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The hero of eleven books, a play, and a number of short stories created by Dorothy L. Sayers, with four sequels by Jill Paton Walsh following her death. The character and the stories he stars in are often considered among the best of the pre-World War II "Golden Age" mysteries, to the point where modern readers may see them as more like deconstructions of, parodies of, and occasionally paeans to British culture in the Interbellum that just happen to be about murder.

The youngest brother of the Duke of Denver, Lord Peter is an Amateur Sleuth with a keen observational faculty, an intense sense of justice and deeply ingrained trauma from his service in the trenches, all of which he hides behind a diffident and flippant personality. As he has no need for a job, he spends his time collecting rare books and acting as a police consultant in murder and grand larceny cases, frequently alongside Inspector Charles Parker of Scotland Yard and Mervyn Bunter, his loyal valet and old war comrade. Other recurring characters include Harriet Vane, Peter's love interest and a rare example of an Author Avatar done exceptionally well; Miss Climpson, an elderly spinster whom Peter sometimes sends on fact-finding missions; The Honourable Freddy Arbuthnot, financial genius; Peter's mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver; and Peter's sister, Lady Mary, who rebels against her aristocratic family by involving herself in socialist politics.

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The Wimsey stories take place between 1922 and 1936, and (a bit unusually for a mystery series) the characters age in real time: Lord Peter is thirty-two in Whose Body? and forty-six in Busman's Honeymoon.

While there is an film called The Silent Passenger made in Sayers's lifetime based on the character, she disliked it, a feeling seemingly reciprocated by the public and fandom, as it has not survived. In the 1970s, the BBC produced five miniseries starring Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter (Clouds of Witness, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Five Red Herrings, Murder Must Advertise, and The Nine Tailors). Carmichael also starred in the BBC's radio drama series from the '70s to the '80s which adapted nearly all the novels, save for Gaudy Night, which was finally adapted in 2005. The '80s saw Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter adapt the three main Harriet Vane novels, Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night. Carmichael brought both humor and depth to the role, while Petherbridge emphasized the melancholy and romantic sides of the sleuth.

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In order of publication, the novels are:

  • Whose Body? (1923)
  • Clouds of Witness (1926)
  • Unnatural Death (1927)
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)
  • Strong Poison (1931)
  • The Five Red Herrings (1931)
  • Have His Carcase (1932)
  • Murder Must Advertise (1933)
  • The Nine Tailors (1934)
  • Gaudy Night (1935)
  • Busman's Honeymoon (1937)

There are, further, three collections of short stories:

  • Lord Peter Views the Body (1928; containing 15 stories):
    • "The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers"
    • "The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question"
    • "The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will"
    • "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag"
    • "The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker"
    • "The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention"
    • "The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps That Ran"
    • "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste"
    • "The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head"
    • "The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach"
    • "The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face"
    • "The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba"
  • In the Teeth of the Evidence (1933; containing 2 Lord Peter stories):
    • "In the Teeth of the Evidence"
    • "Absolutely Elsewhere"
  • Hangman's Holiday (1939; containing 4 Lord Peter stories)
    • "The Image in the Mirror"
    • "The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey"
    • "The Queen's Square"
    • "The Necklace of Pearls"

Three further short stories, "Striding Folly," "The Haunted Policeman," and "Talboys", were collected posthumously in the anthology Striding Folly in 1971. All the short stories were subsequently anthologized in the compendium Lord Peter (1972). A collection of mock-historical studies by Sayers and various friends, notably including professional herald C.W. Scott-Giles, of the Wimsey family was printed privately and finally published in 1977 under Scott-Giles's name and the title, The Wimsey Family, with Scott-Giles's illustrationsnote . One unfinished novel, Thrones, Dominations, was completed by novelist Jill Paton Walsh in 1998, who went on to write three sequels on her own: A Presumption of Death in 2002, The Attenbury Emeralds in 2010, and The Late Scholar in 2013. A series of "letters written by various members of the Wimsey family" and generally referred to as The Wimsey Papers appeared in the Spectator magazine between November 1939 and January 1940; these have not yet been anthologized, though various excerpts from them appear in A Presumption of Death.


The books provide examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: Sir Julian Freke believes that morality is a neurological reflex, redundant in a modern, individualist society, and that one who can commit immoral acts without guilt or shame is therefore a more enlightened human being. This is part of his motivation for committing at least one murder.
  • Absence of Evidence:
    • In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Lord Peter receives a list of the effects found on the deceased, along with a comment from the manservant that there's nothing but the same things he always had on him, and remarks that that's possibly the strangest aspect of the incident. General Fentiman is supposed to have died on Remembrance Day, but it's unthinkable that he would have been out and about on Remembrance Day and not wearing The Poppy. This is one of the signs that General Fentiman actually died the previous day.
    • The Five Red Herrings turns on the absence of a tube of white paint from the crime scene.
    • A dog-in-the-night-time-style example appears in "The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention", when a horse that is terrified of an allegedly haunted heath doesn't react at all to a phantom coach driven by a headless horseman.
