Book: The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers

Remember when I said that I dislike murder mysteries that the reader has no hope whatsoever in solving for themselves? This is one of those mysteries.

I don’t think I would have been quite as annoyed about it, except for this bit on page 21, which just happens to be in the middle of the initial crime-scene investigation (the victim is not even dead until page 12):

(Here Lord Peter Whimsy 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 kid you not. I as the reader am supposed to know everything there is to know about the situation and note that something is missing from the contents of the victim’s satchel. And if I happen to have a different set of interests than painting and fishing (which are the pursuits of the townsfolk, as established in the first chapter), then I’m not even going to be thrown a bone.

Worse? Whimsy assumes that the item is missing because the murderer has a particular habit, and then spends a substantial amount of time later in the book observing the suspects to see if they have that habit. So it’s not like “Hey, whoever has the item is the murderer” (though the murderer is later found to have the item, and I didn’t pick up on that at all because I didn’t know that it was fucking missing in the first place). There is no reason they couldn’t have told me what the missing item was. Then I might have been able to form my own conclusions about why it went missing, and I’d have been able to observe the suspects along with His Lordship.

Now add in a thick Scottish accent that sometimes seems to be exaggerated for the purpose of confusing the reader and making them go back over it slowly. (“bluidy”? Seriously? If you had written it as “bloody” in with all the “ach”s and “aboots” and such, I’d have supplied the accent in my head, thanks. No need to make me sit and puzzle it all out.) The result is a book that I finished out of sheer stubbornness rather than out of any sense of enjoyment.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Book: Immortal In Death by J.D. Robb | On a Road Trip to Crazyville

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