The creation of Dorothy Sayers in the first half of the 20th century, Lord Peter Wimsey rightly occupies a place of honor alongside Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes as one of the finest detectives in the murder mystery genre, in the traditional British mould. But whereas Holmes was principally renowned for his short stories, Wimsey is best known from Sayers' superb novels like "Clouds of Witness", "Murder Must Advertise", and "The Nine Tailors", and it is with these full-length stories that those unfamiliar with Wimsey should probably begin. But Wimsey fans will not want to miss an opportunity to meet the characters from his world that they've grown to love and appreciate make an appearance in the form of short stories. Sayers wrote several short story collections, and although they arguably lack the drama of the novel-length narratives, her sharp wit, terse style, articulate vocabulary, and wonderful characters are all evident. Her skill with wordplay is already evident in the deliciously verbose titles like "The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question", "The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention", and "The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach," all of which give clever details of the contents of each story.
This volume is comprehensive in reproducing all 21 Wimsey short stories, including the previously unpublished Talboys. Certainly there are some delightful stories among them. My favorite half-a-dozen or so stories include:
"The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker" - Wimsey uses some sleight of hand to manipulate a game at cards, in order to blackmail a thief into returning stolen jewelry and a scandalous photograph.
"The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste" - On behalf of the government, Wimsey is commissioned to purchase a secret formula, but when two Lord Peters show up at the estate of the scientist concerned, Wimsey's skill in wine-tasting is necessary to uncover the imposter.
"The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba" - Wimsey infiltrates a criminal organization of thieves in order to bring to justice the mastermind behind the secret society.
"The Image in the Mirror" - Wimsey is consulted by a man who suspects he is mad, since either he or someone identical to him is committing atrocious crimes. A mysterious tale with a doppelganger motif!
"The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey" - Wimsey again plays magician, this time in a remote and primitive community, to rescue a woman from being mistreated by her vengeful husband.
"In the Teeth of Evidence" - A short and immensely satisfying tale where Wimsey unravels the peculiar events leading to the death of a dentist who apparently died after his car caught fire in his garage.
"Striding Folly" - Can Wimsey solve the mystery surrounding the death of Mellilow's neighbour and chess-partner, Creech, when Mellilow's alibi is an unconvincing story about a complete stranger who played chess with him that evening instead of with Creech?
If the taste of these stories leaves you begging for more, you might next want to read "The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers", "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag", and "The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach." The remaining stories are not as good, but might still prove rewarding and satisfying to the dedicated Wimsey fan. It has to be conceded that for those unfamiliar with Wimsey, it could take considerable effort to appreciate Wimsey-Lite, and given their brevity, many of these stories lack the complexity and satisfying twists of a typical Sayers murder mystery. But for Lord Peter Wimsey enthusiasts, the short stories of Wimsey-Lite are still thoroughly enjoyable! - GODLY GADFLY