    • In Strong Poison, one suspect had absolutely no opportunity to poison the victim - everything they ate and drink was either shared, or preserved for testing. This convinces the detectives that they had something to do with it, and were deliberately shielding themself from suspicion.
  • Absent-Minded Professor:
    • Miss Lydgate of Shrewsbury College in Gaudy Night.
    • The Reverend Venables in The Nine Tailors is an amateur rather than a professional scholar, but is otherwise a textbook example.
  • Accidental Misnaming: In a scene in Murder Must Advertise, Chief Inspector Parker is dealing with a witness he regards as a distraction from more important matters, and gets his name wrong at one point, addressing him as "Firkin" when his name is actually "Puncheon". (Both are antiquated units for quantities of alcoholic drinks.)
  • Accidental Murder:
    • The death in The Five Red Herrings was the result of a fight that ended in Death by Falling Over. Most of the mystery stems from the elaborate cover-up that ensued because the killer was afraid nobody would believe it was an accident and that the dead man had been the aggressor.
    • The death in Nine Tailors turns out to have been this. The victim was restrained and unable to escape a situation (the belfry during a nine-hour ringing marathon) that causes his death from exposure and shock.
  • The Ace: Wimsey can do anything he likes or needs to do, and always excels at it. Besides being a world-renowned wine connoisseur and expert on rare books, he wins car races, rides a horse perfectly, swims, climbs, recites poetry, intimidates or blackmails criminals, picks locks, chooses frocks, and proves to be a great advertisement writer and bespoke-bell-ringer when he has to. Not far behind is his man Bunter, a talented amateur photographer who can spy on criminals better than Scotland Yard can.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: How the murder was committed in Strong Poison. The murderer poisons a meal that he and the victim share after he has spent some time building up an immunity to the poison, which allows him to survive while the victim dies, all the while casting suspicion away from him. Notably this is also a case of Science Marches On, since it is now known that one could not do this with the poison in question—arsenic—without suffering any noticeable ill effects.
  • Actually Not a Vampire: One witness in The Five Red Herrings is chased out of a disused part of the house by what she thinks is a zombie. She realises, on reflection, that this apparition was actually a badly-injured man hiding in the attic, which is almost as frightening.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Busman's Honeymoon was expanded from a stage play.
  • Afraid of Needles: Lord Peter claims to be afraid of injections in Whose Body?, although it may just be a ruse to avoid that specific injection, which he correctly suspects has been poisoned to get him out of the way.
  • The Alibi: Discussed in several stories, with Lord Peter remarking on multiple occasions that the more iron-clad an alibi appears, the more suspicious he considers it. The title of "Absolutely Elsewhere" comes from Peter's suspicion of a particularly good alibi that appears to establish that the suspect was absolutely elsewhere at the time of the murder. Have His Carcase is an interesting case, because Lord Peter and his associates spend most of the novel using an incorrect estimate of the time of death, and waste a lot of time trying to disprove a suspiciously precise alibi that turns out to be entirely genuine — it's the same character's suspiciously good alibi for two hours earlier that's the fake. Lord Peter remarks at the end that it's the only case in his experience where the murderer was hampered by not knowing what time he was supposed to have done it.
  • All Witches Have Cats: In the short story "The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey", Wimsey poses as a wizard in a remote and backwards village. Nine white cats form part of his disguise.
  • Altar the Speed: In Busman's Honeymoon, Peter's sister-in-law Helen takes to herself the planning of Peter and Harriet's wedding, in circumstances and with a guest list that she considers Suitable. Peter and Harriet retaliate by secretly making an alternate plan to get married a week earlier, inviting their true friends, and only notifying Gerald and Helen the day before when it's too late for Helen to do anything except decide whether to attend.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Critics at the time doubted that Unnatural Death's method of murder would work. Not only would it work, it was actually employed by a number of real-life murderers.
  • Always Murder: Every novel involves a murder, mysterious death, or at least attempted murder. Gaudy Night predominantly concerns lesser crimes, though, and violence doesn't emerge until the criminal has been pursued for some time. Amusingly Lampshaded in Thrones, Dominations, where Harriet becomes worried that the corpse in her latest mystery might be the victim of manslaughter or unlawful death rather than true murder. She explains that a murder is an absolute necessity for a successful mystery story; anything less won't sell.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Lord Peter Wimsey is an independently wealthy aristocrat whose hobby is detection; except for once moonlighting as an advertising copywriter, he has never held any job — he's too rich to actually need one.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Appears quite a bit:
    • "Sir Impey Biggs is the handsomest man in England, and no woman will ever care twopence for him." - Clouds of Witnessesnote 
    • Eiluned Price is quite vocal about her distaste for men.
    • In the backstory of Unnatural Death, Agatha Dawson and Clara Whittaker lived together for decades, and their niece Mary has another girl utterly devoted to her as a "friend."
  • Anachronistic Clue: In "In the Teeth of the Evidence", a corpse is found in a burned out garage, and initially identified by its teeth as the garage's owner - a dentist. While trying to determine whether the death was accident or suicide, a closer examination of the dental records is made, revealing a modern cast porcelain filling, a method not available when the records indicate the filling was inserted. This tips the investigators off that it was murder - the dentist killed a man and altered the fellow's teeth to pass the corpse off as himself.
