I found this newish copy second-hand and was very happy, until my coffee thermos flask leaked in my bag. Now I have a definitely more vintage-looking book, but no matter. It’s nice to own Dorothy Sayers’ books, so I can re-read them whenever I want. This one is a favourite because of the absolutely incomprehensible bell-ringing theme, nerdiness personified. Bell-ringing - sorry, change ringing - is noted down in series of numbers that make no sense at all to the uninitiated, but provide excellent cover for a code. Bellringers refer to bobs and grandsire triples, and spend eight hours ringing unmelodic sequences to ring in the new year and break an old record. What’s it like to live beside a church with an active and enthusiastic bell-ringing team, I wonder? Fantastic stuff.
This is before Lord Peter meets Harriet Vane / the book is from 1934), so it’s just him and Bunter (of unlimited loyalty). Their car crashes on New Year’s Eve near a little village on the Fens (this book is also good to teach you a bit about the fens, which in turn was helpful when reading The Golden Compass, if I don’t misremember). They stay over at the vicarage and Lord Peter helps out with the bell-ringing. Later, a dead body is found in the grave belonging to the local gentry-folk, and it becomes clear that the man died on New Year’s Eve.
It’s a good solid plot, but unrealistic that it takes Lord Peter so long to cop on to the solution. Well, I think the plot is solid, but according to a quote I saw in the novel's Wikipedia entry the whole premise for the death is faulty. I wouldn't know myself, I only ring bicycle bells.
Full props to Dorothy Sayers though for always being prepared to have very unusual murderers, and for – when the whole area is flooded and everyone has to evacuate to the church – including the detail of digging sanitation trenches. I don’t think Agatha Christie would’ve bothered with that touch of realism.