I tend to think of October as the month for mysteries, even though mystery month is actually during May. But October just seems like the perfect time to curl up with a sweater and a mystery to me. The series I would recommend picking up if you’re like me and are looking for a good cozy mystery series is the Peter Wimsey Mysteries.
All About the Series:
There are 12 novels (starting with Whose Body?) in the Peter Wimsey Mysteries, which is not enough in my opinion. (you can see where this review is going already). This series follows our protagonist, Peter Wimsey, a man of uncounted hidden talents, and a person people always seem to underestimate. Which is a fact he often uses to his advantage. Along the way, we encounter a recurring cast of characters all of who are wonderful, including Bunter, his manservant, Chief Inspector Parker and a definite favorite of mine: Peter’s mother the Dowager Duchess. In each novel we learn more about Peter and these characters. We also meet Harriet Vane who becomes incredibly important to our protagonist. *Wink Wink*
Each novel contains a mystery for Peter (or Peter and Harriet) to solve with the help of the recurring characters. Each of these mysteries is contained within the novel. In other words, the mystery is always solved at the end of the novel.
What I Thought:
I loved these mysteries. Dorothy Sayers was an incredibly smart and talented writer. Her mysteries require some brain power and the occasional lookup of information to understand a reference, but I think this adds to the novels rather than detracts. I found this website very helpful with its annotations of many of her novels and short stories. I’ll link it here: https://planetpeschel.com/the-wimsey-annotations/
One of the things I loved about these novels was the setting, and Dorothy Sayers does a truly remarkable job with an atmospheric setting. She truly has a gift for bringing to life these settings, and it’s especially memorable in The Nine Tailors. As these books were set in Dorothy Sayers present day (late 1920’s to early 1930’s) her novels are rich in the details of this time period in England, and I found this time period incredibly absorbing. The author asks relevant questions of her day which are still incredibly relevant today, for example in Gaudy Night she questions where a woman’s life belongs: to scholarship or to the home. Also memorable is the insight into the industry of advertising and inside look into the workplace during the early 30’s in Murder Must Advertise.
The mysteries in each novel were always entertaining and interesting. I would make a terrible detective as I never was able to solve the mystery very quickly. I also liked that the mysteries were wrapped up at the end of each novel with no cliffhangers. Occasionally, the mystery seemed a little overcomplicated especially in Five Red Herrings (should have seen that coming by the title lol) but I never lost interest as the characters always kept me intrigued.
The characters seem to be what actually keeps me reading a series and Dorothy Sayer’s characters were very easy to get invested in. Besides Peter my favorite character has to be the Dowager Duchess. Each character has a distinct personality and voice and their unique perspective usually gives Peter the insight into the mystery. Harriet Vane is important because she is the only character, besides Peter, who narrates substantial parts of the novels she’s in, therefore, allowing the reader to see Peter from a unique perspective.
A brief note: In many ways the novels with Harriet Vane function as a stand-alone series you could read out of order from the other books in the series. Starting with Strong Poison they are only dependent on the reader having read the previous books with Harriet Vane.
I would recommend these novels to anyone looking for a good comfy mystery. If you are interested in the romance I would read the Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane novels but all of these books are wonderful reads.
First Book: Whose Body?
My Favorites: Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night
Collection of Short Stories (a very good place to start): Lord Peter