Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club

Dorothy Sayers’ Whose Body?

Dorothy Sayers Whose Body - Tea Tonic & Toxin Bookclub


by Dorothy Sayers

Whose Body? is the first of 16 detective novels published by Dorothy Sayers, one of the queens of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

This 1923 novel introduces Lord Peter Wimsey, considered the father of the amateur “gentleman sleuth” who will appear in many British novels for decades to come.

ReadRead it for free or get it on Amazon. (Reading time: ~4 hours)

Reflect: Check out the conversation starters below.

Weigh In: Share your thoughts using the form below!

Dorothy Sayers Whose Body? - Tea Tonic & Toxin Podcast

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Dorothy Sayers' Whose Body? - Share Your Thoughts

Tell us what you think about Whose Body?, and we may share your thoughts in our next episode and send you a fabulous sticker! (It really is a pretty awesome sticker.)

Whose Body? - Tea Tonic & Toxin Podcast
Dorothy Sayers - Tea Tonic & Toxin Podcast
Dorothy Sayers Whose Body? - Tea Tonic & Toxin Podcast

All About Dorothy Sayers' Whose Body?

Here are some conversation starters and questions here. Please also share your thoughts using the form above!

IS LORD PETER WIMSEY A “TYPICAL ARISTOCRAT”? Did you find Wimsey delightful? Did he bug you? Did he seem like a “typical aristocrat,” or did he seem more complex? Were you able to identify with him? In what ways — and why?

IS BUNTER A TYPICAL SERVANT? What is a “typical servant,” and does Bunter fit that bill? Is Bunter better off than Wimsey (as Wimsey suggests)? In what ways does Bunter hearken back to old-fashioned norms? In what ways is Bunter possibly ahead of his time? And what does Bunter really think about anything?

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH INSPECTOR PARKER? How well do we get to know this guy? What’s his deal? (Throughout Whose Body?, Carolyn kept wanting to know him better.) Are you inclined to like him? Why or why not? (He will return in future stories, including The Nine Tailors.)
DETECTIVE WIMSEY, INSPECTOR PARKER, AND THE BODY IN THE BATH – Wimsey and Parker make quite the detective team. Do they seem on par as detectives, or do they seem Holmes/Watson-like (or Poirot/Hastings-like) to you? What familiar character traits do these two detectives have? What traits make their stand out?
TELLING THE STORY THROUGH DIALOGUE VS. ACTIONWhose Body? contains very little action. Characters sit and talk throughout most of the book. Telling story through action is a much more conventional storytelling technique — Carolyn would argue for good reason.
How did you feel about the dialogue that dominated the pages of Whose Body? Did you want more action? Did you follow the characters’ verbal tics and manners of expression? In what ways did the dialogue engage you or disengage you from the story?
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF REUBEN LEVY: ODE TO TRENT’S LAST CASE – Wealthy business magnate Reuben Levy bears some similarity to Sigsbee Manderson. Levy is the “terrible fighter of the Stock Exchange, who could with one nod set the surly bear dancing, or bring the savage bull to feed out of his hand, whose breath devastated whole districts with famine or swept financial potentates from their seats.” Levy left his home without his watch, checkbook, clothes, or spectacles. And someone impersonated him in his own home.
THE DAFT, BLATHERING, ANTI-SEMITIC DUCHESS – The Duchess seems so incredibly flighty and daft that Carolyn found her simply exhausting. And when Christine Levy identifies her dead husband, the duchess is downright horrid. Examples: “Hush, Christine. You mustn’t cry.” and “Come away—you mustn’t distress the doctors and people.”
Is it foolish to pretend to be a Gentile, as the Duchess suggests, when people like the Duchess prattle on about one’s Jewish race and/or religion? Do you know anyone like the Duchess? What’s your take on her? What’s Dorothy Sayers’ take on her in Whose Body?
THE GAME IS AFOOT … BUT SHOULD IT BE A GAME? So much to unpack here … For one thing, Wimsey seems self-aware. For another, Parker seems to have no qualms about calling him out. It’s a great scene in Whose Body?
ASSOCIATIONS AND RIDDLES – “Thing I object to in detective stories,” said Mr. Piggott, “is the way fellows remember every bloomin’ thing that’s happened to ’em within the last six months. They’re always ready with their time of day and was it rainin’ or not, and what were they doin’ on such an’ such a day. Reel it all off like a page of poetry. But one ain’t like that in real life … One day’s so like another, I’m sure I couldn’t remember—well, I might remember yesterday, p’r’aps, but I couldn’t be certain about what I was doin’ last week if I was to be shot for it.”
… “But they don’t really get it like that, you know. I mean, a man doesn’t just say, ‘Last Friday I went out at 10 a.m. to buy a mutton chop. As I was turning into Mortimer Street I noticed a girl of about twenty-two with black hair and brown eyes, wearing a green jumper, check skirt, Panama hat and black shoes, riding a Royal Sunbeam Cycle at about ten miles an hour turning the corner by the Church of St. Simon and St. Jude on the wrong side of the road riding towards the market place!’ It amounts to that, of course, but it’s really wormed out of him by a series of questions.”
Then Wimsey and Parker worm the details out of Piggott through a series of questions. 
CORPSES FOR MEDICAL RESEARCH AND SCIENTIFIC STUDY – In Whose Body?, we learn that bodies used for medical research were usually vagrants supplied by the workhouses and free hospitals. Whoa.
PANIC ATTACKS AND PTSD – So, such much to unpack here. What, if anything, surprised you about these scenes? Did Wimsey’s experience seem real to you?
WHAT DOES “BEING USEFUL” LOOK LIKE? What do we learn from the scene below? What does being useful actually look like? Is Gerald useful? Is the Duchess useful? How about Lord Peter Wimsey? Are you useful? Am I?
THE STRANGE + CREEPY SIR JULIAN FREKE – Carolyn would argue Freke made roughly 142 bad decisions, any one of which might have made him a suspect. (He swapped the bodies, risked being seen or heard by his servants, risked being seen in the Levy house, risked being seen as he deposited the body in a random bathtub …)

About Tea, Tonic & Toxin

Tea, Tonic, and Toxin is a book club and podcast for people who love mysteries, thrillers, introspection, and good conversation. Each month, your hosts, Sarah Harrison and Carolyn Daughters, will discuss a game-changing mystery or thriller from the 19th and 20th centuries. Together, we’ll see firsthand how the genre evolved.

Along the way, we’ll entertain ideas, prospects, theories, doubts, and grudges, along with the occasional guest. And we hope to entertain you, dear friend. We want you to experience the joys of reading some of the best mysteries and thrillers ever written.

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