherine Talbert, from The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner. Even if she doesn’t want to learn to fight at first.
  7. Ki, from Harpy’s Flight by Megan Lindholm. Practical, determined, fierce, and good to her animals, to her friends.
  8. Caitrin, from Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier. She doesn’t seem like she’s going to be a strong person at first, yet she learns to face her fears — without it ever seeming too easy.
  9. Mirasol, from Chalice by Robin McKinley. She’s thrown in at the deep end, with very little gratefulness or support from those around her, and she pushes through it to do whatever she has to do.
  10. Csethiro Celedin, from The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. She basically says that if anyone hurts Maia she’ll duel them and gut them. Like!

I’m gonna have to look at loads of posts on this one, because stories with good heroines are definitely of interest to me!

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Review – The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

Posted February 21, 2015 by in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. SayersThe Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy L. Sayers

It’s fortunate for me that these books are so familiar to me by now, because I got distracted by other books in the middle of this. It’s not my favourite of the bunch, which helps to explain why; I do like the conflicts between Parker and Peter that’re brought out by the nature of the story, the awkwardness between them as Peter has to suspect one of his own friends. That’s perhaps the best part of this: the characterisations of those two as they try to balance friendship and duty; Peter’s struggle with himself and his own honesty.

The ending is one of those awfully convenient, gentlemanly ones where Peter could bring the person to trial, etc, etc, and then warns them and offers them suicide instead. I can never quite decide what I think about those endings: they give Peter a kind of out, so that he doesn’t have to do the ungentlemanly thing. Which is a bit unfair, really.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Unnatural Death

Posted January 1, 2015 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

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

Starting the New Year with a Sayers review? Yes, please.

So Unnatural Death is maybe not the best in terms of the convoluted plot, the number of characters, etc, because it’s not one of the most personal stories for Lord Peter. On the other hand, you do get to see Peter again treating it a little like a hobby, a curiosity, and then having to face the consequences of his ego. And there’s a lot of Miss Climpson, too; not as much as one of the later books, but enough to show that she’s a really great character — her letters with their underlinings and italicising are hilarious.

The murder method is pretty good for this one, though, really: I wouldn’t guess it if I wasn’t familiar with an NCIS episode where there are a couple of killings done the same way, and yet it’s simple and obvious once you know what it is.

So not my favourite, but it does work and come together beautifully.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Clouds of Witness

Posted December 24, 2014 by in Reviews / 2 Comments

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

As usual, Sayers manages a convoluted plot, the characters we love, and some bits of pure fun. Peter’s mother is catching my interest this time — if you focus on it, you can follow through exactly why each of her remarks leads on to the next. Of course, if you’re missing a reference in the chain, you’re doomed, but I’m having fun trying to follow it all through. Sometimes it helps to google things and find people wondering about the same bits, too…

Considering how close to Peter the story is — given his own brother is accused of the murder of his sister’s fiancé, with his sister as a witness — it doesn’t seem as close to the character as we were during the last chapters of Whose Body?, where Peter is having his PTSD episode/recovering from it. Still, there’s plenty of interaction with Parker and Bunter, and plenty of Peter poking his nose in where it’s not wanted (and sometimes where it is wanted, in that timely manner he has). And I have to confess that I really like the way Parker’s affection for Mary is shown, and his interactions with Peter about it.

Of course, as I write this review I’m already through Unnatural Death and nearly at the end of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, so you can imagine the fun I’m having…

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Whose Body?

Posted December 21, 2014 by in Reviews / 8 Comments

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

The first time I read Whose Body?, I don’t think I thought much of it. Little did I know. It’s not just that I’ve come to love the character — though I do — and the actors who’ve portrayed him, the various adaptations, etc. It’s that Sayers is just so damn clever. Even in Whose Body?, which is far from my favourite, you’ve got the mystery to untangle and then you’ve got all the background references to stuff. I keep finding myself looking up names of murderers and famous poisoning victims and random books and… all the sorts of things that Sayers has Wimsey just know. It’s always very gratifying (to borrow a phrase from Bunter) when I know what she’s talking about right away; it lets you feel like part of the cleverness, though I never feel left out when I don’t understand it.

