Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lord Peter : A collection of short stories by Dorothy Sayers

My interest in the writings of Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) was piqued several years ago after reading an essay she had written on classical education. ("The Lost Tools of Learning") However, I did not follow up this interest until recently when I discovered that she was a contemporary scholar and associate of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, two authors whom I highly admire. A Christian apologist, playwright and author, she is best known for her detective fiction.

I approached these mysteries tentatively, knowing the reputation the genre has for sensationalism and general gruesomeness, but I was pleased to find the stories exceptionally well written and tactful. Yes, the majority of the cases concern murder, but the focus is not so much on the sin as on the unraveling of clues leading to the criminal being brought to justice.

“Lord Peter” of the title is our aristocratic detective – an unlikely hero sporting a monocle and an innocently ignorant air. He ingeniously solves puzzle after puzzle using his extraordinary powers of observation as well as his understanding of human nature.

These are not stories I would recommend for the young reader, due to the sometimes-disturbing subject matter. (At times rather too dark for my tastes) However, for the mature reader, these are highly entertaining and even intellectual fare: how many authors would subject their readers to paragraphs on end of untranslated French --- or even to such words as “bibulous”, “piscatorial” and “ampelopsis”?!

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