May 8, 2007

The Nine Tailors

by Dorothy R. Sayers

Perhaps the definitive early mystery, this is a delight I save for special occasions, usually for a return from a nice old corner of England. Sayers understands what she needs to explain and what she can leave unsaid, and respects the reader enough to let us puzzle out the mysteries of change ringing. without buckets of unnecessary exposition. The imperfections — the nasty anti-semitic slur, the over-the-top elaboration of plot — are characteristic of Sayers but don't detract from the book’s special delights and, as ever in Sayers, the minor characters are delicious.

At a banquet at Royal Holloway, I confessed to my English dining companion that everything I knew about British women's education I learned from Dorothy Sayers. He looked blank. Don’t let this happen to you. If you haven’t met Sayers, start here.