Whose Body? is the first of Dorothy Sayers’s famous Lord Peter Wimsey novels, introducing that nobleman, as well as his manservant and fellow-sleuth, Mervyn Bunter. Scotland Yard’s Inspector Charles Parker, who figures more or less prominently in later Wimsey novels, plays a central role in Whose Body? as well.
As the book opens, a bashful Battersea architect has discovered a naked body in his bath, adorned with a gold pince nez. At the same time, we learn of the disappearance – under odd circumstances – of Sir Reuben Levy, a powerful financial magnate in The City. Not accepting the police’s early assumption that the corpse and Sir Reuben are one and the same, Wimsey and Parker follow up the two puzzles alternately and interchangeably, coming together to compare notes. Bunter’s peculiar insights and photographic evidence are also important in illuminating the mystry. Ultimately, Lord Peter and Inspector Parker are forced to conclude that the two mysteries are, in fact, pieces of a single, extremely sinister plot.
Whose Body? is not as polished as Sayers’s later novels. However, it is a terrific book. The writing is beautiful, filled with vivid description, dry humor, and interesting (though often arcane) allusions. The story moves quickly, and even Sayers aficionados claim they can’t tell “whodunit” and “why” until at least half way through. This book’s elegant but also extremely friendly prose prefigures Sayers’s position as one of the three or four best of Britain’s “Golden Age” mystery novelists.
(Introduction by Kirsten Wever)