The plan of reading my folio set of Dorothy L Sayers proceeds apace, with my reading of Murder Must Advertise which I greatly enjoyed. Many editions of these books are available, which means that anyone can get their hands on a copy easily, which makes a nice change from some of the more obscure books I read. I do enjoy reading these lovely books, though, with their nice clear print. Excellent Christmas gift, Northernvicar!
Variously described as a Golden Age Murder Mystery, or a good novel with a murder in it, I really enjoyed reading Dorothy L Sayers Murder Must Advertise which features her near perfect detective, the aristocratic Lord Peter Wimsey.
Following the death of Victor Dean, copywriter, Mr Pym of Pyms Publicity advertising agency, Peter is called in to investigate and he opts to become Mr Death Bredon, aspiring Copywriter. He earns the tremendous sum of £4 per week, which is a first for the amateur detective, but he enters the skilfully described world of advertising with interest. As a former copywriter herself, Sayers draws on her specialist knowledge to create an office world peopled with real characters which includes the workshy and the pedantic. The intricacies of advertising become more than the background for what soon emerges as a murder. Peter’s disguise extends to gaining entry to the murky world of drug dealing and a 1920s fast set which reflects a world of young people bored and seeking sensation, which Peter’s disguised Bredon provides. Soon a relative is assaulted, drug dealers are pursued, and there is much chasing around London as the guilty and desperate emerge. For those who want a more traditional setting for murder, there is even a cricket match to enjoy in the latter part of the book.
I enjoyed this book for its satisfying characters, despite the absence of Harriet, as they try to second guess the guilty. There is peril and excitement as the puzzles are worked on, which I found fascinating, and the atmosphere feels just right. There are some amusing tales of advertising and its niceties as Sayers explores the world of those who try to attract the attention and money of those who earn little but have big aspirations. Martin Edwards says that it shows her “fierce sympathy” for those who could be influenced by advertising in this period. Also, one character says grimly to the super rich Lord Peter, “You don’t know what it is to be stuck for money”, and grimly I remembered that Sayers was often seen to be writing these novels for the income and as wish fulfillment of the perfect, rich man. Either way, this is a picture of world that Sayers knew, but in comparison she has little clue about the drug parties and dealing which influence the guilty. Some deaths and murders also slip by unnoticed, but by that time I was so interested in the plot that I found them less concerning. This is a strong mystery which is not obvious, and makes for a fascinating read. It is a Golden Age classic, written by Sayers at the top of her form even if it was not her favourite. With the current interest in reprinting murder mysteries of the early twentieth century this is a great starting point for those beginning to read this type of novel with a good plot, a solid atmosphere and one of the best characters.