Thursday, March 19, 2015
Review of The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers (1934)
I’ve had The Nine Tailors on the shelf for quite a long time. I’ve opened it on a couple of occasions, but was never really sure I was in the mood for an English rural cozy from the golden age of crime fiction. Having now read the book I’m fairly confident that if I had carried on reading in the past my mood would have quickly changed. Sayers’ book rightly deserves plaudits for being a classic crime fiction tale, ticking all the key boxes - intriguing and clever plot, a thorny puzzle, excellent contextualisation, nice characterisation and interaction between characters, a strong sense of place, and literary prose. Essentially the tale is a whodunnit set in a small English village in the fens, centred on a Church and its bells, and the legacy of a robbery some twenty years previously. The plotting is intricate and well executed with minimal use of plot devices, and while the tale strays a little from social realism at times it nevertheless hangs together coherently and is rounded off with an ingenious but plausible denouement. Sayers clearly draws on her own knowledge as a daughter of a chaplain to provide context and also demonstrates a keen understanding of campanology and fen drainage. Whilst some might find some of the detail tiresome, I thought it was fascinating. Wimsey is an engaging detective and Sayers populates the story with a number of other well-drawn characters. Where she excels, in my view, is in the character interactions, with an especially good ear for dialogue. The result is some well penned and vivid scenes. Overall, a very satisfying and entertaining read from one of the best known crime fiction authors of the first half of the twentieth century.