|Fenland flooding in 1915 - this |
probably inspired the flood at the
climax of The Nine Tailors.
I'm a huge fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, I've loved Lord Peter Wimsey since I was a child, when I delighted in the wonderful TV adaptations starring Ian Carmichael, for me the definitive Wimsey. Sayers is generally a very strong writer, obviously there are some in the Wimsey canon that I like less than others, but she always provides a great mystery with an element of something completely different.
The nine tailors has been my favourite Wimsey ever since I first read it, and in fact I think I enjoy it more every time I read it. By accident I have ended up living near the setting for so many of the events of the novel, and I think that she captures the spirit of the people and the land of the Fen country brilliantly. The feeling of community, the odd watery landscape, its bleakness and beauty. Sayers knew this country well, her father was the rector of Christchurch - the setting for Fenchurch St. Paul, though the church was based on those at nearby Upwell and March, at the heart of the mystery.
And what a mystery it is: a mutilated corpse with no obvious cause of death, missing emeralds, and dead men who seem to reach out from beyond the grave. It is an extraordinary tale with one of the most unusual denouements in crime fiction. Whether the actual "murder weapon" really could do what Sayers claims, I don't know, but the whole tale is told with such panache that you are completely swept away by it.
Punctuated with frequent (and wholly incomprehensible to a non-bell-ringer) references to bell ringing, this actually only adds to the novel's mystique. It's a great tale, especially suitable for reading in the depths of winter in the heart of the Fens. And it's the first of my 666 Challenge books - 1. The Nine Tailors set in the Fens, England, Europe, now just 35 to go!