Saturday, May 5, 2012
Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers
In Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers, Lord Peter encounters what just might be the perfect murder. An old lady, dying of cancer, passes away a few months earlier than the doctor had predicted. Her money goes to the grand-niece who is her next-of-kin and chosen heir, even though the old lady had a superstitious aversion to making a will. Only the doctor is suspicious -- and that could just be a case of professional pride. After all, there's no evidence of foul play. A chance encounter between Lord Peter and the doctor sets off an investigation . . . and because of the investigation, there are more crimes, more victims.
In this book, the reader really sees Lord Peter wrestling with the philosophical and ethical problems that an amateur detective must face. If he hadn't started poking his nose into the details of the case, all that would have happened was that a little old lady would have died a few months earlier than predicted. However, to conceal the murder, the murderer is willing to go to great lengths. More people will die -- is Lord Peter in some measure culpable for those deaths? Does Lord Peter solve crimes, in a sense, for his own amusement? And is it worth solving a murder like this one, if more lives are lost as collateral damage along the way? I'm always impressed at how deftly Sayers ties these issues into her characterization of Lord Peter, with Parker's down-to-earth practicality, Bunter's efficiency, and Miss Climpson's lively curiosity as perfect foils for him.
As you can probably tell, I'm really enjoying rereading this series. I plan to go back and pick up Whose Body? next, then continue through the series.
(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)