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23 November 2016

Book Review - The Five Red Herrings

Five Red Herrings (Lord Peter Wimsey, #7)Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What's a long, drawn-out, sesquipedalian, tedious way to say "tedious?"

Take this example of dialog; "Nae doot. The mon was deid before he got intae the burn. 'Twas the scart on the heid that did it. There's a wheen mair blows."

Scottish dialect, of course. But honestly. I can usually decipher textual fun with dialog and accents (and Sayers plays with that quite a bit in this book, with lisps and cockney and brogue, oh my!) but that much color made the whole damn book nearly unintelligible.

And then there were the endless train schedules and timetables that just made my head spin.

Maybe I would have liked this book better if I were smarter. Perhaps it was actually an IQ test and I failed. Sayers certainly hints at what she thinks of her less-than-astute readers while Whimsey is examining the crime scene. She breaks the fourth wall and interjects parenthetically, "Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant what he was to look for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page."

I could not readily supply the details. Therefore, I am not an intelligent reader. Feeling disrespected by an author makes it difficult to retain the element of goodwill, earned from past experiences with that author, that would keep me turning pages in an otherwise tedious tome.

But despite all of this, I kept reading. Goodwill trumps insult, I guess.

And I'm mostly glad I did because there were moments like this one;

"Your name is Halcock, is it not?"
The butler corrected him.
"H'alcock," he said, reprovingly.
"H, a, double-l?" suggested the Inspector.
"There is no h'aitch in the name, young man. H'ay is the first letter, and there is h'only one h'ell."

Or this description of an exacting housewife that also serves as a metaphor for the environment her husband is trying to escape; "Gilda Farren sat, upright and serene, spinning the loose white flock into a strong thread that wound itself ineluctably to smother the twirling spindle."

Or the man who said, "I was quivering like a blanc-mange."

Or the witness with a lisp; "My name is Clarenth Gordon. I am a commerthial traveller for the firm of Moth & Gordon, Glathcow--ladieth dretheth and hothiery."

But still. Tedious. Not one I'll probably come back to over and over. But I think Sayers probably knows this is one of her weaker efforts. When Lord Peter says, "Bunter, this case resembles the plot of a Wilkie Collins novel, in which everything happens just too late to prevent the story from coming to a premature happy ending," it was almost as if Sayers purposely deflected my frustration with her to Wilkie Collins. "If you think I'm bad, wait until you read Collins!"

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