Five Red Herrings (Lord Peter Wimsey #7) ★★★☆☆

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Title: Five Red Herrings
Series: Lord Peter Wimsey #7
Author: Dorothy Sayers
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 295
Words: 112K


From Wikipedia

The novel is set in Galloway, a part of Scotland popular with artists (Kirkcudbright Artists’ Colony) and fishermen. Sandy Campbell is a talented painter, but also a notoriously quarrelsome drunkard. When he is found dead in a stream, with a still-wet half-finished painting on the bank above, it is assumed that he fell in accidentally, fracturing his skull. Lord Peter Wimsey, who is in the region on a fishing holiday, suspects murder when he realises that something is missing from the scene which makes it impossible for Campbell to have worked on the painting. Sayers includes a parenthetical note at this point: “Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant what he was looking for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page”. A local doctor believes that the degree of rigor mortis suggests that Campbell died during the previous night.

Whoever killed Campbell also executed the painting in Campbell’s distinctive style, to contrive the appearance of an accident. Six artists in the area are talented enough to achieve this: Farren, Strachan, Gowan, Graham, Waters and Ferguson. All had recent public brawls with Campbell. One of the six is the criminal, and five are red herrings.

All the suspects behave suspiciously: some leave the district without explanation, others give obviously inaccurate statements or conceal facts. Wimsey investigates, with some assistance from his friend in London, Charles Parker. The task of identifying the culprit is made more difficult because of the complexities of the local train timetables, the easy availability of bicycles, and the resultant opportunities for the murderer to evade notice.

All six suspects are eventually traced and give statements in which they deny killing Campbell, but none are entirely satisfactory. The Procurator Fiscal, the Chief Constable and the investigating police officers meet with Wimsey to review the evidence. The police put forward several theories, implicating all of the suspects either as killer or as accessory. Asked for his opinion, Wimsey finally reveals that the true killer was in fact Ferguson, the only one of the artists who while painting often kept spare tubes of paint in his pocket and who absentmindedly pocketed a tube of white while creating the faked painting. It was the absence of that tube that Wimsey had noted at the start. The police are sceptical, but Wimsey offers a reconstruction, and over the course of twenty-four hours demonstrates how the killer contrived the scene above the stream and also established a false alibi.

Ferguson confesses, but states that Campbell’s death happened accidentally during a fight, and was not murder. When the case is tried, the jury brings in a verdict of manslaughter, with a strong recommendation to mercy on the ground that “Campbell was undoubtedly looking for trouble”.

My Thoughts:

Dear Lord in Heaven, WHY does Sayers do this to me? I’m beginning to think maybe she was a spiritualist who looked into the future and decided to write books that she KNEW would annoy me personally.

This whole book revolves around train schedules. It’s not that the mystery is bad, but we get in depth, detailed and stultifyingly dull descriptions of almost every possible scenario by which the murder could have happened. And Lord Wimsey spends an entire day recreating the scene and hop scotching about like a mad giraffe, to illustrate why HIS theory of the murder is correct. I skimmed PAGES!

I’m beginning to wonder if maybe this series isn’t for me. I simply don’t care about how the little puzzle pieces all fit together. I am not interested in figuring out the crime, I don’t want to figure out the crime, I want the fething detective to do his fracking job and the frelling author to do hers, which is to entertain me, not bore me to tears.

I’m going to be put the rest of the Lord Peter Wimsey books back on my tbr and hold off for a while before trying this again. I don’t dislike the characters or the stories or the crimes, there are just certain aspects in each book that drive me batty.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

37 thoughts on “Five Red Herrings (Lord Peter Wimsey #7) ★★★☆☆

  1. This type of mystery isn’t a favourite of mine either. You get the feeling the author had something very clear in mind and had to work extra hard to explain it, not always successfully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I can’t say certain words that rhyme with Smuckers 😉
      and now I can’t say the word that rhymes with Spankers either.

      So I’m stuck with the f word from my favorite SFF tv shows 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I powered through the series a couple years ago despite semi-cozy mysteries not being my genre. This was the only book that defeated me. So, rest assured that either you’re not all crazy or that at least you’ve got company 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I put the next block of Wimsey books back on my reader they’ll be on probation. One more book even approaching this level of dullness and I’ll burn’em, as you so aptly said 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lordy Lord. I found that plot frustrating just from reading the synopsis. Why did he start doing a painting in the dead guy’s style if there were only SIX people who could do that? That closes the pool massively! Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, I didn’t even think of that. But then, I almost never think of things like that when it comes to mysteries.

      Detective Otsy, I’m going to hire you to find out where my 1 billion dollars got to. I can’t find them anywhere. You can have 10 million as your fee, upon recovery of the whole.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Wut? Who are yu? What year is it?
          Oh no, I seem to have lost all my memories of my billion dollars! But I know I had them, I remember!
          Wait a second, I think I remember a tonka truck filled with gold bullion? It was shiny anyway….

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Easy money with the dames…..
              No dames here. Just a raging egomaniac with amnesia and a missing 1 billion dollars. Now THAT sounds like a great mystery movie just waiting to happen.

              Would you prefer Otsy Chan comes to America, or, Charlie Otsy and the Bogus Billionaire?

              And who do you want cast as yourself?

              Liked by 1 person

                    1. True. But I’m still earning interest, even though it is all missing. So I figure that should bring me back to just about a billion. Rounding the numbers just a little, mind you.

                      Liked by 1 person

  4. Eh, I feel befuddled just by the idea of having a mystery build around train schedule… 😅 Nope, not for me. I wonder if you’re going to like the next one more!
    Do you have a backup mystery series?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do have a backup series. I discovered a complete Ellory Queen compendium 😀

      I am hoping that giving Wimsey a break until ’22 will make my interest greater. However, looking at the books and their ratings to date, I am not super hopeful. Sayers just isn’t doing it for me….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. There was a Monty Python sketch where the detectives were trying to solve a murder and it was nothing but rattling off train schedule times at obscure (or possibly fictional) British place names.

    So, I’m guessing multiple authors have written things like this.

    Liked by 1 person

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