The Nine Tailors
by Dorothy Sayers
The reader of The Nine Tailors is thrown headlong into the world of change-ringing in English churches, the ancient art of ringing huge bells by ropes, not according to melody, but mathematical patterns. Dorothy Sayers’ book also immerses the reader into Anglican church architecture and local sluices, fens, and waterways. I didn’t have the necessary background knowledge to understand or appreciate the extensive backdrop Sayers paints for her mystery, and that deficit on my part hindered my appreciation of the novel.
At the same time, I must applaud the author for one of the most convoluted plot structures I have ever encountered. Dorothy Sayers is considered one of the top writers in the mystery genre, and having read The Nine Tailors, I understand the reason for her reputation even though her style is not quite to my taste. Her main character, Lord Peter Wimsey, is a likable protagonist. The conclusion of the tale is both satisfying and surprising. I must admit on a personal level that I have allowed myself to be spoiled by the easy reading afforded by currently produced cozy mysteries which I very much enjoy. The Nine Tailors has a much more intellectual bent and certainly stretches the reader’s mental reaches. I recommend this book within the constraints of a mystery that requires the reader to put forth at least equal effort to that of the author.
Notes: #11 in the Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery Series. As it is not very character dependent, it could be appreciated as a standalone.
Publication: 1934—Harcourt Brace & Co. (Harvest Books)
A powerful ecclesiastical odor, compounded of ancient wood, varnish, dry rot, hassocks, hymn-books, paraffin lamps, flowers and candles, all gently baking in the warmth of slow-combustion stoves, billowed out from the interior.
It came upon him with a shock that Uncle Edward could not be many years older than himself. He felt for him the apprehensive reverence which one feels for a quaint and brittle piece of antiquity.
I think I have been the most unmitigated and unconscionable ass that ever brayed in a sleuth-hound’s skin.