Books read in 2014 – 51. Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers

eclecticchallenge2014_300

Genre: cosy mystery fiction 

Narrative style: third person, chronological

Rating: 2/5

five red herringsPublished: 1931

Format: paperback

Reading challenges: Eclectic reader challenge 2014 genre cosy mystery 

Synopsis: Campbell was not popular among his fellow artists so when his body is discovered in suspicious circumstances, there is no shortage of suspects. Lord Peter Wimsey has his work cut out working out truth from lies as all of the suspects seem to have something to hide. 

I bought this quite a while ago when I first started to read detective fiction and then just didn’t get round to it. I knew that it was going to a little old fashioned and safe and I like a fair bit of blood and gore in my detective fiction so it languished on the shelf until this year’s eclectic reader challenge. I’d never even heard of the genre of cosy mystery and had to look it up. I was pleased though that it would mean I would read Five Red Herrings at long last.

I did bring quite high expectations to the book. After all, Sayers is considered a master of the detective art. And in fact, I would have to say that was true. There was nothing wrong with the tightness of the plot. If anything it was too tight.

The first thing that irritated me was Lord Peter Wimsey himself. Of course, I knew he was going to be posh but he was just too jolly hockey sticks for me. If I’d been a character in this book, I’d have been tempted to off him the minute he called me “Old Horse”. Still that was a minor quibble and one that was down to my prejudices rather than Sayers’ writing. At the beginning, I was still enjoying the story and wondering who was the guilty one.

However, the plot soon became bogged down in train schedules and timetables of the murderers actions which were tedious to read. I also found it difficult to separate the artists from each other and couldn’t remember which alibi belonged to which artist.

At the beginning of the novel, Wimsey spots something that lets him know it’s murder. Instead of telling the reader, Sayers says in an aside that she won’t say what it is because the intelligent reader will know what it is. This annoyed me as I consider myself an intelligent reader but I couldn’t figure out what it could be. I felt that she was suggesting I was too stupid to work it out. When it was finally revealed, I felt better as it was not at all obvious.

In fact, I really had no clue about who did it. The various possibilities are outlined in the final chapters by various policemen and all are plausible enough. Unlike, the actual solution. maybe, I’m just peeved because I didn’t work it out but this was so ridiculously convoluted, I’m really not sure how Wimsey could have spotted it. In the end, it seemed like a detective novel solution rather than a real life solution.

This isn’t to say that the novel isn’t well written and it does all hang together, it’s just that the solution wasn’t satisfying for me and I can’t see me reading anymore of the Wimsey mysteries.

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