This summer I’ve been reading Dorothy L. SayersLord Peter Wimsey novels. I had read a few of them years ago when I was in college, but I hadn’t really read very many of them. So, I started with the Lord Peter-Harriet Vane novels — Strong Poison (1930), Have His Carcase (1932), and Gaudy Night (1935) — before going back to the beginning of the Lord Peter novels,Whose Body? (1923). In addition to those novels, I’ve read Clouds of Witness (1926), Unnatural Death (1927), and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928). I’ve just started Five Red Herrings (1931), but I have to admit that I’m losing steam and may have to take a break from Sayers for a bit.

Sayers is one of the great writers for the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. She started her literary career as a poet before World War I. After the war, she decided to try her hand at detective fiction. In all, she wrote ten Wimsey novels and two collections of short stories. She also composed a play that takes place during Lord Peter’s honeymoon with Harriet. After she discontinued her detective series, she wrote religious plays, translated Dante, and composed several nonfiction works.

Having now read the majority of her novels, I have to say that Sayers is the greatest detective writer I’ve ever read. When I was younger, I spent a summer reading Agatha Christie’s works and I’ve always considered myself a Christie devotee. In graduate school, I took up reading Patricia Cornwell‘s novels, the first few of which, at least, are excellent, scary reads. And of course there’s Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes stories and novels are unrivaled in the genre — or at least they were until Sayers came along.

(more…)