We're in the home stretch, loyal readers. You patience is much appreciated. So, let's trash another genre icon, shall we?
The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L. Sayers. Sometime after my science fiction phase, I became a man of mystery. Mysteries, I mean. I favored the pre-war era, swinging between hard-boiled (Chandler and Hammett) and the soft-boiled (Christie, Sayers and Van Dine) with a soupçon of Simenon. I still treasure Chandler and Simenon, and late in life I developed a taste for the early Fletch books, but the others I no longer care for and mysteries in general no longer offer much appeal.
There the matter would have rested but for a friend who, a few years ago, urged me to read Dorothy Sayers's The Nine Tailors and triggered fond recollections of her Lord Peter Wimsey books.
The primary appeal of the Lord Peter Wimsey stories is that one gets to witness the author literally fall in love with her main character. Starting as merely the object of her affection, Lord Peter Wimsey grew to assume a god-like stature in later books. In order to consummate her rapidly accelerating affair with her main character, Sayers eventually introduced herself into the books as the intelligent, independent and strong-willed mystery writer Harriet Vane. After saving Vane from the hangman's noose, and wooing her over another book or two, Wimsey married Vane. I hope they lived happily ever after in Sayers's mind.
Anyway, I had never read this particular Wimsey book, so on the strength of my friend's recommendation, a strange nostalgia for the simpler days when mysteries like these charmed me and a blurb proclaiming the book "One of the best mysteries obtainable in the world today" (from the New York Post, I should have known better), I bought the book. Unfortunately, after 78 pages I had to chuck it aside, my mind numbed from boredom.
The problem, in short, is that Sayers based her book on change ringing, an arcane art with odd terms she never explains. Do you know the significance of "A Short Touch of Kent Treble Bob Major (Two Courses)?" She never reveals the secret. It’s a mystery, to be sure, but one I can’t imagine anyone wanting to solve. Especially when there's no Harriet Vane on the scene to provide a more interesting story-within-the-story. Especially when the writing is stilted and annoying. Especially when the towns people are interchangeable. Especially when she spends page after page describing intricate change ringing patterns that we can't hear.
What's that sound? They're ringing eleven bells, which means our time today is up. Our long journey through Books I Should've Liked But Didn't will conclude tomorrow on a dramatic and unforeseen note, as I casually toss aside a book by one of my favorite writers, one whose books I've avidly read for almost 30 years. Who could it possibly be? The suspense is killing me. Unlike The Nine Tailors, it's a mystery you'll want to see solved!