One thing Sayers was very good at is the convoluted type of mystery, replete with five or more red herrings and careful timetables. This might strike you as pretty contrived, and if you’re particularly literally minded, you might wonder how Wimsey, Parker and Bunter always manage to find such convoluted mysteries, which unravel as soon as you hit upon that key detail (x wanted to marry y once, this book is important, he corresponds in French, which tube of paint was missing, when did a new Property Act come into force, etc). If that’s likely to bother you, then Wimsey might not be able to charm you out of it.

But despite all that, it’s not all about the cleverness or the convoluted plots. It’s also about Peter, who is revealed more and more with each book as a good man, as someone with a fragile core, as someone who struggles between responsibility and his love of the chase. And then there’s other characters like Bunter and Parker, good people themselves who are devoted to him, and who you want to see more of…

And Harriet. Just wait until we meet Harriet.

Rating: 4/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted December 17, 2014 by in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Most recently, hmm… Etiquette & Espionage (Gail Carriger). I’d been meaning to read it for a while, since I thought Soulless was fun, and yesterday proved the perfct opportunity for it. I actually read it in one sitting, no pauses at all, which was surprising. It wasn’t earth shatteringly good or something, but it was fun.

What are you currently reading?
H is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald), which is a quite moving work on grief, training a hawk, and interaction with a historical figure. Bonus points for that figure being T.H. White, given that he wrote The Once and Future King, and I’ve done some academic work on that (albeit as little as I could get away with).

What are you planning to read next?
I actually still feel like reading familiar stuff, so I’m planning on sticking my head back between the covers of Whose Body? (Dorothy L. Sayers). I did reread that a year or so ago without going on to reread the rest of the series, but I want to do my Lord Peter spree right, and that means starting at the beginning. Though I probably will miss out the Jill Paton Walsh stuff: I just don’t feel that she does justice to either herself or Sayers, since I’ve enjoyed her own original work much more than her work for the Sayers estate.

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Review – Six Against the Yard

Posted October 26, 2014 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Six Against the Yard, Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts, Ronald Knox, Dorothy L. Sayers, Russell ThorndikeCover of Six Against the Yard by The Detective Club

I got this book mostly for the Dorothy L. Sayers story, of course, but I was interested in the premise, too. Six master mystery writers, including Margery Allingham and Dorothy Sayers, took it upon themselves to write a short story each in which someone committed the perfect murder. And then, in response, an ex-Superintendent of the CID explained the ways he thought that perfect crime could be picked apart. Cornish didn’t seem to think any of the six would really ‘pass’, for various reasons, but it bothered me a little that it didn’t matter how many precautions the characters took to get rid of the evidence, Cornish was sure the police would find something. The police are not all-knowing or perfect; I guess the problem is that I approached the stories as literary, and Cornish tried to view them as reality, while still seeing himself having access to all the facts. Not quite fair!

Margery Allingham’s story is good; she sets up a great narrator, handling themes of domestic violence and so on pretty well. I did applaud Cornish’s understanding of psychology in his response, where he pointed out that the murderer presented themselves in the most sympathetic light possible, but there’s no reason to take their word as gospel truth, even in a confession. Overall, clever but obvious.

I was pretty ambivalent toward Father Ronald Knox’s story of a dictator murdered in his home. That all seemed fairly obvious. Cornish’s feeling that the crime is perfect through unfair play is right: like he says, the crime is unpunishable, but not untraceable.

Anthony Berkeley’s story is fun: another great narrator, fun set of characters. That aspect of it is better than the perfect murder stuff, and the whole story reminded me of Lynn O’Connacht’s beef with first person narrators: why, how, and when are you telling the story? Berkeley didn’t really explain why the two narrators would tell the story in the way they did.

Thorndike’s story was simply too theatrical and contrived. Rooooolling of eyes actually happened here.

Sayers’ story was well written, but fell down in terms of being the perfect murder because it wasn’t a murder. She spent so much time tying up each loose end that Cornish could’ve used to untangle the thing that ultimately, while there was motive, means, and opportunity, there was no defining moment where the ‘murderer’ acted. He simply failed to act, and he wasn’t even sure if that would change anything. I did like the set-up and the psychological understanding, though.

Freeman Wills Crofts’ story has an interesting set-up, but I didn’t think it was even nearly a perfect murder — there were several holes in the logic, which Cornish quite rightly points out.

So as I said, entertaining little collection, nice idea; not overwhelmed by the result, but it’s fun enough.

Rating: 3/5

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