Whose Body?

Whose Body?

3.7 75
by Dorothy L. Sayers, Roe Kendall
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder—especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What's more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in

Overview

The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder—especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What's more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

First published in 1923, Whose Body? established the disarmingly debonair—and somewhat foppish—Wimsey as one of the most enduring characters in English literature. It remains one of the most significant (and most charming) of the Golden Age mysteries.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400161300
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
02/01/2009
Series:
Lord Peter Wimsey Series
Edition description:
MP3 - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Whose Body?

The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries


By Dorothy L. Sayers

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1923 Dorothy Sayers
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-1716-8


CHAPTER 1

"Oh, damn!" said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus. "Hi, driver!"

The taxi man, irritated at receiving this appeal while negotiating the intricacies of turning into Lower Regent Street across the route of a 19 'bus, a 38-B and a bicycle, bent an unwilling ear.

"I've left the catalogue behind," said Lord Peter deprecatingly. "Uncommonly careless of me. D'you mind puttin' back to where we came from?"

"To the Savile Club, sir?"

"No—110 Piccadilly—just beyond—thank you."

"Thought you was in a hurry," said the man, overcome with a sense of injury.

"I'm afraid it's an awkward place to turn in," said Lord Peter, answering the thought rather than the words. His long, amiable face looked as if it had generated spontaneously from his top hat, as white maggots breed from Gorgonzola.

The taxi, under the severe eye of a policeman, revolved by slow jerks, with a noise like the grinding of teeth.

The block of new, perfect and expensive flats in which Lord Peter dwelt upon the second floor, stood directly opposite the Green Park, in a spot for many years occupied by the skeleton of a frustrate commercial enterprise.

As Lord Peter let himself in he heard his man's voice in the library, uplifted in that throttled stridency peculiar to well-trained persons using the telephone.

"I believe that's his lordship just coming in again—if your Grace would kindly hold the line a moment."

"What is it, Bunter?"

"Her Grace has just called up from Denver, my lord. I was just saying your lordship had gone to the sale when I heard your lordship's latchkey."

"Thanks," said Lord Peter; "and you might find me my catalogue, would you? I think I must have left it in my bedroom, or on the desk."

He sat down to the telephone with an air of leisurely courtesy, as though it were an acquaintance dropped in for a chat.

"Hullo, Mother—that you?"

"Oh, there you are, dear," replied the voice of the Dowager Duchess. "I was afraid I'd just missed you."

"Well, you had, as a matter of fact. I'd just started off to Brocklebury's sale to pick up a book or two, but I had to come back for the catalogue. What's up?"

"Such a quaint thing," said the Duchess. "I thought I'd tell you. You know little Mr. Thipps?"

"Thipps?" said Lord Peter. "Thipps? Oh, yes, the little architect man who's doing the church roof. Yes. What about him?"

"Mrs. Throgmorton's just been in, in quite a state of mind."

"Sorry, Mother, I can't hear. Mrs. Who?"

"Throgmorton—Throgmorton—the vicar's wife."

"Oh, Throgmorton, yes?"

"Mr. Thipps rang them up this morning. It was his day to come down, you know."

"Yes?"

"He rang them up to say he couldn't. He was so upset, poor little man. He'd found a dead body in his bath."

"Sorry, Mother, I can't hear; found what, where?"

"A dead body, dear, in his bath."

"What?—no, no, we haven't finished. Please don't cut us off. Hullo! Hullo! Is that you, Mother? Hullo!—Mother!—Oh, yes—sorry, the girl was trying to cut us off. What sort of body?"

"A dead man, dear, with nothing on but a pair of pince-nez. Mrs. Throgmorton positively blushed when she was telling me. I'm afraid people do get a little narrow-minded in country vicarages."

"Well, it sounds a bit unusual. Was it anybody he knew?"

"No, dear, I don't think so, but, of course, he couldn't give her many details. She said he sounded quite distracted. He's such a respectable little man—and having the police in the house and so on, really worried him."

"Poor little Thipps! Uncommonly awkward for him. Let's see, he lives in Battersea, doesn't he?"

