Taking Detective Stories Seriously – The Collected Crime Reviews of Dorothy L Sayers

Dorothy L Sayers achieved a good many things in her life, most notably the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, but also helped found the Detection Club, translated The Divine Comedy and spent two years reviewing crime fiction for The Sunday Times. Guess which one of those I’m going to be talking about today. Well, The Divine Comedy was originally written by Dante and… just kidding.

At the same time that she was writing Murder Must Advertise and The Nine Tailors, as well as collaborating on Ask A Policeman with some of her Detection Club, Sayers was reading three or four books a week and reviewing them for the national press. And now they have been collected in a single volume.

The book kicks off with a handsome overview of Sayers’ reviews by – yup, Martin Edwards, the expert on all things Golden Age (who also edited the volume), and then presents all of her reviews, from June 1933 to August 1935, along with single reviews from 1937 and 1949.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read the whole book yet. It isn’t that sort of book for me. For me, it’s a bathroom book – the sort of book that sits on a shelf in the bathroom for dipping in and out of. Some people call them coffee table books – I call them bathroom books.

And it’s a great book to dip in and out of. Sayers writes with a passion for the genre, generally finding something positive to say about even the most bog-standard book. And she is extremely good at avoiding spoilers, so she’s OK in my book. She covers all of the famous authors from the period – four from Christie, seven from Carr, six from Queen, seven from Punshon, eight from Rhode/Burton and so on. But the book is a veritable who’s who of forgotten authors – anyone heard of Herbert Adams, who gets five reviews, although one – John Brand’s Will – is described as “passably exciting”… And she’s not a massive fan of Brian Flynn, so she’s not perfect. To be fair though, she does have a point about Flynn’s desire to, at times, use five words when one would do.

This is a great read – I do hope it’s not going to bankrupt me with more books to start looking for, but I’d strongly recommend it to fans of the Golden Age. You never know, I might even get round to reading more of Peter Wimsey… possibly. But these reviews are Highly Recommended. A must-read.

6 comments

  1. I really look forward to getting your emails. There is always something new to explore or to be delighted you are reviewing books I have enjoyed. many thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  2. anyone heard of Herbert Adams, who gets five reviews

    I’ve read one of his books, The Chief Witness, which came out in 1935. It might have been one of the books she reviewed? I thought it was quite good.

    Like

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