Few novelists write short stories with equal skill, and Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) is no exception: given to a very wordy style, her talents do not show well in the form. HANGMAN'S HOLIDAY, however, collects the best of her short story work, and while she will never compete with the true masters of the genre fans will find this collection far superior to Sayers' short story collection LORD PETER VIEWS THE BODY.
HANGMAN'S HOLIDAY collects twelve Sayers stories: "The Image in the Mirror," "The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey," "The Queen's Square," and "The Necklace of Pearls," all featuring Lord Peter Wimsey; "The Poisoned Dow '08," "Sleuths on the Scent," "Murder in the Morning," "One too Many," "Murder at Pentecost," and "Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz," all featuring Montague Egg; and "The Man Who Knew How" and "The Fountain Plays," which are stand-alones without reliance on a continuing character.
Lord Peter Wimsey was Sayers' character of choice, and the four stories in which he features are enjoyably written, small sketches of the character who is better seen in Sayers' longer works. But the real prize are the six Montague Egg and the two stand-alone stories, which have never been widely available in any other collection.
Egg, a cheerful "commercial traveler" (i.e. salesman) representing a wine and port company, is quite different from Sayers' memorable Wimsey--clever but shallow all in one. The stories are also quite different in tone, emphasizing minute observation used to unravel highly specific puzzles. While all are of interest, "The Poisoned Dow '08" is easily the standout. The two stand alone stories are interesting for several reasons, most particularly because they show Sayers in the rare situation of working without a continuing character. Neither story is so much mystery as suspense with an ironic twist--one can imagine them being filmed, for example, by Alfred Hitchcock--with "The Man Who Knew How" quite possibly the single most disturbing thing Sayers ever wrote.
As previously noted, Sayers was not really a short story writer; her complicated constructions feel constricted by the form and her style seems forever straining against the restrictions of the genre. But fans will be greatly interested in this collection, and even a reader with only a casual interest in Sayers' work will find much to enjoy. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer