By Bernard Benstock (eds.)
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Extra resources for Essays on Detective Fiction
Revising three of her own crime novels, Harriet reflects that The books were all right, as far as they went; as intellectual exercises, they were even brilliant. But there was something lacking about them; they read now to her as though they had been written with a mental reservation, a determination to keep her own opinions and personality out of view; while a little earlier Sayers with mock autobiographical deprecation outlines a Vane plot in which an unhappy victim was due to fall suddenly dead in the Royal Enclosure, just at the exciting moment when all eyes were glued upon the finish of a race, or later tries one where She had five suspects, neatly confined in an old water-mill with no means of entrance or egress except by a plank bridge, and all provided with motives and alibis for a pleasantly original 26 Essays on Detective Fiction kind of murder.
The story 'Poisoned Dow '08' is built round the idea of an ingenious corkscrew with a fine tube inside, used for introducing nicotine poison into port without disturbing the cork. A Wimsey story, 'The Necklace of Pearls', constructs a whole Christmas gathering and party guessing-game round the idea that pearls resemble the berries on mistletoe (where they are in fact pinned during a part of the charade). Again 'The Fountain Plays' is composed to illustrate the danger of removing a body from place a to place b in order to simulate an accident.
The tongue protruded as if at the moment of death she had pulled a gargoyle's grimace at her killer. The right arm, rigid as a branch, was raised in the fascist salute. (Photo Finish) The slow tour of the victim's desecrated body is a literary shock tactic at least as old as Euripides; plenty of writers, great and small, have specialised in such pictures of the results of violence. 42 Essays on Detective Fiction At its basest, such writing is mere sensationalism, pitched at our lower instincts and our undeniable curiosity about things most of us have been fortunate enough not to see.