The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers: B+

From the back cover:
This sinister, engaging case takes aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey from London to Paris and then back, to the austere dignity of the Bellona Club. There, 90-year-old General Fentiman was found dead in his favorite wing chair by the fireplace. Oddly, his sister died elsewhere the same day, perhaps within minutes of her brother. Investigating the question of who died first, a critical matter for inheritance, Wimsey grows suspicious about vital rigor mortis evidence. Might it actually be a case of murder? Intricate, elegant, and delightful—quintessential Wimsey.

There’s a complexity to The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club that is missing from earlier entries in the series. Lord Peter shows a darker side, capable of manipulation or steeliness. He gets into two verbal arguments (both with great dialogue), one even culminating in a fist fight. I am liking this Peter! There’s also more nuance to his relationship with Parker and a bit more sophistication in the plotting. A harbinger of good things to come, methinks.

Some things, however, remain doggedly the same. Yet another will with a strange clause figures into the plot. I have lost track of how many times that has happened now. And, if the perpetrators had had their way, the money would’ve gone to a medical purpose, just like in a couple of the short stories. Sigh.

There are also a couple of leaps in the solution that don’t quite make sense to me. The most major is that the suspect had a big secret and somehow the victim knew it. But I don’t remember it ever being explained how it was known; that bit was just kind of glossed over.

I look forward to the result of these various improvements in characterization combined with a fresher motive. The first person to recommend Sayers to me named the next in the series as one of her favorites, so perhaps I shan’t have long to wait for something satisfying on both levels.

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  1. You’re almost to the really great Sayers — all the ones with Harriet (okay, except Have His Carcase), plus The Nine Tailors and Murder Must Advertise (which along with Gaudy Night are my very favorites).

  2. The ones with Harriet were actually the first ones I bought (having heard they were the best), but then I decided to read the series in order because I am anal like that. 🙂

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