If you aren't familiar with the terminology, "tailors" are peals of the bells: it was a tradition to ring the bells of a village church tower nine times to mark a village man's death. Specifically, amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey spends a lot of time in a village where the Rector is obsessed with ringing changes on the bells of the local church. He himself participates in a 9-hour sequence of bell ringing to bring in a New Year; that is, pealing the bells in various mathematical and not necessarily musical sequences. At least now I know why I have never understood what I was hearing when bells ring in the New Year or something -- always sounded like noise to me.
The Nine Tailors also contains quite a bit of description about the architecture and decoration of the church whose bell tower is involved. This, I found more interesting, because I once visited the church that was the prototype for the fictional building. Its main feature is an "angel roof" with 120 wooden sculpted angels at the ends of the hammer beams that support the roof. Friends who were very dedicated Dorothy Sayers fans took us on a tour of places of importance to her novels. Some photos of that tour (March 13, 1999) --
|The angel roof of St.Wendreda's church in March, England, prototype of the church in The Nine Tailors.|
|Our friends Sheila and John with the key to the angel roof church.|
We had to ask at the local pub "The Stars" to obtain the key.
|Churchyard of St. Wendreda's. The keys to the church and the cemetery are both plot elements in The Nine Tailors.|
|St. Wendreda's church tower.|
|Mae and John looking over the church.|
- "Can you eat shepherd's pie?" she asks. "You're sure? The butcher doesn't call today, but there's always cold ham." (p. 51)
- "The butcher says he has some nice calf's liver today, only I don't know if you can eat it," she says on a later occasion. "Theodore is very fond of liver-and-bacon, though I always think it's rather rich." (p. 187)
- After singing hymns on Christmas Eve, Wimsey returns to the Rectory with the Rector, his wife, and others "to eat cold roast beef and trifle." Not his usual French-style menu! By this time, Wimsey is being nobly helpful to the locals, and no apology seems needed when they share their meal with him. (p. 377)
If you decide to read The Nine Tailors expecting the usual pace of detective fiction, you must be quite patient! But tastes vary -- I've become a bit weary of both the pace of these novels and the extreme class-orientation they show. However, I'm planing to watch the TV series that was made of this book in the 1970s.