  • And Some Other Stuff: In Whose Body?, the villain attempts to do away with somebody using "an almost unknown poison, for which there is at present no recognised test, a concentrated solution of sn—" — but the character delivering this explanation is interrupted, so what exactly it's a concentrated solution of is never revealed.
  • Anonymous Public Phone Call: In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, a mysterious phone call is made to the victim's apartment by a man using a fake name, and the police trace it to a public phone in a train station. A sign of how new the trope was at the time is that Lord Peter's first response to this news is to ask if the operator can identify the caller, with Parker having to clarify that it's one of the new type of automatic pay phone with no operator.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Unnatural Death, Miss Climpson relays a vicious racist rant by another character, including that the mere sight of a Black character turned the ranter's stomach. She then apologises, not for the racism, but for mentioning stomachs in polite company.
  • Ascended Extra: Lord Peter himself. He started out as a secondary character in a Sexton Blake fanfic that Sayers was writing. Details here.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Strong Poison: Phillip Boyes, self-centred, manipulative, and emotionally abusive to the woman he purported to love. In the immortal words of Lord Peter, "If only that young man were alive today, how dearly I should like to kick his bottom for him."
    • The Five Red Herrings: Sandy Campbell, a foul-tempered alcoholic who seriously hurt someone at the golf course, threatened people's lives, and physically attacked his neighbor.
    • The Nine Tailors: The initially unidentified victim, once his name and history have been discovered, is beyond an Asshole Victim, so foul and evil that he is by most readings the real villain of the book.
    • Murder Must Advertise: Victor Dean was a blackmailer.
    • Busman's Honeymoon: Noakes was another blackmailer, as well as a grasping miser who'd stiff anyone he got the chance to. Both Harriet and Peter are tempted to withhold evidence because they have more sympathy for the suspects—even supposing them to have done it—than for the victim.
    • "The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face": Mr. Plant is horrible to his subordinates.
  • Author Avatar:
    • Harriet Vane is certainly an author avatar. Sayers herself strenuously, though not entirely convincingly, denied this.
    • Miss Meteyard, a rather ladettish, Oxford-educated advertising copywriter in Murder Must Advertise is actually an excellent candidate for this. She even has some kind of romantic history that she'd rather was kept secret from her straitlaced boss. She's a pretty minor character, though, so has never drawn the attention Harriet did.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Death Bredon.
  • Badass Boast: Wimsey, when asked by a drunken Pomfret why he won't stand up and fight in Gaudy Night: "First, because I'm twenty years older than you. Secondly, because you're six inches taller than I am. And thirdly, because I don't want to hurt you."
  • Badass Bookworm: Small, bookish martial artist Peter. Harriet, Parker and Bunter fit as well, all being highly well-read and -spoken, and pursuing intellectual hobbies, as well as being strong and highly capable.
  • Bathos: Constable Ross giving his opinion on where Waters' missing bicycle is, in Five Red Herrings:
    In my opinion, yon bicycle is doon in the deep waters betune Arran and Stranraer, an' ye'll never see it mair till it rises oot o' the sea tae bear witness at the great Day of Judgement. Unless ye sairch for't wi' deep-sea tackle.
  • Bathroom Breakout: At the end of Strong Poison, the murderer, realising the jig is up, asks to use the bathroom with the intention of escaping out the window. On discovering that the window leads to a sheer three-storey drop, he exits the bathroom in search of another exit and is immediately arrested by the waiting police.
  • Battle Butler: Bunter is quite a competent detective in his own right, and, like Peter, he's an ex-soldier.
  • The Beard: In Jill Paton Walsh's Thrones, Dominations, the "boyfriend" of a missing actress tells Lord Peter that their relationship is only friendly; she dates him to scare off an unpleasantly lecherous colleague, and he dates her because it makes him appear straight.
  • Beardness Protection Program:
    • In The Nine Tailors, Nobby Cranton grows a beard after being released from prison to avoid being recognised when he embarks on a new nefarious project.
    • Lord Peter himself grows a beard when infiltrating a criminal gang in one of the short stories.
    • The Inverted version shows up in The Five Red Herrings. Gowan has a particularly impressive beard, and when it gets shaved off he becomes completely unrecognizable, even to someone who knows him well and is specifically looking for him.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Harriet watches Lord Peter nap in a punt in Gaudy Night.
  • Because I'm Good at It: Harriet in Gaudy Night is asked why she writes detective literature — isn't it trivialising crime? Shouldn't she, who was acquitted of murder herself, refuse to do such work? She replies in part "I know what you're thinking — that anybody with proper sensitive feelings would rather scrub floors for a living. But I should scrub floors very badly, and I write detective stories rather well."
  • Best Friends-in-Law: Peter and Parker, eventually. Parker falls in love with Peter's sister Mary in Clouds of Witness and proposes to her at the end of Strong Poison, and they are married by the beginning of Have His Carcase.
  • Beta Couple: Freddy Arbuthnot/Rachel Levy and Parker/Lady Mary both serve as foils to Peter and Harriet, representing inter-class relationships with extended courtships, facing familial disapproval and social, financial and gender inequality.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The murderer in Whose Body?, on discovering that his arrest is imminent, opts for suicide (though in the event the police get to him before he carries out the decision). Interestingly, he had enough time to have made a run for it, but chooses not to; he sees it as just delaying the inevitable, and in any case it would mean he would have to abandon his medical researches.
