Monday, December 19, 2011

Mystery Mondays: Dorothy L. Sayers' "The Necklace of Pearls" (1931)

Lord Peter Wimsey (from Fashionable Forties)

Last week I introduced amateur detective Peter Shandy, so this week it is time to meet another detective named Peter -- Dorothy L. Sayers' popular upper-class sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey.  Wimsey made his debut as a rather foppish young man in Whose Body? (1923).  Subsequent novels presented him as less fatuous and more sophisticated, with a taste for the finer things in life as well as a quick intelligence.  His rather nervous temperament is explained as the result of a bad experience while serving as an officer during World War I.  This was also the period when he met his faithful valet, Mervyn Bunter, who served with him during the war, nursed him back to health afterward, and remained devoted to him ever since.  Lord Peter meets his true love, Harriet Vane, in the novel Strong Poison (1931), and after a difficult courtship finally wins her heart in Gaudy Night (1935).  The last book in this series is Busman's Honeymoon (1937), with Lord Peter and Harriet Vane newly married but still solving murder mysteries.

"The Necklace of Pearls" (1931) is a Lord Peter Wimsey Christmas short story, included in a collection of short stories called Hangman's Holiday (1933).  The story is set in an English country manor full of holiday guests where the master of the house insists on upholding all of the old Christmas traditions despite his wife's more modern tendencies.  Wimsey is one of the guests, and when the daughter of the house loses a valuable pearl necklace to theft, the aristocratic sleuth sets about discovering the culprit.  While there is no murder involved, "The Necklace of Pearls" is a satisfying mystery nonetheless, and just the thing for the Yuletide season.  This tale was recorded as part of the BBC radio series "Christmas with the Detectives", and when available can be heard here.  Check the site periodically to find out when the next broadcast is scheduled.  You won't be disappointed!

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