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The Nine Tailors–complicated plot

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The Nine Tailors

by Dorothy Sayers

The reader of The Nine Tailors is thrown headlong into the world of change-ringing in English churches, the ancient art of ringing huge bells by ropes, not according to melody, but mathematical patterns. Dorothy Sayers’ book also immerses the reader into Anglican church architecture and local sluices, fens, and waterways. I didn’t have the necessary background knowledge to understand or appreciate the extensive backdrop Sayers paints for her mystery, and that deficit on my part hindered my appreciation of the novel.

At the same time, I must applaud the author for one of the most convoluted plot structures I have ever encountered. Dorothy Sayers is considered one of the top writers in the mystery genre, and having read The Nine Tailors, I understand the reason for her reputation even though her style is not quite to my taste. Her main character, Lord Peter Wimsey, is a likable protagonist. The conclusion of the tale is both satisfying and surprising. I must admit on a personal level that I have allowed myself to be spoiled by the easy reading afforded by currently produced cozy mysteries which I very much enjoy. The Nine Tailors has a much more intellectual bent and certainly stretches the reader’s mental reaches. I recommend this book within the constraints of a mystery that requires the reader to put forth at least equal effort to that of the author.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  #11 in the Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery Series. As it is not very character dependent, it could be appreciated as a standalone.

Publication:  1934—Harcourt Brace & Co. (Harvest Books)

Memorable Lines:

A powerful ecclesiastical odor, compounded of ancient wood, varnish, dry rot, hassocks, hymn-books, paraffin lamps, flowers and candles, all gently baking in the warmth of slow-combustion stoves, billowed out from the interior.

It came upon him with a shock that Uncle Edward could not be many years older than himself. He felt for him the apprehensive reverence which one feels for a quaint and brittle piece of antiquity.

I think I have been the most unmitigated and unconscionable ass that ever brayed in a sleuth-hound’s skin.


  1. mysm2000 says:

    I love Dorothy L Sayers and have the whole Lord Peter Sayers collection. I also have some of the British-produced movies aired on PBS some years ago. Excellent series. Well worth the effort.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a Dorothy Sayers book, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, on my Kindle waiting to be read, I’ll keep you posted!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      Please do. I love the understated British title. If it is a good one for you, I’ll give it a try. Given her reputation, I was surprised that it just didn’t do it for me.


  3. Ok, I tried reading it yesterday, but found it confusing and boring…if a book doesn’t grab me from the first page or two, I’m not wasting my time…

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      Uh oh! Well, you for sure don’t want to read The Nine Tailors. I think you would not enjoy it any more than I did. I should add that a lady in my book club loved it and went on to read another Dorothy Sayers book. This is a good example of having an open mind when you approach a book, because what is right for one reader is not for another. Thank you for your feedback. There are just too many books that I want to read to spend more time on an author whose books I don’t enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carla says:

    I have not read any of Dorothy Sayers books and am not sure if I would appreciate them. I am just starting to enjoy Agatha Christie and that has taken awhile. It sounds very descriptive, not necessarily my cup of tea. Nice review.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lghiggins says:

      I am an Agatha Christie fan. I did not find Nine Tailors to be anything like the work of Agatha Christie. (BTW, a tailor in this book is a bell not a person who sews clothes. Just that had me puzzling for a while.).

      Liked by 2 people

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