Wanted : A murderer

Dorothy L. Sayers spent 11 years working as a copy-writer in a London advertising agency. She was finally able to retire in 1932 when she was earning enough from the success of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries to devote her time to writing and academic research. It's perhaps not surprising that her first post-ad agency Wimsey mystery should be set in an advertising agency. Murder must advertise has never been one of my favourite Wimsey stories. Perhaps surprisingly for a novel set in the confines of an industry where language is vitally important, and where the pattest phrase is often the most desirable; this is an extraordinarily wordy novel. There are often swathes of not terribly essential material that just drag the whole novel to a bit of a halt.

However there is much to recommend it - the central crime is clever and well-planned, and there's a rather nifty storyline about the drugs trade in the 1930s. Plenty of the dodgy side of youth culture here, as Sayers looks into the seedier side of the "bright young things", it's sometimes a bit daft, but there's none of the hysteria that you get with Agatha Christie on a similar subject. In fact this novel is a real period piece, there are some jaw-dropping quotes including an advertising campaign suggesting that cigarette smoking is of health benefits for people with TB (can you imagine that getting past the advertising watchdogs nowadays).

I missed the auxiliary characters that people many of the Lord Peter Wimsey's  - no Bunter, Harriet or the Dowager Duchess, but it's a fairly clever mystery with an interesting and convincing setting. Good for an idle day.


Popular Posts