"Yes, dear; 59, Queen Caroline Mansions; opposite the Park. That big block just round the corner from the Hospital. I thought perhaps you'd like to run round and see him and ask if there's anything we can do. I always thought him a nice little man."

"Oh, quite," said Lord Peter, grinning at the telephone. The Duchess was always of the greatest assistance to his hobby of criminal investigation, though she never alluded to it, and maintained a polite fiction of its nonexistence.

"What time did it happen, Mother?"

"I think he found it early this morning, but, of course, he didn't think of telling the Throgmortons just at first. She came up to me just before lunch—so tiresome, I had to ask her to stay. Fortunately, I was alone. I don't mind being bored myself, but I hate having my guests bored."

"Poor old Mother! Well, thanks awfully for tellin' me. I think I'll send Bunter to the sale and toddle round to Battersea now an' try and console the poor little beast. So-long."

"Good-bye, dear."

"Bunter!"

"Yes, my lord."

"Her Grace tells me that a respectable Battersea architect has discovered a dead man in his bath."

"Indeed, my lord? That's very gratifying."

"Very, Bunter. Your choice of words is unerring. I wish Eton and Balliol had done as much for me. Have you found the catalogue?"

"Here it is, my lord."

"Thanks. I am going to Battersea at once. I want you to attend the sale for me. Don't lose time—I don't want to miss the Folio Dante nor the de Voragine—here you are—see? 'Golden Legend'—Wynkyn de Worde, 1493—got that?—and, I say, make a special effort for the Caxton folio of the 'Four Sons of Aymon'—it's the 1489 folio and unique. Look! I've marked the lots I want, and put my outside offer against each. Do your best for me. I shall be back to dinner."

"Very good, my lord."

"Take my cab and tell him to hurry. He may for you; he doesn't like me very much. Can I," said Lord Peter, looking at himself in the eighteenth-century mirror over the mantelpiece, "can I have the heart to fluster the flustered Thipps further—that's very difficult to say quickly—by appearing in a top-hat and frock-coat? I think not. Ten to one he will overlook my trousers and mistake me for the undertaker. A grey suit, I fancy, neat but not gaudy, with a hat to tone, suits my other self better. Exit the amateur of first editions; new motive introduced by solo bassoon; enter Sherlock Holmes, disguised as a walking gentleman. There goes Bunter. Invaluable fellow—never offers to do his job when you've told him to do somethin' else. Hope he doesn't miss the 'Four Sons of Aymon.' Still, there is another copy of that—in the Vatican. It might become available, you never know—if the Church of Rome went to pot or Switzerland invaded Italy—whereas a strange corpse doesn't turn up in a suburban bathroom more than once in a lifetime—at least, I should think not—at any rate, the number of times it's happened, with a pince-nez, might be counted on the fingers of one hand, I imagine. Dear me! it's a dreadful mistake to ride two hobbies at once."

He had drifted across the passage into his bedroom, and was changing with a rapidity one might not have expected from a man of his mannerisms. He selected a dark-green tie to match his socks and tied it accurately without hesitation or the slightest compression of his lips; substituted a pair of brown shoes for his black ones, slipped a monocle into a breast pocket, and took up a beautiful Malacca walking-stick with a heavy silver knob.

"That's all, I think," he murmured to himself. "Stay—I may as well have you—you may come in useful—one never knows." He added a flat silver matchbox to his equipment, glanced at his watch, and seeing that it was already a quarter to three, ran briskly downstairs, and, hailing a taxi, was carried to Battersea Park.


Mr. Alfred Thipps was a small, nervous man, whose flaxen hair was beginning to abandon the unequal struggle with destiny. One might say that his only really marked feature was a large bruise over the left eyebrow, which gave him a faintly dissipated air incongruous with the rest of his appearance. Almost in the same breath with his first greeting, he made a self-conscious apology for it, murmuring something about having run against the dining-room door in the dark. He was touched almost to tears by Lord Peter's thoughtfulness and condescension in calling.

