Unnatural Death has always been one of my favorite Sayers (and also has one of the most fabulous last lines in popular fiction). In Unnatural Death, you get a hefty dose of Ms Climpson, a pro-active Parker and vignettes of village life (something that Sayers does very well). The plot is a tad convoluted (there are some points I still puzzle over), but psychologically, the murders all make sense.
One of her earlier novels, Unnatural Death does not delve as deeply into morality or characterization as some of Sayers' later works. But it is still a satisfying listen that is more than a mere puzzle.
Wimsey is intrigued, and, despite the misgivings of both the doctor and Detective Parker, dispatches the elderly Miss Alexandra Climpson to gather information in the town of Leahampton while he pursues other leads in London. He finds many suspicions, but no facts, even when one death and then another are reported. In each case there are no indications of foul play, and Wimsey becomes convinced that he has grabbed the tail of the perfect crime. His opinion is not shared by Parker, however, and it is only reluctantly that the latter consents to investigate.
Gradually circumstance builds, and even Parker must admit that there are many questions to be answers. Yet all are baffled. Even knowing who the perpetrator must be, the investigators are unable to formulate a case that will stand in court. Wimsey is up against one of those sociopathic minds that pays careful attention to detail and apparently has the means to murder as if by magic. Dorothy Sayers has created a truly baffling case.
The greatest delight of this novel is the first appearance of Miss Alexandra Climpson. A delightfully sharp woman who is a persistent and dedicated investigator in the service of Lord Peter. Initially giving the appearance of the archetypal maiden aunt, it quickly becomes apparent that Miss Climpson has unplumbed depths and she will return often to the delectation and joy of the reader.
While 'Unnatural Death' is an eminently readable and entertaining story, it does not bear up as well on rereading. For one thing, most of the book is spent knowing exactly who is guilty but not having the important clue in hand. As a matter of personal preference, I like to have to guess the criminal better than guessing the means. Also, since the story depends on a trick solution, the ending is less satisfying than it might have been. All this aside, it is still a great story. Dorothy Sayers' worst (which this isn't) is far better than most writers' best. Have no fear, you will enjoy this.
Dorothy Sayers had such a brilliant mind, to dream up this one. There is a brooding and tense atmosphere to this novel that is unrelenting and in every... Read more