Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L. Sayers: B

From the back cover:
In this delightful collection of Wimsey exploits, Dorothy L. Sayers reveals a gruesome, grotesque, but absolutely bewitching side rarely shown in Lord Peter’s full-length adventures.

Lord Peter views the body in twelve tantalizing and bizarre ways in this outstanding collection. He deals with such marvels as the man with copper fingers, Uncle Meleager’s missing will, the cat in the bag, the footsteps that ran, the stolen stomach, the man without a face… and with such clues as cyanide, jewels, a roast chicken, and a classic crossword puzzle.

These stories contain twelve disturbing deaths, twelve perplexing puzzles—and twelve inimitable Wimsey solutions!

I had varying reactions to the twelve stories included in this collection. Some of them seemed fairly anticlimactic and pointless, like “The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker.” In it, a lady’s jewels are stolen. She comes to Wimsey with one suspect. Wimsey engages the suspect in a game of cards, frames him for cheating, and blackmails him into returning the jewels. The end.

Others were fun primarily for their characters, or for Peter’s interactions with same. The best example in this type is “The Learned Adventure of the Dragon’s Head,” featuring Peter’s nephew, nicknamed Gherkins. I adored seeing Peter in an avuncular role, especially how he treated Gherkins with respect, and would love to see more of this duo in future.

There was only one that really surprised me, though I reckon it might’ve been obvious to others from the start. “The Bibulous Business of the Matter of Taste” involved two men presenting themselves as Lord Peter Wimsey—and one claiming to be his relation—to a Frenchman who was offering a poison gas formula to the English government. A wine-tasting contest ensued to determine which was the real Lord Peter. This was easily my favorite in the book.

There were a couple of recurring motifs, as well. In several stories, Peter was visiting someone away from home. Three stories involved Peter solving a hitherto baffling puzzle in a will, twice benefiting medical research as a result. Possibly the best known of these is “The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will,” which featured a full crossword puzzle and its solution. I’d been looking forward to this one, but it turned out that reading all of the esoteric clues was kind of tedious.

All in all, I enjoyed this collection more than I thought I would, but I still prefer the Wimsey novels.

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