Striding Folly, by Dorothy L. Sayers

>> Friday, June 11, 2004

As far as I can tell, Striding Folly is a collection of 3 unpublished short stories which were discovered some years after Dorothy L. Sayers's death.

I actually wasn't able to get Striding Folly, since it's extremely hard to find, but I got myself a copy of Lord Peter, which contains every one of the stories where Lord Peter (obviously) appears, including the 3 in Striding Folly.

The first one is a regular short story, similar to the ones you could find in In The Teeth of Evidence, Hangman's Holiday or Lord Peter Views the Body. In Striding Folly, Mr. Melillow is upset because Mr. Creech, a newcomer to the district, who only he (Mr. M.) had treated well, plans to sell his property to the electric company. This would mean that progress would come to the village and Mr. Mellilow's view would be spoilt, something he'd abhor. One night Creech fails to show up for their usual game of chess and a mysterious stranger appears instead. When Creech's body is discovered in a scene with some nice supernatural touches, Mr. Mellilow ends up with this stranger for an alibi, only nobody can vouch for his existence.

It was an interesting story, one in which Sayers plays a bit with some suggestions of the supernatural. The ambience is fascinating, too. Once the murder is discovered, however, it loses steam fast, though. Peter never does come to life here, he's just a shadowy friend of the Chief Constable who finally finds the way to prove exactly what happened. Another problem was that the resolution felt ill-defined and routine. Definitely not my favourite, I'd rate it as a C+.

The second story is The Haunted Policeman, and I liked it much better. It's one of the only two glimpses we get of Harriet and Peter's married life after Busman's Honeymoon (except for the parts she wrote of Thrones, Dominations). Anyway, this story takes place on the night when Harriet and Peter's first son is born, which would be some months after T,D. Right after this, in fact. The story opens as Peter is first shown his son, and a lovely banter between he and Harriet follows. Harriet then disappears from scene, as Peter goes downstairs to let her rest. As he's had a huge fright and is too tense to go to bed yet, he goes out to the street for a smoke, which is when he gets into a conversation with a passing policeman, who has a strange story to tell about a seemingly disappearing house.

Apart from the initial scene of Peter and Harriet together, which would have been enough to make this story worth reading (at least to me!), the puzzle here is fascinating. The characters are all wonderfully done, and I enjoyed the resolution. I'd give this one a B+.

The third and last story, Talboys, is the second look at Peter and Harriet's life together and I loved it. It takes place when they already have 3 children, and are rusticating at Talboys, the house where they spent their honeymoon in Busman's Honeymoon, in late 1942 (at least, according to this internal chronology of the Sayers corpus). There's no murder here, or even really a crime. It's just a domestic mystery which serves as an excuse to show Peter and Harriet (but especially Peter) interacting with their children.

What happens in the story is simple: Bredon (the child born in the previous story) is accused of stealing some peaches and Peter investigates what happened. Simple, and the mystery itself is nothing too remarkable. There's a friend of Helen's staying at the house with them, and this woman is exactly what one would imagine a friend of Helen's would be like. She keeps butting in and criticizing the way the Wimseys are raising their children, and it was wonderful to see the way she's dealt with by Peter. And this is what makes the story so good, seeing how Peter has adapted to the role of husband and father. He has definitely not lost his sense of humour! This story was an A for me.

My grade for the collection would be a B+.


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