Vale Estrada Estrada itibaren Turiya, Volyns'ka oblast, Ukrayna
As a crime novel, it's not bad; compared to her earlier works, it's a definite improvement in terms of the tightness and plausibility of her plotting. Not the best crime novel you're ever going to read, and lightweight compared to the later books, but it still has a nice few twists and turns in it along the way. Of course, this being a DLS novel, I'm not actually reading it for the murder mystery. The book's introduction describes Sayers' work is very much a 'tapestry novel', and I'd have to agree. Even if you were to take away the slang and the descriptions of the clothing and so on, this would still, inescapably, be a novel set in England in 1928. It's bound up and connected with the culture and the society and the mores of post-Great War Britain. Some of this is still accessible for us at the beginning of the twenty-first century; other parts of it, not so much. I'm thinking primarily of the class issue (both the mere fact that for the people Sayers was mostly concerned with, having valets and butlers and maids still wasn't unusual, and other reasons); of the consequences of something so earth-shattering as WWI; and of the (changing) role of women within the novel (Though I suppose you could put up a damn convincing argument as to why that latter aspect really hasn't changed much at all.) The relationship between Sheila and George Fentiman is painful to read about, truly painful; all the more so because I think it's fairly clear that they are still in love despite it all. They are a prime example of effect which the war and rising employment among married, middle-class women had on gender relations. Sheila has no choice but to work; for George, this is a reflection on him as a man, and somehow a violation of how things ought to be (again, perhaps, not so different nowadays). We're constantly reminded of how much the war has changed everything; women can no longer afford to stay at home, nor are they content to stay in the roles which they were once expected to occupy (hence some decidedly snide remarks about 'modern' young women who 'jazz', and about lady companions). Their roles have shifted to encompass more than ever before; but there is a feeling both that this is not appropriate (as in the case of George's opinion) and that it hasn't been earned (see Robert's "I bet she never did anything in the Great War, Daddy" when talking about Ann Dorland's inheritance. The figures of women like Naomi and Ann symbolise the huge loss of life in the war, something which made it impossible for many women to even think of finding a husband; and, more disturbingly, they also show how much suspicion single women were regarded with at the time. See the constant references to sex mania, or the threat thereof, being applied to figures like Anne. Then there are the more straightforward references to the war and Peter's (oh, Peter) reaction to it; the yearly dinner with Colonel Marchbanks; the crippled cloakroom attendant. Even when talking about Robert, the brother who supposedly came out of the war best, we are told that: "Robert was proverbial, you know, for never turning a hair. I remember Robert, at that ghastly hole at Carency, where the whole ground was rotten with corpses--ugh!--potting those swollen great rats for a penny a time, and laughing at them. Rats. Alive and putrid with what they'd been feeding on. Oh, yes, Robert was thought a damn good soldier." Try telling me that we don't know from that part onwards that Robert's been more than a little damaged by the war - let alone when we realise how he's willing to manipulate his grandfather's death for financial gain. All these young men trapped in a world they helped to create, unable to cope with it--they've suffered so much, and yet they're being castigated for it by their elders, the old military gentlemen of the Bellona Club, who are unable to comprehend what they've been through. Such a sad novel.