Review: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy Sayers

Tra-la, tra-la, I am jonesing so hard for Dorothy Sayers right now I don’t even know what to say about it. My clever-but-not-always-right friend tim stopped me from buying several other Dorothy Sayers mysteries or else it would be a Dorothy Sayers Festival all up in here. I want to read all her books. And then I want to travel to an alternate universe where she wrote more books than Agatha Christie, and read all those additional books. Many of them would feature Harriet Vane. Sigh.

In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, an old guy dies in the club on Armistice Day, at an unspecified time. This would all be fine, except that his wealthy sister also died very recently, and the inheritance depends on knowing exactly who died first. Wishing to avoid any further unpleasantness, the lawyer of the dead man’s sons asks Lord Peter Wimsey to investigate the matter.

Why I read the end: To find out who done it. Obviously.

Reviewing mysteries is hard! I think basically mysteries by the same author tend to go a certain way, and if you like the detective, and if you like the way the author writes mysteries, then hooray, you will generally like all their mysteries! I am awfully fond of Dorothy Sayers. I sometimes wonder if I would have liked Peter Wimsey as much if I’d spent all those books with him being all arrogant and know-it-all, before meeting Harriet. But, moot point! I met him and Harriet at the same time, he made Alice in Wonderland references and saved Harriet from hanging, and hence I like him. And I like Dorothy Sayers and her mysteries.

One reason I love Dorothy Sayers is that famous thing she said, that she was broke when she was writing her Peter Wimsey mysteries and she consoled herself for her poverty by giving Wimsey nice things. Oh, Dorothy Sayers. I am right there with you. When I run out of all my toiletries all at once and I have to spend half my weekly budget on replacing them, and then I can’t buy the pens I wanted or go see The Adjustment Bureau, I fetch out one of my stories and write nice things for my rich character to buy. Like an area rug! (I know, right? Dreamin’ big!)


Y’all, I am in such a reviewing rut. I have books to review but when I sit down to write reviews, they come out really stupid. Including this one! Why am such a terrible book blogger? I think it is maybe because I’m having a little bit of a vacation hangover. I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’m a bad blogger! I will try to do better.

39 thoughts on “Review: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy Sayers

  1. You are not a terrible book blogger! You’re funny and smart and awesome and always a joy to read. Sorry; it had to be said πŸ˜› Also, let’s travel to that parallel universe together *starts building universe travelling machine RIGHT NOW*

    • Oh, Ana, you are so sweet. I appreciate your help on the parallel universe though I have been given to understand (from Doctor Who, source of all wisdom) that travel between universes is unwise. But maybe we could tear a hole in the fabric of reality, reach through and grab a few of those Dorothy Sayers books, and then sew the whole shut again. What could go wrong?

  2. Some books really demand less reviewing; mysteries are that way for me. Fun, but how much is there to say sometimes? If you read Jodie’s review of The Adjustment Bureau it might cure you of wanting to see that movie…

  3. You are too harsh on yourself, you are not a bad book blogger. Your reviews are some of the most fun ones to read and I just love your passion for Sayers. I tried to read Gaudy Night, and it didn’t work for me. I have since heard that it was the wrong place to start, and I am looking forward to trying again. And I love the fact that a poor Sayers spoiled Lord Wimsey to her heart’s content!

    • Oh, yeah, starting with Gaudy Night was a mistake. I’m sorry I wasn’t around to stop you the way I stopped Ana when she tried to do the same thing (I shrieked at her until she desisted). Start with Strong Poison instead!

  4. I always love your reviews, this one included. I just finished listening to Gaudy Night on audio book. Well, it was a BBC dramatisation to be precise, with Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter. His voice is wonderful in some of the other adaptations I’ve heard (Murder Must Advertise, Busman’s Honeymoon) but in this one he sounds ANCIENT, which is a shame, because it really does feel like he and Harriet have taken too long to get together. I do like Sayer’s plan to give Wimsey nice things, though. What a fine idea.

    • It is an excellent idea on Sayers’ part, and I like it especially because it is exactly what I have been doing ever since — well, forever. Except when I was littler it wasn’t things I couldn’t afford, it was things I couldn’t do.

      I’ve seen the BBC TV versions of the Harriet Vane mysteries, and they weren’t bad! I liked the actress they had for Harriet, not pretty but striking-looking.

      • Are those the Edward Petherbridge/Harriet Walter ones? I thought Walter was an inspired choice for Harriet (thought Petherbridge a bit old-looking, though).

  5. What Jeanne said. Some books just don’t lend themselves to reviews. Also, don’t you find that when you have read a number of books without reviewing them, they begin to run together in your mind? I think I tried this one once, but couldn’t get into it; but now, maybe, I will try again.

    • Not so much. I just find myself disinclined to review them. I keep starting and then not finishing. And then I get that Smiths song stuck in my head, “I started something! Typical me, typical me, typical me, I started so-o-omething, and now I’m not so sure!”

  6. I adore Dorothy Sayers. Every so often when I read something of hers I find myself wishing there were unpublished Wimsey manuscripts hidden away in some relative’s attic, and any minute now they’ll turn up so I can read them. And then, they will let me illustrate them, and I will learn how to draw English drawing rooms and Cars of the Twenties. And dead bodies! And, possibly, Art Deco tea services.

    • I wish you hadn’t mentioned you illustrating them. I think your style would fit really well with the Wimsey mysteries, and imagining your illustrations on newly discovered Sayers novels is making me that much more covetous. I am excited as if they really will exist at some point in the future. :p

  7. Oh, I like Ella’s idea! Unpublished Wimsey manuscripts (but finished ones, so no one else has to do the rest of the writing, ye gods.) And I like to read whatever you review, whether it’s full of tangents or short or whatever. You write exactly like you, which is why I come here.

