Sayers, Dorothy L. Murder Must Advertise.

NY: HarperCollins, 1961, 1933.

This is a strong contender for being the most thoroughly enjoyable of the author’s mysteries featuring amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey — and not only because of the protagonist’s detecting. The principal setting is a large London advertising agency in the early 1930s, and because Sayers herself was a successful copywriter for a period, she knows what she’s talking about.

In fact, she’s both sympathetic to the advertising profession itself and devastatingly satirical about the people engaged in it. Lord Peter, using his middle names as cover, hires on as a new junior copywriter in order to investigate the mysterious death of one of the staff, a man who apparently fell down a circular iron staircase and broke his neck. Wimsey makes an effort to learn the business and even turns out to have a flair for it, while his brother-in-law, DCI Parker, continues to investigate (without much success) a high-society cocaine supply ring. The two plots, naturally, begin to come together and there are several more deaths, not all of them mysterious. Lord Peter finds himself playing his bad-boy alter ego in society, too, as his investigation takes him far afield. The characters are all well-developed and there’s hardly a page without an example of deadpan humor with a peculiarly Brit flavor. But I have to say, the climactic chapter describing the annual cricket match between Pym’s Publicity Ltd. and one of its big clients could have been written in Homeric Greek for all the sense I could make of it. (Not to say an American football fan wouldn’t have similar difficulties describing to a Brit the difference between a nickel defense and a wishbone.) Great fun and a pretty good mystery to boot.

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Published in: on 20 January 2011 at 4:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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