"I'm sure it's most kind of your lordship," he repeated for the dozenth time, rapidly blinking his weak little eyelids. "I appreciate it very deeply, very deeply, indeed, and so would Mother, only she's so deaf, I don't like to trouble you with making her understand. It's been very hard all day," he added, "with the policemen in the house and all this commotion. It's what Mother and me have never been used to, always living very retired, and it's most distressing to a man of regular habits, my lord, and reely, I'm almost thankful Mother doesn't understand, for I'm sure it would worry her terribly if she was to know about it. She was upset at first, but she's made up some idea of her own about it now, and I'm sure it's all for the best."

The old lady who sat knitting by the fire nodded grimly in response to a look from her son.

"I always said as you ought to complain about that bath, Alfred," she said suddenly, in the high, piping voice peculiar to the deaf, "and it's to be 'oped the landlord'll see about it now; not but what I think you might have managed without having the police in, but there! you always were one to make a fuss about a little thing, from chicken-pox up."

"There now," said Mr. Thipps apologetically, "you see how it is. Not but what it's just as well she's settled on that, because she understands we've locked up the bathroom and don't try to go in there. But it's been a terrible shock to me, sir—my lord, I should say, but there! my nerves are all to pieces. Such a thing has never 'appened—happened to me in all my born days. Such a state I was in this morning—I didn't know if I was on my head or my heels—I reely didn't, and my heart not being too strong, I hardly knew how to get out of that horrid room and telephone for the police. It's affected me, sir, it's affected me, it reely has—I couldn't touch a bit of breakfast, nor lunch neither, and what with telephoning and putting off clients and interviewing people all morning, I've hardly known what to do with myself."

"I'm sure it must have been uncommonly distressin'," said Lord Peter, sympathetically, "especially comin' like that before breakfast. Hate anything tiresome happenin' before breakfast. Takes a man at such a confounded disadvantage, what?"

"That's just it, that's just it," said Mr. Thipps, eagerly. "When I saw that dreadful thing lying there in my bath, mother-naked, too, except for a pair of eyeglasses, I assure you, my lord, it regularly turned my stomach, if you'll excuse the expression. I'm not very strong, sir, and I get that sinking feeling sometimes in the morning, and what with one thing and another I 'ad—had to send the girl for a stiff brandy, or I don't know what mightn't have happened. I felt so queer, though I'm anything but partial to spirits as a rule. Still, I make it a rule never to be without brandy in the house, in case of emergency, you know?"

"Very wise of you," said Lord Peter, cheerfully. "You're a very far-seein' man, Mr. Thipps. Wonderful what a little nip'll do in case of need, and the less you're used to it the more good it does you. Hope your girl is a sensible young woman, what? Nuisance to have women faintin' and shriekin' all over the place."

"Oh, Gladys is a good girl," said Mr. Thipps, "very reasonable indeed. She was shocked, of course; that's very understandable. I was shocked myself, and it wouldn't be proper in a young woman not to be shocked under the circumstances, but she is reely a helpful, energetic girl in a crisis, if you understand me. I consider myself very fortunate these days to have got a good, decent girl to do for me and Mother, even though she is a bit careless and forgetful about little things, but that's only natural. She was very sorry indeed about having left the bathroom window open, she reely was, and though I was angry at first, seeing what's come of it, it wasn't anything to speak of, not in the ordinary way, as you might say. Girls will forget things, you know, my lord, and reely she was so distressed I didn't like to say too much to her. All I said was: 'It might have been burglars,' I said, 'remember that, next time you leave a window open all night; this time it was a dead man,' I said, 'and that's unpleasant enough, but next time it might be burglars,' I said, 'and all of us murdered in our beds.' But the police-inspector—Inspector Sugg, they called him, from the Yard—he was very sharp with her, poor girl. Quite frightened her, and made her think he suspected her of something, though what good a body could be to her, poor girl, I can't imagine, and so I told the Inspector. He was quite rude to me, my lord—I may say I didn't like his manner at all. 'If you've got anything definite to accuse Gladys or me of, Inspector,' I said to him, 'bring it forward, that's what you have to do,' I said, 'but I've yet to learn that you're paid to be rude to a gentleman in his own 'ouse—house.' Reely," said Mr. Thipps, growing quite pink on the top of his head, "he regularly roused me, regularly roused me, my lord, and I'm a mild man as a rule."

