"Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey burst upon the British mystery novel scene in 1923, making his debut in WHOSE BODY?, a prose puzzle so contrived and chirrupy it resembles a filigree cuckoo clock."In her review of THRONES, DOMINATIONS and THE LETTERS OF DOROTHY L. SAYERS--VOLUME 2, entitled "Lord Peter's Last Case" (NEW YORK TIMES, March 15, 1998), Joyce Carol Oates writes:
In his now-classic essay of 1944, "The Simple Art of Murder," Raymond Chandler criticizes Dorothy Sayers—and by implication her colleagues in the golden age of English mystery writing, Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr—for writing formula fiction that would not make first-rate literature.
"If it started out to be about real people," he writes, "they must very soon do unreal things in order to fit the artificial pattern required by the plot. When they did the unreal things, they ceased to be real themselves. . . . The only kind of writer who could be happy with these properties was the one who did not know what reality was."
Yet Chandler's own "realism" has become fantastical, set beside the work of writers as disparate as Ed McBain, Thomas Harris and James Ellroy, in which murder is rarely an art, still less a genteel one.
Chandler might have found much to admire in THRONES, DOMINATIONS, for there is relatively little that is contrived in the tangled plot, and the psychological motives for the murder are respectfully explored.
Category: Detective fiction
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