Striding Folly by Dorothy L. Sayers: A-

Book description:
Lord Peter Wimsey’s last three baffling cases all demonstrate his unique detection skills at their most spectacular. The enigma of a house numbered thirteen in a street of even numbers. An indignant child accused of theft. A dream about a game of chess that uncovers the true story behind a violent death. Each of the stories introduces a different side of the twentieth century’s most ingenious detective hero.

Short as it is, Striding Folly is still, by far, my very favorite of the Lord Peter short story collections.

Of the three stories collected herein, the title story is of the least consequence. It’s chiefly about a country gentleman who is suspected of killing a neighbor who planned to sell his land to developers. Lord Peter comes in at the end and prevents a miscarriage of justice. The title, incidentally, refers to the more tangible sort of folly, that is “a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece [or] lend interest to a view.” This one happens to be located on a property known as Striding. I had always thought it referred to a bit of foolishness engaged in while ambling about.

In “The Haunted Policeman” we get our first glimpse of Lord Peter since the events of Busman’s Honeymoon. It’s just over a year since his marriage to Harriet, and Peter has just passed a sleepless night while his wife gives birth to their first son. Once all is declared well, his spirits are high and he desires some conversation, even though it’s three in the morning. A passing policeman fits the bill and tells Peter the story of how he came to be accused of drunkenness by his sergeant. The tale involves a murdered man inside a house numbered thirteen on a street with only even-numbered residences. Again, Lord Peter serves as a force of vindication. Though the solution to the mystery is fairly ridiculous, the depiction of Peter is really excellent. I love the notion that, when fretting especially about Harriet, he takes solace in the company of the servants, who allow him to polish the silver.

The second charmer in the collection is “Talboys.” A further six years have passed since the previous story and Peter and Harriet’s family has grown to contain three sons. The eldest, Bredon, confesses at the outset to having stolen two peaches from a neighbor. Peter punishes him and the matter is considered closed until the following morning, when all of the peaches are discovered missing. A visiting houseguest—friend to Peter’s notoriously censorious sister-in-law—persists in suspecting Bredon while Peter rather easily proves his innocence. Again, the mystery is not really the point here. Instead we get a truly wonderful portrait of Peter as father—always willing to have a roll with the dog, let his children clamber all over him, and participate in mischief. I might wish for more emphasis on Harriet in this situation, but her happiness is never in doubt.

Of all the Lord Peter stories, only these last two have ever tempted me to come back and read them again. I had wondered how any short story could provide a sense of closure to the Wimsey series, but in fact it works perfectly, since little time and effort need be expended upon a mystery which is only of secondary importance. I will probably end up reading Thrones, Dominations in the near future but I certainly see the rationale behind stopping here, too.

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.


  1. At one point in my life I read a lot of Dorothy Sayers, but I’m not sure I ever read these stories. It may be time to pick up her novels again. Thanks for the nudge.

Speak Your Mind