  • Big Bad: The drug lord Cummings is directly or indirectly responsible for all the crimes in Murder Must Advertise.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Peter and Harriet's clinch at the end of Gaudy Night, bringing a conclusion to five years of Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • Big Secret:
    • In Whose Body?, Thipps becomes a suspect because he gives a confused account of his whereabouts during the time the corpse was deposited in his apartment. He eventually admits that he had been persuaded to go to a nightclub, and narrowly avoided getting arrested when it was raided by the police.
    • In Clouds of Witness, the Duke was committing adultery when his sister's fiancé committed suicide. The other woman was married to a vindictively jealous man, and the Duke refuses to put her in harm's way to clear himself.
    • In Have His Carcase, a boat was off shore when Harriet found the body. The owner was surly and obstructive, and his grandson had gone off to Ireland. When they had constructed several theories involving this boat, the grandson reappeared and explained that he and his grandfather had been poaching on another fisherman's lobster pots.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Many stories include French dialogue or quotations, offered without translation. Gaudy Night does the same with Latin, and even a bit of Greek in the original alphabet. The reader is simply assumed to be educated enough to read them, and in the short story "The Entertaining Episode Of The Article In Question," a knowledge of French grammar provides a crucial clue — although people who speak French tend to write it off as a typo until the end, which was doubtless the author's intent.
  • Blackmail:
    • In "The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker", Lord Peter gives a blackmailer a taste of his own medicine to persuade him to desist and return the incriminating document.
    • In Murder Must Advertise, one of the staff at the advertising agency had tried blackmailing several of his colleagues. Miss Meteyard told him to publish and be damned, and was subsequently left alone. Mr Tallboy chose an alternative method of dealing with the problem, resulting in the murder Lord Peter is investigating.
    • In Busman's Honeymoon, Sellon becomes a suspect in the murder after it comes out that the deceased had been blackmailing him over an incident of professional misconduct.
  • Blackmail Backfire: In Murder Must Advertise, Victor Dean was murdered by someone he was attempting to blackmail.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: In "The Practical Joker" Lord Peter says this to the villain, a blackmailer who's experiencing for the first time what blackmail feels like from the other end.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Lord Peter does this to one of the villains in "A Matter of Taste".
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: In Have His Carcase, the victim is murdered on a rock on the seashore, and when Harriet finds the body his blood has run into a nearby rock pool and turned the water red.
  • Blue Blood: Peter and his family are some of the highest nobility in the realm, as are a great many of their friends. Peter sadly notes that, by the 1930s, they're suffering from inbreeding, their traditional lands are basically worthless, and their countless relatives are the most tiresome snobs.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: In the climax of Strong Poison, Lord Peter tricks the murderer into thinking he's eaten poisoned food — which, if he was really the murderer, he would be immune to. Rather than feign illness, the murderer makes a run for it and is promptly arrested.
  • Body in a Breadbox:
    • In Whose Body?, the body in question is found lying, naked, in the bath of a man who had no previous connection to the living person it had been.
    • "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag" features a carpet-bag containing a severed human head.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: The Duke of Denver is a proper old-fashioned British country gentleman — gruff, short-tempered, and fond of shooting and shouting.
  • Bold Inflation:
    • Miss Climpson often speaks in italics, conveying her gossipy nature.
    • Miss Twitterton in Busman's Honeymoon speaks in a similar way.
  • The Book Cipher: In A Presumption of Death, Lord Peter, on assignment for British Intelligence in WWII Nazi-occupied Europe, uses a code based on the works of John Donne. The Germans, suspecting that an intelligence service in which Oxonians have a major role would choose a classic work of English literature, systematically try such works until hitting the right one and breaking the code, coming near to catching the spy. Wimsey then improvises a new code, based on an unpublished text known only to himself and his wife.
  • Bookends: The first chapter of Strong Poison opens with a description of the courtroom on the last day of Harriet's trial, dwelling on details such as the flowers decorating the room. The last chapter opens with a parallel description of the courtroom on the first day of Harriet's retrial.
  • Bookmark Clue: In Have His Carcase, the murdered man gave a document to his mistress, who used it as a bookmark and then forgot about it. It thus survived when he burned his papers, and was later found by Wimsey.
  • Brand X:
    • Mentions of the newspapers tend be of fictional papers such as The Daily Yell and The Twaddler, particularly since they're most often mentioned because their reporters are being sensation-seeking nuisances.
    • All the products and advertising campaigns in Murder Must Advertise are, of course, fictional. With one exception, for which see Shout-Out, below.
  • Brats with Slingshots: In Murder Must Advertise, one of the message boys brings his new slingshot to work to show the others, and has it confiscated. This prompts several of the adults working at Pym's to reminisce about their own youthful slingshot escapades. It also inspires the murderer to borrow it and use it as the murder weapon.