"Sugg all over," said Lord Peter. "I know him. When he don't know what else to say, he's rude. Stands to reason you and the girl wouldn't go collectin' bodies. Who'd want to saddle himself with a body? Difficulty's usually to get rid of 'em. Have you got rid of this one yet, by the way?"

"It's still in the bathroom," said Mr. Thipps. "Inspector Sugg said nothing was to be touched till his men came in to move it. I'm expecting them at any time. If it would interest your lordship to have a look at it—"

"Thanks awfully," said Lord Peter. "I'd like to very much, if I'm not puttin' you out."

"Not at all," said Mr. Thipps. His manner as he led the way along the passage convinced Lord Peter of two things—first, that, gruesome as his exhibit was, he rejoiced in the importance it reflected upon himself and his flat, and secondly, that Inspector Sugg had forbidden him to exhibit it to anyone. The latter supposition was confirmed by the action of Mr. Thipps, who stopped to fetch the door-key from his bedroom, saying that the police had the other, but that he made it a rule to have two keys to every door, in case of accident.

The bathroom was in no way remarkable. It was long and narrow, the window being exactly over the head of the bath. The panes were of frosted glass; the frame wide enough to admit a man's body. Lord Peter stepped rapidly across to it, opened it and looked out.

The flat was the top one of the building and situated about the middle of the block. The bathroom window looked out upon the back-yards of the flats, which were occupied by various small outbuildings, coal-holes, garages, and the like. Beyond these were the back gardens of a parallel line of houses. On the right rose the extensive edifice of St. Luke's Hospital, Battersea, with its grounds, and, connected with it by a covered way, the residence of the famous surgeon, Sir Julian Freke, who directed the surgical side of the great new hospital, and was, in addition, known in Harley Street as a distinguished neurologist with a highly individual point of view.

This information was poured into Lord Peter's ear at considerable length by Mr. Thipps, who seemed to feel that the neighbourhood of anybody so distinguished shed a kind of halo of glory over Queen Caroline Mansions.

"We had him round here himself this morning," he said, "about this horrid business. Inspector Sugg thought one of the young medical gentlemen at the hospital might have brought the corpse round for a joke, as you might say, they always having bodies in the dissecting-room. So Inspector Sugg went round to see Sir Julian this morning to ask if there was a body missing. He was very kind, was Sir Julian, very kind indeed, though he was at work when they got there, in the dissecting-room. He looked up the books to see that all the bodies were accounted for, and then very obligingly came round here to look at this"—he indicated the bath—"and said he was afraid he couldn't help us—there was no corpse missing from the hospital, and this one didn't answer to the description of any they'd had."

"Nor to the description of any of the patients, I hope," suggested Lord Peter casually.

At this grisly hint Mr. Thipps turned pale.

"I didn't hear Inspector Sugg inquire," he said, with some agitation. "What a very horrid thing that would be—God bless my soul, my lord, I never thought of it."

"Well, if they had missed a patient they'd probably have discovered it by now," said Lord Peter. "Let's have a look at this one."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers. Copyright © 1923 Dorothy Sayers. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Roe Kendall is an acclaimed audiobook narrator whose titles include Peter Pan by James M. Barrie and Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
June 13, 1893
Date of Death:
December 17, 1957
Place of Birth:
Oxford, England
Education:
B.A., Oxford University, 1915; M.A., B.C.L., 1920

