As the author is one of the luminaries of 'The Golden Age of Detective Fiction', Dorothy Sayers' novels are a must for fans of crime of any era. Yet I had never read one before, so to further my crime genre education, bought the first in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, Sayers' best known. I was prepared to be awed, but it took me some time to get into this book. This was due to some of the 1920s conventions which have become rather dated and jarred with this modern reader: the 1920s slang; the British aristocratic mannerisms; the matter-of-fact and even amused attitude of the detectives towards the horrific murders.
However, from the beginning I admired the elegant and deft prose, the cool wit and the confident unfolding of the byzantine plot which begins when an unidentified body is found in an architect's bath and a City of London financier goes missing. By the time I was half-way through I was fully acculturated to the 1920s and loved every aspect, especially how a darker tone is very gradually introduced and takes over by the end. The characters who had at first seemed generic stereotypes, were gradually revealed to be complex human beings, moulded by class, but credible individuals of any era. The 1920s context is expertly sketched and I became at least as familiar with it as I would if I'd read a social history of the period. An Appendix where Lord Peter's uncle pens his interpretation of his nephew's character is a neat touch. Sayers' novels are for those who read to coolly solve an extremely tricky puzzle, rather than those who want an emotional roller-coaster of fear and suspense which so many 21st century crime writers aim to provide.
'Whose Body' is highly recommended for students of the crime genre and lovers of beautifully wrought prose.