The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers and Robert Eustace (1930)

As this doesn’t feature Lord Peter Wimsey I hadn’t got hold of a copy of it when I bought the rest of Dorothy L. Sayers’ detective novels and short stories in a new paperback edition two years ago. However it perfectly fits the bill for a very specific Vintage Mystery Challenge item so I decided now was the time for a re-read.

George Harrison, and his younger second wife Margaret, live in the suburbs of London with her live-in companion Agatha Milsom. Their lives are irrevocably changed when a writer and an artist move into the maisonette above them, creating an unfortunate love triangle. Coupled with the fact that George is a keen cook and forager for edible mushrooms it is clear this is not going to end well.

The covering letter to the documents presented gives a strong indication as to who the victim is going to be (most blurbs are explicit about this) and given death does not occur until halfway through, we have a lot of uninteresting set-up.

The solution is clever, but not solvable for the lay reader, and would have worked better as a short-story. It had been proposed by Robert Eustace but Sayers herself was disappointed with what she had done with it.

The appearance of Sir James Lubbock tells us that despite Wimsey’s absence we are still in his universe and in fact we are told that the chemist is working late on the arsenic case; given this book and “Strong Poison” were both published in 1930 the implication is that this is the Harriet Vane case.

An experimental novel, but not one that is very successful -at least it looks good on the shelf.

Vintage Mystery Challenge

“What – Includes letters/diary extracts/similar”

What Else I’ve Been Reading

Close Up on Death by Maureen O’Brien -taking part in a work team-building scavenger hunt I came upon The Last Bookshop (all books £3 or 2 for £5) in the centre of Bristol and picked up this and “The Wallet of Kai-Lung” by Ernest Bramah (a favourite of Wimsey and Vane). The story of how the murder of Liza Drew impacts narrator Millie Hale and those closest to her. Aidan’s review at  Mysteries Ahoy! can be found here.

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