  • Breather Episode:
    • After the brutal killings of Unnatural Death, the darkly comic examination of post-war malaise of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, and the emotional turmoil of Strong Poison, The Five Red Herrings is a light, mechanical railway-timetable mystery Peter investigates while on holiday, with a relatively happy ending.
    • Another relatively lighthearted entry: Clouds of Witness, comes in between the truly grisly murder of Whose Body? and the even darker Unnatural Death.
  • Broken Hero: Lord Peter always appears to be a cheerful Upper-Class Twit and a Motor Mouth, frequently compared in universe to Bertie Wooster by both the narrator and other characters, but it is revealed that he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the War. We get literal flashbacks from him when he relives events of it after a particularly stressful case triggers him and also Flashback Nightmares.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Lord Peter Wimsey is a motor mouthed British nobleman who drops literary quotations almost continuously, plays word games with everyone he meets, and has a hobby as an amateur detective. He's a very good amateur detective.
  • Busman's Holiday:
    • The Five Red Herrings: Lord Peter takes time out of a fishing holiday in Scotland to investigate a killing made to look like a painting accident.
    • Have His Carcase: Harriet's walking tour is interrupted by a murder mystery.
    • The Nine Tailors: Lord Peter's visit to friends in Lincolnshire is interrupted by a car accident... which, four months or so later, leads to his involvement in a murder mystery.
    • Busman's Honeymoon: Lord Peter's honeymoon is interrupted by a murder mystery. The title is a deliberate reference to this trope.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: Inverted in Murder Must Advertise. Lord Peter, encountering two people who have met him in disguise as Death Bredon, takes the opportunity to blacken the name of his supposed lookalike cousin. When the two subsequently meet Bredon again, he insults Lord Peter in turn.
  • But I Digress: The Dowager Duchess tends to change the subject four or five times — in rapid succession — whenever she opens her mouth.
  • The Butler Did It:
    • Discussed in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club; when Peter and Parker are compiling a list of suspects, Peter points out that the victim's manservant had opportunity if no motive and remarks that in fiction it's so often the butler or the servant. In this case, of course, it isn't.
    • Played with in The Nine Tailors. A key part of the backstory involves a butler who stole a valuable emerald necklace from his employer's house and was sent to prison for it. The butler is a murderer (he killed a guard during a prison break), but not the murderer (he didn't do the murder that the plot revolves around, and is never even a suspect). In fact, as it turns out when the corpse is identified, he was the victim.
  • The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House: Used in Absolutely Elsewhere — a murderer has their accomplice place the call from another town, and picks up the extension when the call goes through, as a way of faking an alibi.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: In Gaudy Night, Harriet hears at her college reunion about a former fellow student who has gone in for new age mysticism and written a book about Higher Wisdom and Beautiful Thought and that sort of thing.
  • Cassandra Truth: In Jill Paton Walsh's A Presumption of Death, retired dentist Mrs. Spright is paranoid and senile so nobody pays attention when she claims that there are Nazi spies in Paggleham. It turns out that she's right.
  • Catch Your Death of Cold: Lady Dormer's death, which sets off the plot of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club — she insisted on going to a firework display, and caught a cold which turned to pneumonia and killed her.
  • Caught Monologuing: The murderer in Whose Body? intends to deprive the law of its target by committing suicide, and has time to do it, but can't resist the temptation to write an extensive and detailed suicide note explaining just how clever he was. The police bust in and catch him while he's in the middle of adding a second postscript.
  • Changing of the Guard: The stories experimented with perspective shifts from the beginning, but we see Harriet's point of view more and more as the books go on. Gaudy Night only has one scene that features Peter without Harriet, and Busman's Honeymoon is shared between them as a couple.
  • The Charmer: Lord Peter is very quick-witted and talented at getting people on his side — or, when it becomes necessary (or he's bored), mocking or manipulating them. In the early books, he comes across as rather too prickly and facetious — he moderates this as he ages and expands his social circles. Bunter takes over this role when dealing with working-class folks — especially female servants, who appreciate his dark good looks and flirtatious manner.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In Nine Tailors, the alert reader will notice that one character is excluded from suspicion due to being dead—but that his body was identified only by the clothes it had on.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: In the short story "Talboys", Peter's eldest son catches a snake and Peter is expected to tell him off, but as soon as the two are alone, he not only tells his son that he thinks it's actually pretty cool but conspires with him to use it to prank an unpleasant guest.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Peter was one in his youth. His uncle, who claims to have taught Peter all he knows, is a Chivalrous Dirty Old Man.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Averted — Sayers was a respected Anglican theologian and knew her denominations. Catholicism and High Anglicanism appear in several stories, but so do a number of Protestant and Orthodox faiths.
  • Christmas Cake: Harriet, in her early thirties when she marries Peter.
  • Chubby Chaser: In "The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face", Inspector Winterbottom mentions that the victim's mistress was very attractive, if you like them thin. Which he doesn't — he prefers "well-upholstered" women.
  • Clark Kenting: When working in Pym's advertising agency in Murder Must Advertise, Wimsey wears glasses and combs his hair with a side parting. It changes his appearance enough that when the Pym's typists see him in his normal evening dress and monocle, they aren't sure if he's the same person, particularly when he behaves as if he doesn't recognise them.
