Or ‘As My Whimsy Takes Me’. Christina at Rochester Reader has an informal Dorothy L. Sayers challenge going on which on a more albeit sub conscious level has had as much influence on my rediscovered love of Sayers as reading ‘The Attenbury Emeralds’ did. I followed up ‘Clouds of Witness’ with ‘The Nine Tailors’ which was another Sayers that I didn't really get when I first read it, and happily remembered absolutely nothing about.
Coming back to it years later with a warm affection for Sayers (and Whimsy) has been a treat and is a timely reminder not to dispose of books lightly. A month or so ago I would have thought I had no use for any but the books which also had Harriet in them which might have ended up expensive when I realised I was wrong.
‘The Nine Tailors’ is a curious book, as a mystery it’s not the best I’ve ever read, there are things that I don’t feel hold together brilliantly, but on the other hand, and certainly more importantly, the atmosphere is brilliant. Bleak midwinter in the Fens, a fantastic church, the sense of threat that comes with a suspicious death and any number of other details that set the scene, all underpinned by the arcane details of bell ringing. I can understand why it’s such a favourite with Sayers fans.
I can also see why critics aren’t over impressed with the bell ringing bits. They are both hypnotic and dull. The bells themselves emerge with distinct personalities as well as their own particular menace which turns out to be well earned... The information about ringing in its very dullness gives a hint of a closed world governed by arcane rules. I have also tried to find out if the method of murder is feasible, the internet is inconclusive on this point with the chances being that it’s unlikely. This doesn’t in the least matter either because it’s a really good story. There are thieves and emeralds, a couple of cases of bigamy, an absent minded but delightfully dynamic vicar, and a young woman who knows her own mind when it comes to getting an education. And of course The Bells.
The other great charm of the book is nostalgia. Presumable an inevitable part of getting older is this craving for the past. I find it vaguely disconcerting that a book written in the 1930’s reminds me of my own youth in the 1970’s, but after a day dealing with the public retreating to a world where people have impeccable manners is a delight.
(Sadly this is not the book cover I own, but it was so pretty I couldn't help but use it.)