Introduced by Jill Paton Walsh
Illustrated by Paul Cox
Dilettante detective Lord Peter Wimsey returns in this collection of short stories.
Alongside Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Josephine Tey, Dorothy L. Sayers was one of the key figures – and greatest innovators – in golden age crime fiction. As well as her famous novels, she was a prolific and accomplished short story writer. This Folio collection brings together stories featuring her most celebrated character, Lord Peter Wimsey – aristocrat, amateur sleuth and fashionable man about town.
‘The unprofessional detective career of Lord Peter Wimsey was regulated . . . by a persistent and undignified inquisitiveness. The habit of asking silly questions – natural, though irritating, in the immature male – remained with him long after his immaculate man, Bunter, had become attached to his service to shave the bristles from his chin and see to the due purchase and housing of Napoleon brandies and Villar y Villar cigars’
Appearing in 12 novels of his own, Wimsey is one of the most popular fictional detectives of the 20th century, and the adventures collected here admirably illustrate the range of delights golden-age crime can offer, from the morbidly gruesome to the satisfyingly meticulous. In ‘The Man with the Copper Fingers’ a beautiful statue hides a very grisly secret, a crossword puzzle (complete with answers at the back of the book) provides the solution to ‘The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will’, while a chance act of violence in ‘The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps that Ran’ leads to Wimsey seeking clues in a bowl of dripping.
‘Dorothy L. Sayers is in a class by herself’
This collection showcases Sayers at her most cunning, witty and psychologically astute. Although often characterised in the vein of P. G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster, Lord Peter Wimsey was not without his complexities. A fastidious bibliophile with a light and feckless manner, he also displays symptoms of shellshock, and under his patter there is an edge of steel. Paul Cox has lent his pen to depicting the lively world of Wimsey, and the match is a perfect one; this edition features 48 of his brilliantly realised illustrations and a stylish binding design. Jill Paton Walsh, the author of several mysteries that explore the further adventures of Wimsey, has contributed a fascinating introduction examining Sayers’s particular talent for the short story. Sayers’s tales, Walsh writes, are ‘light and buoyant as paper kites … but they have what is needed to soar – a little weight in the tale’.
Dorothy L. Sayers was born in Oxford in 1893, the only child of an Anglo-Irish reverend. Displaying an early passion for languages, she graduated with first-class honours from Somerville College, Oxford, in 1915. Her first novel, Whose Body? (1923) introduced her much-loved hero, Lord Peter Wimsey, who would become her most famous creation and the detective of fourteen novels and numerous short stories. In recognition of her impact on the golden age of crime fiction, Sayers was made president of the Detection Club in 1949, a post also held by Agatha Christie and G. K. Chesterton. A prolific writer, Sayers could turn her hand to almost anything, from writing BBC Radio plays to translating Dante’s Divine Comedy. She died in December 1957.
Jill Paton Walsh is a multi-award-winning writer of children’s and adult fiction. Raised in London and educated at St Anne’s College, Oxford, she pursued a career in teaching before becoming a writer. Her first novel, Hengest’s Tale, was published in 1966. Soon after, she won the Book World Festival Award for her 1970 novel, Fireweed. She has won numerous awards since then, including the Whitbread Prize in 1974 for The Emperor’s Winding Sheet and the Smarties Grand Prix in 1984 for Gaffer Samson’s Luck. Her 1993 novel, Knowledge of Angels, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Taking up Dorothy L. Sayers’s mantle, she completed the hitherto unfinished Thrones, Dominations (1988) and has written several Lord Peter Wimsey novels. In 1996 she was awarded a CBE for services to literature and has been made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Paul Cox is one of Britain’s most instantly recognisable illustrators. Born and raised in London, he remained there to study at the Camberwell College of Art and the Royal College of Art in Kensington. His unquestionable talent has seen him receive commissions from newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator, Vanity Fair and the Times. Cox has provided illustrations for some of Folio’s best-loved books, including Experiences of an Irish RM (1984), The Wind in the Willows (1993), My Family and Other Animals (2006) and a host of P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster novels.
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