  • Clear Their Name: The plot of Strong Poison kicks off when Peter attends Harriet Vane's murder trial and realises that she's not guilty despite the apparently strong case against her.
  • Clock Discrepancy: Have His Carcase has a discrepancy that's based on medical evidence rather than timepieces. Harriet finds the body of the victim with still-liquid blood pooled around it; then the body is washed out to sea before it can be autopsied. Peter and Harriet spend most of the book assuming the murder happened almost immediately before she found the body, because the blood didn't have time to clot; in actuality, the victim was a hemophiliac and the murder happened several hours earlier. Foreshadowed with much discussion of the usual version of the trope; on several occasions, they test suspects' alibis by checking whether the clocks could have been wrong, and Harriet is working on (and struggling with) a novel in which the murderer's alibi depends on the trope.
  • Clueless Detective: Inspector Sugg in Whose Body?, tries the "Accuse Everybody" method, even at one point accusing an octogenarian lady who can barely sit up of carrying a dead body while climbing up a drainpipe to a second story window, and is ready to make an arrest on that suspicion.
  • Cold Reading: Mrs. Climpson uses this on a credulous nurse in order to gain her help in securing vital evidence in Strong Poison. She feels rather guilty (due to religious and ethical reasons) but justifies it due to the importance of the evidence, and to use her "skills" to persuade the nurse to stop visiting less ethical "psychics".
  • Comically Missing the Point: In Busman's Honeymoon, Bunter discovers the new housekeeper, in a fit of ignorant helpfulness, mishandling Lord Peter's valuable collection of vintage port. Attempting to bring home to her the magnitude of her misdeed, he informs her in ringing tones that the bottle she's casually juggling is a Cockburn '96. Her nonplussed reply is, "Oh, is it? I thought it was something to drink."
  • Competition Coupon Madness: Lord Peter's "Whiffling" advertising scheme in Murder Must Advertise is described as becoming a nationwide obsession.
  • Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch: In-Universe, in Gaudy Night, Harriet attends a literary party, where a gang of authors take turns theorizing why some thoroughly arty and undeserving novel has been awarded a reviewer's prize — because of advertising deals, or political loyalties, or familial connections, or other underhand reasons. Naturally, none of them have actually read the book, or have the faintest idea what it's even about.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: In the novel Have His Carcase, the fact that the victim was wearing gloves is a clue to his haemophilia, which figures in the plot.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In The Nine Tailors, while contemplating the renovations to the church at Fenchurch St Paul, Lord Peter recalls the renovation of the church at Duke's Denver, which was taking place in Whose Body?.
    • The renovation of the church at Duke's Denver is recalled again in Busman's Honeymoon, with Lord Peter deciding to hire the same architect to remodel his and Harriet's new country house.
    • All the identifiable guests at Peter and Harriet's wedding in Busman's Honeymoon are returning characters from earlier novels, as are the named journalists reporting on the murder.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Lampshaded and subverted in Murder Must Advertise. Dian de Momerie and her coterie get bored and decide to crash the next posh social event they come across; the party they crash is being hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Denver, with Lord Peter in attendance, giving Peter an opportunity to establish the legend of his disreputable cousin Bredon. When Peter tells Parker about it afterward, Parker remarks that that was an impressive bit of luck, and Peter explains that actually Dian had come up with the gate-crashing plan because somebody (ie. Peter) had sent her an anonymous message suggesting that if she went to Denver's house she would learn something to her advantage.
  • Conversational Troping: Characters regularly discuss the differences between then-contemporary detective fiction and reality.
    • In Have His Carcase, there's a discussion of the trope in which a villain sends a message to their victim with instructions for a meeting and ends it with "Bring this message with you." Harriet points out that while the villain's intention is to ensure that the message is destroyed, the real reason for the trope is so that the author can ensure that the message isn't completely destroyed, leaving a clue for the detective. They go on to get the clue that cracks the case from what's left of a letter the villain sent to the victim with instructions for a meeting, ending with "Bring this message with you." Peter suspects that the murderers are such amateurs that they did it that way precisely because they'd seen it done in books.
  • Cool Car: Peter drives a succession of sleeve-valve Daimler V12 sports cars that he names "Mrs Merdle", after a Dickens character who was averse to "row" (sleeve-valve engines were famously quiet, at the cost of heavy oil consumption and worse emissions).
  • Cool Old Lady:
    • The Dowager Duchess.
    • Lady Dormer in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club is also described as one by those who knew her.
  • The Coroner: Several coroner's inquests take place throughout the books, but Dr Horner, assistant to forensic examiner Sir James Lubbock, is an example of the "medical examiner" model: he's a hearty, cheerful man who chatters, jokes and sings while he's sawing through the skull of a weeks-old corpse.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • In Clouds of Witness, Sir Impey points out in his closing speech that the mystery could have been cleared up within hours: all it would have taken was for someone to investigate the bag of outgoing letters at the Lodge rather than just taking them down to the post office as usual.
    • The antagonist in Unnatural Death murders her own aunt, her maid and her best friend, and attempts to murder Lord Peter, Parker, Miss Climpson and a London solicitor, before finally killing herself, all to secure a fortune that, as we discover in Gaudy Night, they would have inherited anyway.
