Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sayers in the News: A tasty New Year's Eve treat

From the Muscogee Phoenix: A tasty New Year's Eve treat
By Melony Carey
— If you are looking for a tintinnabular way to spend New Year’s Eve, try Dorothy Sayers’ 1936 novel, “The Nine Tailors,” a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery that begins with a car accident on New Year’s Eve.

Stranded in Fenchurch St. Paul, Lord Wimsey stands in for a bell ringer who had been stricken with influenza. A nine hour ringing of the bells in the parish called “ringing the nine tailors” signals the death of the man. Lord Wimsey made such an impression on the village with his change-ringing that when prestigious resident Sir Henry Thorpe dies, he is called in to investigate a mangled body uncovered during Sir Henry’s burial.

In a fascinating series of ciphers and plot twists, Sayers weaves a complicated mystery novel. Even more interesting is her detailed research and description of the magnificent ring-changing patterns used in English churches. Decoding the cipher reveals that it is based on the change-ringing patterns used at Fenchurch St. Paul. The largest bell, called Tailor Paul, holds the key to the mystery. The butler may not have done it in this one, but unfortunately for him, he knew who did. Sayers rounds out the four grand dames of English mystery writing popular during the ‘30’s, holding the spot with Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Margery Allingham.

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