    • Oh, Other Jenny, you are so kind and good for my ego. :p

      Did you ever read Thrones, Dominations? Is that the source of your antagonism toward unfinished Sayers books? I haven’t read it yet but I was hoping for good things…

      • Yes, I did. It wasn’t horrible, but see, I came for the Sayers and it wasn’t Sayers. It was Jill Paton Walsh writing with Sayers’s characters and ideas. And no, no, noooo thank you. But I am a huge Sayers devotee, have been since I was about eleven, so other people might not feel the same way. (But no.)

  8. You’re doing great! For instance, this:

    Reviewing mysteries is hard! I think basically mysteries by the same author tend to go a certain way, and if you like the detective, and if you like the way the author writes mysteries, then hooray, you will generally like all their mysteries!

    is so very, very trueβ€”I think it’s why mysteries and I don’t get along.

    • I think it’s why I’m madly picky about mysteries. I always remember how fantastic it was tearing through the Harriet Vane and Amelia Peabody mysteries the first time I read those ones, and I want that again! But I never seem to find it.

  9. I am late to hop on the Sayers train but I think it’s only a matter of time. I do know enough about Peter Wimsey to recognize the nod to him in the third Mary Russell book, but that’s about the limit of my familiarity. Will remember to get to know Harriet before or concurrently with Peter in future. πŸ™‚

    • There’s a nod to him in the third Mary Russell book? A nice nod? Because that would give me some incentive to try the second (and then third) Mary Russell book. He’s best with Harriet though, not quite as arrogant.

      • A very nice nod. In fact, not just a nod but an entire scene that Laurie King got in some trouble for, from Sayers’s estate. I was in raptures over that scene.

    • Thanks! And Sayers IS great and you DO have to try her soon. She fictionally killed a fictional version of her asshole real-life lover. She’s great.

  10. Well, though I completely disagree with you on the awesomeness of Sayers, I am glad she brings such joy to your life and results in you contemplating travel to alternate universes.

    • Oh, but Aarti, you haven’t read the Harriet Vane books yet. They are better! I mean, yes, Strong Poison starts with a trial scene, but it leads up to Have His Carcase and Harriet gets a claret-colored dress, and then that leads up to Gaudy Night and there is a chess set and punting. Better. BETTER I SAY.

      • This has nothing to do with your comment (Though va-va-VOOM, claret-colored dress! I hope it was velvet, too), but I would like to state that I sat around with a tab open to your blog for HOURS, randomly clicking “Send” and being REJECTED by WordPress every time until FINALLY, I overcame and was able to post the fairly useless comment above. I just wanted to point that out to you to show you how much effort I expend on behalf of my beloveds and point out that in just a couple of months, I will be able to COMMENT ON YOUR BLOG POSTS TO YOUR FACE. Whoa πŸ™‚

  11. I only have one Dorothy Sayers book (Busman’s Honeymoon) and Nymeth specifically asked me to read the books in order, like get all books prior to BH and not jump on it like I wanted to 😦 So now I’m scouring book bins for Sayers’s books and getting disappointed all the time 😦

    And I get that about mysteries. I feel like every time I review them I tend to say there’s a crime-characters in place-handful of suspects-misdirection-red herrings swimming-resolution, voila!

  12. I love Sayers’ detective novels but would agree that in her earlier ones, Lord Peter is not entirely sympathetic (in ‘Murder Must Advertise’ the authorial Wimsey-worship gets rather wearying). Harriet is entirely fabulous. I do like Wimsey’s relationship with Parker, though – he’s so ebullient and silly and Parker is wry and unconvinced. TUATBC isn’t one of my favourites – it always feels slightly claustrophobic to me.

    Go read ‘The Nine Tailors’, though, if you haven’t done. I know Harriet doesn’t appear in it, but it is fantastic.

  13. Frankly, the title of this book just makes me want to read it. The word “unpleasantness” just seems so very British. In other news, I miss you. Call me.

  14. Haha Jenny, you’ve been blogging consistently for such a long time! I’m ashamed at myself in comparison. Keep it up! (besides, though you claim to have written a stupid review, it was still entertaining to read)

  15. There’s a Peter Wimsey one that involves trains and train schedules set in Scotland. Avoid it!! I’ve blocked out the title because it was such a painful read. Damn thing totally derailed my summer holiday reading because it was so booooring but I kept thinking, “It’s Dorothy Sayers. It has to get better soon.” It doesn’t. Stick with Harriet Vane!

    • ‘Five Red Herrings’. No, it’s not my favourite, either. Sayers wrote about it to her publisher that she’d written it in response to some critics who had complained that in her last book Wimsey had fallen in love and “talked too discursively”. About ‘Five Red Herrings’, she wrote that “no-one falls in love, and every sentence is necessary to the plot!” She wasn’t quite right about that, and the railway alibi stuff is tedious, but there are excellent bits, in my opinion.

  16. Ditto what everyone else is saying (and I didn’t read them ALL but I’m sure they are all ‘you-are-not-a-bad-blogger!-etc-and-then-some) CUZ you are a delightful wonderful crazy silly sweet reviewer and we all love you so.


    Pls keep doin’ what you do and keep reading stuff that I haven’t read and want to (cough, like Dorothy Sayers) and keep blogging about it all cuz I think it is just delightful.

    Thank you?

  17. I haven’t read any Dorothy Sayers novels. I’ve read dozens of Agatha Christie novels. Why one and not the other? I don’t know. Put this on my “things to remedy in the near future” list.

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