  • Cramming the Coffin: In The Nine Tailors, the corpse at the centre of the plot is initially disposed of by concealing it in the grave (though not actually inside the coffin) of the recently deceased Lady Thorpe. It is discovered a few months later when Lady Thorpe's husband dies and the grave is re-excavated to bury him next to his wife.
  • Crime Reconstruction: At the end of Five Red Herrings, Lord Peter and the police re-enact the events of the murder and the following day, accumulating evidence as they go.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Death by electroplating in "The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers".
  • Cultured Badass: Lord Peter Wimsey, the second son of a duke, speaks multiple languages (including French and Latin), a book collector, a well-known cricket player, very careful of his clothes, and is famed across Europe for his taste in wines. Takes up detective work as a hobby mostly because he's bored and got a lot of experience doing intelligence work during World War I, and shows no squeamishness about killing the occasional criminal by accident, usually without the criminal ever realising he was dangerous.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: The poison-pen writer in Gaudy Night uses letters cut from newspapers for her notes. A search for the source papers forms part of the investigation.
  • Cyanide Pill: In "In The Teeth of the Evidence", a badly-burned body is thought to belong to a missing dentist; Scotland Yard questions the dentist's wife, who spends the entire interview complaining about how her husband never gave her anything nice, starting with their disappointing honeymoon to the south of France. After this interview, the Inspector asks the coroner to "be thorough in his search for prussic acid", finding it easy to believe that the dentist took his own life just to escape his marriage.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: In Strong Poison, Lord Peter suggests this as a motive for murder: the murderess kills her lover, so his books become bestsellers. Then when she's arrested and hanged, her books will become bestsellers, too.
  • Deadly Doctor: The murderer in Whose Body? kills his victim, and then dissects the body as part of a lecture to his students.
  • Dead Man Writing: Subverted in Whose Body?. When he knows the police are close to catching him, the murderer plans to take poison and writes a gloating note to the police and Lord Peter to be found near his body. Unfortunately for him, the police burst in mid-sentence, and he's presumably tried and hanged as a common criminal.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bunter's humorous dialogue is always delivered as part of his highly formal, old-fashioned and subservient manner of speaking.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: The Five Red Herrings uses the version where a murderer impersonates his victim for a short period to disguise the actual time of death.
  • Death by Falling Over: The death at the centre of The Five Red Herrings turns out to be an Accidental Murder that came about when the deceased picked a fight that ended with him being knocked over and whacking his head on a piece of hard furniture.
  • Defective Detective: Lord Peter Wimsey has a lot of advantages, being a rich aristocrat, but he also has a severe case of shell-shock (post-traumatic stress disorder, in modern terms).
  • Derailed Train of Thought: The Dowager Duchess of Denver tends to change the subject four or five times — in rapid succession — whenever she opens her mouth.
  • Direct Line to the Author:
    • Some editions of the novels include a biographical sketch of Lord Peter written by his uncle, with an introduction that implies he's a real person who helped the author with her research.
      I am asked by Miss Sayers to fill up certain lacunae and correct a few trifling errors of fact in her account of my nephew Peter's career.
    • Thrones, Dominations is a novel begun by Sayers and completed by Jill Paton Walsh. Paton Walsh's introduction is written as though she was invited to continue Sayers' biography of a real person.
  • Dirty Business:
    • In The Nine Tailors, Lord Peter explicitly calls it dirty but does recommend putting two suspect in a room together with a microphone to find out what they have to say to each other when they think nobody is listening.
    • In Gaudy Night, Lord Peter has Harriet help him draw out information from the senior college members. She tells him that she feels like Judas, he tells her it's part of the job, and she soldiers on.
  • Discreet Drink Disposal: Averted in Busman's Honeymoon. When Lord Peter is offered some homemade parsnip wine, Harriet, realizing the distress of a world-class oenophile, suggests he dump it in a nearby potted plant. However, Lord Peter goes ahead and drinks it (not without a shudder) after observing that the plant already appears unwell.
  • Disguised in Drag: Jacques "Sans-culotte" Lerouge, who disguises himself as a flirtatious, gamine lady's maid in order to infiltrate wealthy houses and pilfer their valuables.
  • Disposing of a Body:
    • In Whose Body?, the entire mystery hangs on the villain's creative solution to this problem.
    • Several of the short stories, including "The Abominable History of the Man with the Copper Fingers" and "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag", also feature unusual methods of body disposal.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: In Busman's Honeymoon, Lord Peter is told that a 'financial gentleman' has come to call:
    Lord Peter: Name of Moses?
    Bunter: Name of MacBride, my lord.
    Lord Peter: A distinction without a difference.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Lord Peter pursues Harriet for something like five years.
    Lord Peter: I shall, with your permission, continue to propose to you at decently regulated intervals, as a birthday treat, and on Guy Fawkes' Day and on the Anniversary of the King's Ascension. But consider it, if you will, a pure formality. You need not pay the slightest attention to it.
    Harriet: Peter, it's foolish to go on like this.
