A tribute to Golden Age mystery fiction is always welcomed, and a specific tribute to Peter Wimsey is a welcome surprise. What Would Wimsey Do? is Guy Fraser-Samson’s tribute to that great detectives, in the form of a more contemporary murder mystery. It is worth noting that the book had been previously published as Death in Profile in the United Kingdom, and that this new publication by Felony & Mayhem represents its first American publication.
The book starts off on a drug addicts dog escaping and finding a corpse, immediately alerting those around it to this unwelcome presence. As the detectives examine the case, they quickly come to the conclusion that it is part of a series of serial rape murders. It is the fifth such killing, and as such after a perfunctory interview with the woman’s husband the team goes back to discuss the facts of the case. Inspector Tom Allen finds that his year-and-half on the case have resulted in the Brass sending in someone to take over, effectively firing him from this particular project. He does not react well to this, Val waiting to continue researching the case on his own time. Meanwhile, the team takes a new tactic bringing in psychologist Peter Collins to do some amateur profiling at the behest of his romantic partner officer Karen Willis. He has a taste for the old-fashioned, and a particular interest for the detective stories of Dorothy L Savers featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. He’s a shy sort of man, but quickly produces a profile as requested. The profile, in turn, quickly leads to a suspect and seemingly Ironclad evidence.
It comes out that the man could not possibly have committed a certain one of the murderers, and Peter absolutely cracks, thinking he is none other than Lord Peter Wimsey, and that his associates are various other characters from those stories. The way the character has broke it up his entertaining, but the way that the author has structured the book around it is magnificent. During Those portions of the book which Focus upon and have Peter Collins present after his psychological break, the entire narrative switch is to that of a Lord Peter Wimsey story. Each character is referred to as the person whom he associates them with, and even the style subtly changes to seem more quiet and genteel in the fashion of Sayers writing. It is a very clever literary device, which manages to make the reader understand Mr. Collins’s point of view.
If this book has one major flaw it is that it takes half of the novel to get to the point that the Peter Wimsey details play a key role. Well the first half of the novel is entertaining, one keeps waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop in regards to the title, and it made me leave some waiting longer than they would appreciate. That said, with the characters before and after the delusions being quite entertaining, I find it difficult to believe that any significant objections will occur.
The mystery itself builds carefully and slowly, with a series of small cruise that remain consistent potentially important details do not. The final solution of who the killer might be is somewhat illogical, as far as multiple murder can be, although the answer is coming to leave something to be desired. That is to say that it would not service a solution one would find in a golden cage detective tail, although a light-hearted send off of one may use such material. Given that this book straddles the edge between serious murder mystery and light-hearted tribute, the solution is actually rather appropriate.
It is easy to recommend this book to fans of old-school detective novels, particularly two fans of the Lord Peter Wimsey series. It is not a clean match for them, taking place in a modern world with a decidedly sexualized set of crimes, however its status as a tribute is obvious and the imitation fascinating. It is also the first volume in a series featuring the characters, with further literary tributes to come. As a result, it puts the reader in the enjoyable position of being able to handle the book as a standalone, or continue as desired.
( Felony & Mayhem Press, 2019)