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Five Red Herrings Mass Market Paperback – Jan 1 1959

3 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: HarperTorch (Jan. 1 1959)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006104363X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061043635
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.3 x 17.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 45 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #742,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Love all the Peter Wimsey Mysteries. This one delivered
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you want a good book, this would NOT be my choice in a million years.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa78bed8c) out of 5 stars 81 reviews
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa76da84c) out of 5 stars For Die-Hard Sayers Fans Only Aug. 1 2002
By Gary F. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
At her best, Dorothy Sayers was able to juggle a complex writing style, complex characters, and complex plot to tremendous effect--and such novels as GAUDY NIGHT and BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON have remained landmarks of the murder mystery genre for well over sixty years. But some of Sayers' work has a tendency toward incessant clutter--and no where is that more apparent than in this 1931 novel, which finds Lord Peter investigating a suspicious death in Scotland.

The plot of THE FIVE RED HERRINGS begins with some promise: the victim is a man despised by virtually everyone in town, so no one is greatly shocked when his body is found in a creek at the bottom of a ravine. But the story soon acquires a mechanical feeling: of six possible suspects, HALF are unexpectedly and mysteriously out of town--and tracking them down allows Sayers to indulge her love of time-tables and train schedules to the nth degree. It makes for some very dry narrative indeed. At the same time, Sayers attempts to duplicate the Scottish accent of the locals on the page itself, and the result is page after page of phonetic spellings and oddly placed aphostrophes. It is more than a little off-putting.

In spite of these drawbacks, the book does have its graces, chiefly in Sayers' knack for turning a witty phrase and in her ever-developing portrait of Lord Peter Wimsey. And to do Sayers justice, the gimmicky plot and the emphasis on time-tables, etc. is rather typical of 1920s and 1930s murder mysteries. Such books often have a great deal of period charm, but frankly, THE FIVE RED HERRINGS is not among them. Die-hard Sayers fans will certainly want to read this novel, and many will get a good degree of pleasure from it... but newcomers to Dorothy Sayers' work should start with one of her later successes, and I specifically recommend MURDER MUST ADVERTISE to them instead.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa76a57ec) out of 5 stars Dorothy Sayers Gets Hooked on Phonics May 21 2004
By C. T. Mikesell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As other reviewers have commented, this book has two strikes against it. First, Sayers transcribes most of the dialogue preserving the native Scottish accents of her characters. Occasionally she'll allow a character to have so thick a brogue that she'll simultaneously translate for the reader. However, it frequently takes several times through a conversation to make sure you're reading it properly. A glossary at the end of the book would have helped immensely (everybody say Imph'm). The other strike against the book is that five red herrings is a couple kippers too many. Combined with the dialectic nature of the book, there are simply too many people (suspects, police, railroad employees, servants, etc.) to keep track of at the same time.
Fortunately, Sayers doesn't get the fatal third strike. She weaves a complex web and sets master sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey in the middle of it. The obvious wit in her other novels is obscured somewhat by the accents, but enough shines through to keep the overall tone light. Bunter disappears about halfway through, but while he's on the scene he's as wonderful as ever. Tracking Farren and Wimsey's re-creation of the murderer's alibi were, for me, the high points of the story.
I'm sure Dorothy Sayers knew the risks she was taking in crafting such a detailed, complex mystery. That it doesn't entirely work for an American reader in the 21st Century probably isn't ruining her afterlife much. I've found myself hopelessly outclassed on several occasions when reading the Wimsey series, and under those circumstances I find it most helpful to get in Wimsey's Daimler with him and go along for the ride. The trip is always breathtaking (as most of Wimsey's passengers can attest), and while Lord Peter may know where he's going sooner than I do, he doesn't get there too far ahead of me. Don't let my criticisms of this book dissuade you from giving it a read; it's tough in parts, but well worth the effort.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa75c2618) out of 5 stars Sayers Almost at Her Best Sept. 5 2005
By Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I must be in the minority because I thought this was Sayer's almost at her most brilliant. Only the Nine Tailors seems better to me. Unlike some other reviewers here it was the complexity of the plot that I found so intriguing-that and the Scottish setting. No one could handle intricate plotting better than Sayers. I have also heard this book on tape read by Patrick Malahide. He does a fabulous job and the tapes are particularly mesmerizing. If you enjoy mysterys for their characters start with Murder must Advertise. If you read mysterys for their plot this is definitly the place to go.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7718174) out of 5 stars One of 6 guys whose name ends in -N gets on one of three bicycles and takes one of 27 trains... May 25 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the most mathematical mystery I've ever encountered. If you like character-driven mysteries, this one is a bit of a washout. The personalities that usually make Wimsey shine, like Bunter and Parker, his usual sparring partners in eccentric repartee, are largely absent. In their place, we have 5 suspects notable primarily for the their prolonged absences, a great deal of commotion about the various bicycle models that some or all of the suspects may or may not have stolen, ridden, transported via train, left behind a bush, or lost. And then there are the endless permutations of railways schedules that the parade of faceless suspects may have followed to a range of indistinguishable destinations. It's less like the plot of a novel and more like a needlessly complex exercise in algebra. I spent much of the novel thinking it would be so much cleaner if it were just presented as a vast spreadsheet in Excel. Cleaner, and just about as compelling.

In fairness, it picks up a bit at the end, but it's heavy slogging to get there.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7718138) out of 5 stars So-so Sayers Feb. 3 2011
By C. Ebeling - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Five Red Herrings finds Sayers' detective Lord Peter Wimsey in a rural precinct of Scotland called Kirkcudbright that is popular with plein air artists, golfers and fly fishermen. Wimsey witnesses one of the artists doing a good job of insulting six others at the local pub, who is found dead soon after. At first it looks as if he was painting near a cliff and has taken a tumble and drowned in the river below, but Wimsey, assisting the local police, sees that it is no accident but an elaborately conceived murder, a fact corroborated by the Coroner. The rest of the book is spent sifting through the six suspects, their alibis, motives and movements, five of which are dead ends, hence the book's title.

Sayers is one of the British queens of the Golden Age of detective fiction and her Lord Peter Wimsey series earned her that respect. Unfortunately, this is not the strongest in the series. While it is often amusing, it gets bogged down in sifting over and over again between the suspects' stories. The suspects are not differentiated enough through character development to keep them entirely straight. Sayers lays the Robbie Burns dialect rather thickly on the locals, which explodes when she gives a minor character, a witness, an overlay of a lisp atop the Scots accent. Sayers lets fly the "n" word, too, though only once, fortunately. There is no back story on Wimsey that would help a newcomer, and Bunter, his manservant, is there early on but then disappears from the narrative.

The best part is the last section in which Wimsey and the police re-enact the events from the vantage point of their chief suspect. This book is rich in period detail and zeitgeist. It also appears loaded with what I suspect are insider jokes, so I have to wonder if this book was written to amuse the author's friends in the Detection Club, which was founded in 1930, a year before this was originally published.

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