Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Murder Must Advertise: Review
I've always liked Murder Must Advertise. Maybe it's because Mr. Hankin is almost a relation. Maybe it's because LPW goes undercover. Maybe it's because he comes up with the most hilarious ad campaigns. Maybe it's the image of him "seeing red" when whacked on the elbow in the cricket game and blowing his cover--he goes in as Death Bredon, but retires from the game as Lord Peter Wimsey, master cricketer. I don't know. But it's truly good stuff and I was delighted to dip into it again on my way through the works of Dorothy L Sayers.
In this outing, there is something rotten in Pym's Publicity--and it's not over cooked "Peabody's Porridge." Victor Dean, a not-so-popular copy-writer at Pym's, has taken a deadly fall down an iron staircase--leaving behind evidence that he had come across some rather nasty doings at the oh-so-respectable place of business. Enter Mr. Death Bredon, a rather Bertie Wooster; money-come-down-in-the-world sort, who seems to be a friend of the boss and whom no one expects to make a copy writer. They would be wrong. Mr. Bredon seems to have a flair for bon mot turned advertising slogan and a way with witty literary quotes and puns. Just the thing to make the client's advertising heart all a-flutter. He also seems to have a nose for gossip and soon has turned the entire staff inside out on the subject of Dean and the deadly staircase.
Little does Pym's know that they are nursing a detective in sheep's clothing and in their midst is none other than Lord Peter Wimsey that aristocratic sleuth-hound. Hot on the scent, Wimsey discovers that Dean was right and porridge and sanitizers and household supplies aren't the only things being advertised in Pym's campaigns. Before he's uncovered the entire scheme, there will be run-ins with bright young things and dope dealers; there will be masquerades and unmaskings....and, of course, a spot of murder.
This is a grand story. Lots of action, and yet lots of the Sayers wit and smooth writing. As with some of her short stories, this is Sayers at play. Surely no one in the world really believes that Wimsey could get away with such an obvious impersonation--not as well-known as he is. But we willingly suspend our disbelief in order to join in the fun.
I love the inside look at the advertising game. All true-to-life, as Sayers spent time in the advertising world--and much of it could be said of the game today. As Wimsey says: "Of course, there is some truth in advertising. There's yeast in bread, but you can't make bread with yeast alone. Truth in advertising is like leaven, which a woman hid in three measures of meal. It provides a suitable quantity of gas, with which to blow out a mass of crude misrepresentations into a form that the public can swallow." Listening to "Bredon" and his fellow copy-writers toss around slogans is highly entertaining and well worth the read--even if the story weren't so good. Which it is. Four stars.
*Oh, and for those of you who are Harriet Vane fans and miss her in this one. There is a brief reference: He [Wimsey] grinned with a wry mouth, and went out to keep his date with the one young woman who showed no signs of yielding to him....