Saturday, January 15, 2011

Whose Body?

or, the Singular Adventure of the Man with the Golden Pince-Nez.  When the vicar's wife tells the Dowager Duchess of Denver that the architect supervising the reconstruction of the church roof has discovered the dead body of a stranger, naked except for a pair of pince-nez eyeglasses, in his bath, Her Grace promptly calls on her younger son, Lord Peter Wimsey, to leave off his hobby of buying rare books at auction and take up his other hobby of unofficial detection.  Meanwhile, Lord Peter's good friend Detective Inspector Parker is looking for the missing Sir Reuben Levy, who apparently vanished from his home overnight taking none of his clothing, not even his spectacles.  Although the two incidents are, to all appearances, unconnected except by the coincidence of having happened the same night, Parker and Lord Peter jointly investigate both.

It's interesting reading Whose Body? (which had a contemporary setting when it was published in 1923) so soon after The Attenbury Emeralds (set in the 1950s with a flashback to the 1920s, but published in 2010, and therefore a piece of historical fiction probably requiring a good deal of research).  Lord Peter's silly-ass-with-an-eyeglass persona is in full bloom in his first appearance, and he talks a good deal of nonsense; it's hard to picture this affable upper class twit in the situation Paton Walsh puts him in towards the end of her latest book about him, though his episode of PTSD here does indicate there's more behind that monocle than a vacant look.

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