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Whose Body 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 75 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This first novel that introduces Lord Peter Wimsey is a corker! If you like a good mystery, especially a good British mystery, and have not read Dorothy L Sayers, go for it. Only one of her Wimsey novels as ebook (so far).
wbray123 More than 1 year ago
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book for those who like British mystery stories without the contemporary penchant for excessive violence and foul language. It features Lord Peter Wimsey in his first appearance. These stories were adapted for TV in the British Mystery series. Those are also enjoyable. This e-book is fine-I did not notice distracting misspellings or other artifacts from conversion to electronic format. If Agatha Christie is the foremost British mystery novelist of the 20th century, having created both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, then Dorothy Sayers runs a close second. I deduct a star only because this type of writing may be considered dull by those who grew up on Hannibal Lecter and other more adrenaline producing contemporary crime novels. This is a book the whole family can enjoy and introduces the detective Lord Peter Wimsey whose further exploits can be followed in print and on the screen.
barzac More than 1 year ago
LOVE Dorothy L. Sayers! SO very glad that her books are now in Nook format! Now can "collect" all of her books and keep on Nook for reading again later! I had all of her books in paperback but had to move and get rid of them all! Now won't have to worry! Dorothy L. Sayers is one of the first "ladies" of mystery! We mystery lovers would have no lady writers without Sayers! If you have never read a Sayers book do so and fall in love with the genteel British mystery!
77roses More than 1 year ago
The story line and plot have more twists and turns than a country road. The "villian" is a bit creepy and the author goes a little far into the twisted thinking of the villian, so I didn't suggest this book to my daughters, but I liked it. The end is satisfying and complete. I ended wanting to read the next in the series the same day! I enjoyed it even more!!!! Clouds of Witness is the title.
Mrs60pato More than 1 year ago
Dorothy L. Sayers is always a good,light read. This one was just as entertaining as the others and keeps you guessing where she is going next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sayers was one of the really good writers of her time as well as a master chef of mysteries. This is one of her earlier works, & is fun for the perspective of how bodies were ID'd before DNA testing was even dreamed of. Always a satisfying read.
LisasGeode More than 1 year ago
Thipps goes into his bathroom one morning to find in his bathtub the dead body of a man wearing nothing but a pair of pince nez glasses. That same night, a businessman bearing modest resemblance to the dead body seems to disappear, leaving his clothes behind. Lord Peter Wimsey (yes, that’s spelled correctly), an amateur detective, takes on the second matter, eventually joining forces with Inspector Parker, the police officer assigned to the first matter. They include Wimsey’s man Bunter, an avid photographer besides his working for Wimsey. Sayers sets up the two incidents well. The mysteries mount: whose body is it and how did it get into Thipps’ bathtub? What happened to Levy, the businessman, and why, and is there a crime there? Are the two incidents related somehow? Thus, this 1920s era mystery develops, primarily in London. Wimsey is an interesting and complex man, a second son who doesn’t inherit the Dukedom, and a man with the time and intelligence to work on crime solving. He apparently has some issues that would today probably be identified as post-traumatic stress from Wimsey’s participation in the Great War (now, WWI). Whether this is a murder mystery or not, I will allow you to discover. Well written, this reader found the pace slower than comfortable, but cleverly put together. The disappeared man Levy, being Jewish, provided more than one comment about him that by current standards would seem prejudiced and pejorative, something uncomfortable. The ending seemed unnecessarily prolonged to me. The overall evaluation? This is good, well written and clever, with an appealing protagonist. In this reader’s opinion, those were worth the disconcerting issues mentioned above.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A 500 page very well-written free English murder mystery book (Nook scanning causes skipping in page count) taking place after WW I. Lord Peter Wimsey is guided by his mother the Dowager Duchess into the murder mystery of a man found by the owner of an apartment in his bathtub wearing nothing but a pinez-nez; while also involved with his friend Police Detective Parker in the disappearance of a Jewish financier. The narrative and dialog are in the vernacular of the time period. Humor, drama, angst, disception, false accusations, mystery, and cunning. Enjoy this very good read. The second book of this series is also free.
DiAskew More than 1 year ago
This story is the first in a series featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and his man, Bunter. A dead body in a bathtub and an interesting cast of characters makes this a fun read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And also tighly plotted and a little shorter than some in the series a free one should get you started on the others and ibto the continuations which have been well written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was OK.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A classic! Sayers is always a joy to read (and re- read).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The charm is that it is dated now but remember at one time it was very much modern mom
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago