Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers (1930)
Now that's more like it.
After a comparatively weak outing in The Unpleasentness at the Bellona Club both Wimsey and Sayers are back to fine form. Sayers adroitly introduces a new character to the regulars of the Wimseyverse while allowing characters introduced in previous books to grow, change and interact in convincing ways. Sayers demonstrates here how an author can delegate important parts of the action to "non lead" characters without undermining the detecting authority of the main characer. For example, the intelligence and initiative of Miss Murchison reflects well on Miss Clipsom as the person who recognized her talents and abilities. The intelligence and initiative of Miss Clipsom reflects well on Wimsey as the person who recognized her talents and abilities. Chief Inspector Parker, unlike the "official" detectives in so many series based on the sleuthing of unofficial detectives, is not stupid, not a bad detective, not slavishly dependent on and impressed by the amateur sleuth nor childishly resistent to pay attention to the opinions of someone who has often been right in the past.
Sayers plays absolutely fair with her readers in this murder and its detection. The final piece of information, the final datum necessary to solve the case, was something that anyone who was well read in British murder trials could be expected to know (althought they may be forgiven if they forgot that they did know it.)
This reader's main regret after finishing this book is that Sayers never wrote a novel, or series of short stories, that centered around Miss Clipsom. Clipsom was what I think Agatha Christie wanted Miss Marple to be, a convincing demonstration of the acuity and worth of the neglected spinster. I like to think of the many tales that Miss Clipsom could have told about what really went on behind the doors of polite British society. And then I realize that Miss Clipsom, being Miss Clipsom, would have either brought the matters to the attention of the relevant authority or taken with her to the grave those things which were immoral rather than illegal.
Rating: 4-1/2 stars