The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers (1934)
Well, I was beaten by Hercule Poirot. I was out-smarted by Miss Marple. I was bested by Ellery Queen. I was left behind by Charlie Chan. But, by golly, I'm smarter than Lord Peter Wimsey!!!
Despite their popularity (and my supposed expertise of the mystery genre), I had never read one of the Wimsey books before. This one, at least, turns out to be a cracking good mystery. And Lord Peter is a good protagonist--a rich guy who likes to be useful, isn't stuck up about being member of nobility and has a talent for solving crimes. His manservant Bunter is a pretty cool guy as well.
The Nine Tailors starts a little slowly. Lord Peter and his manservant Bunter have a minor car accident near the village of Fenchurch St. Paul. They are put up for the night by the local reverend and his wife. Wimsey ends up taking part in a special ringing of the church bells--the locals are trying to beat a record by ringing the eight large bells over 15,000 times in a nine hour period.
The title, by the way, refers to the ringing of the church bells to note someone's death.
All this gives us necessary background information and actually provides a vital clue for solving the subsequent crime, but the book doesn't really get moving until a body is found buried in the churchyard. From that point on, the book is a lot of fun. There are several aspects to the mystery--not only who the killer is, but who the victim is and how his was killed. The case soon turns out to be connected to some valuable emeralds that had been stolen years before and never recovered, so the location of the emeralds also becomes a factor.
It's a well-constructed mystery with fair clues. And, as I've bragged several times already, I was a good fifty pages ahead of Lord Peter. I figured out who the victim was before he did. I figured out how the victim was killed long before Lord Peter did.
This is the last book of our Survey of Great Detectives. It took me all this time to beat one of the detectives to the solution. But, gee whiz and by golly, I finally did it.