    Lord Peter: And, of course, on the Feast of All Fools.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!:
    • In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, George Fentiman and his wife are in serious financial straits, made more stressful by the fact that they're having to live off Mrs. Fentiman's income because George is too ill to hold down a job. At the beginning of the novel, Peter offers George a loan to tide them over, but George says that since there's no prospect of being able to pay the money back it would amount to taking charity from a friend, and the situation isn't bad enough yet that his pride will let him accept that.
    • Harriet's reaction to Peter's declaration of love.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Two near examples in the backstory of Unnatural Death:
    • One Dawson ancestor had fallen in love with a Frenchwoman and married her. His brother, however, fell in love with her sister, who had become a nun. He followed her and became a monk.
    • Clara Whittaker's brother married Agatha Dawson's sister. Agatha and Clara themselves couldn't marry, but are strongly implied to have had an equally close relationship.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • The first chapter of Murder Must Advertise is titled "Death Comes to Pym's Publicity". It has the usual poetic meaning of somebody having died (Victor Dean, whose murder Lord Peter spends the book investigating), but the main topic of the chapter is Death Bredon's first day as an employee of Pym's.
    • "Striding Folly" refers to a tower in the village of Striding. But if 'Striding' is read as a verb, it also relates to the moving towers in Mr Mellilow's dream.
  • Downer Ending:
    • In Have His Carcase, it's implied that there isn't enough solid evidence to hold or convict the murderers, even though Peter and Harriet figured out how they did it. Though in Gaudy Night we're told that at least one of them was convicted.
    • And the end of Unnatural Death sees Wimsey musing that almost certainly, fewer people would have died if he hadn't involved himself — and the man who originally asked him to investigate isn't even grateful.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Bill Rumm in Strong Poison is a reformed burglar, who knows how wrong it is to break into safes. But if it should become necessary to break into a safe, the only way to do it is pick the lock. Blowing the door off is inartistic.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: In the story "Striding Folly", the protagonist dreams he's being chased through a checkerboarded landscape by moving towers. It turns out to be a premonition of a chess game where he's checkmated with two rooks. Also of an attempt to frame him for murder.
  • Dreaming the Truth: In Busman's Honeymoon, Lord Peter has a nightmare featuring symbolic representations of a key part of the mystery he hasn't yet consciously put together.
  • Driven to Suicide: At least three of the series' various murderers.
    • In Unnatural Death, the murderer commits suicide in a jail cell while awaiting trial.
    • In Murder Must Advertise, suicide is a choice to keep the villain's innocent family from guaranteed poverty and social ostracism.
    • In Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, it was seen as the only honourable way out of the situation—which was not unusual in those days, at least in certain realms of fiction.
    • In Strong Poison, the grief-stricken Ryland Vaughan tells Peter his suicide plan, and shows him the drugs he intends to use. We never find out what happens to him.
    • In Clouds of Witness, the apparent murder is actually the suicide of a man driven to the brink of ruin and then abandoned by the woman he loves. This goes undiscovered for most of the book, in part, because instead of leaving his suicide note somewhere nearby he mailed it to the woman — who didn't bother to read it.
    • Played with in Gaudy Night - when Peter is asked how he would have handled accusing his brother (or sister) of murder, Harriet suggests that the correct etiquette in a murder mystery is "poison for two in the library".
    • Also in Gaudy Night, but more seriously, an important part of the backstory is the death of Arthur Robinson, Annie's husband, who lost his position, turned to drink, and eventually shot himself.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Peter, as he explains in Busman's Honeymoon:
    I don't happen to be afraid of speed — that's why I like to show off.
  • Durable Deathtrap: Not actually a deathtrap (Lord Peter and Gerald get nothing worse than a soaking) but the mechanism protecting the Pirate Booty in "The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head" is still in perfect working order after two hundred years of no maintenance.
  • Eat the Evidence: "The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps That Ran". The murder weapon is a skewer that's then thrust into a joint of meat being roasted. As the meat cooked, the traces of human blood on the skewer would have been destroyed.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Discussed in Strong Poison.
    Mr Pond: You're not afraid of mice apparently?
    Miss Murchison: No. In your days I suppose all women were afraid of mice.
    Mr Pond: Yes, they were, but then, of course, their garments were longer.
    Miss Murchison: Rotten for them.
  • The Eeyore: Sergeant Lumley in Murder Must Advertise, always gloomy and prepared to find fault with everything. Such as God's tendency to put so many bones into kippers.
  • Empathic Environment: The denouement of Unnatural Death - a story of escalating violence and cruelty - sees Wimsey and Parker examining the body of the murderess, Mary Whittaker, who has hanged herself in her cell. When they emerge, they find an eclipse in progress, as if all the light in the world had been snuffed out, echoing Wimsey's state of mind. (The closing chapters are explicitly set in late June 1927, and there was a real total eclipse over parts of the UK on 29th June 1927.)
  • Emphasize EVERYTHING: Miss Climpson likes to emphasize everything with italics in her letters. (Actually single, double, and triple underlining, which in print translates to italics, small caps, and block caps respectively.) Also lots of exclamation points. This is meant to indicate her old-fashioned, Victorian outlook; overuse of underlining is often mentioned as a characteristic of Victorian women's writing, especially in letters.
  • Engaging Conversation:
    • Lord Peter sometimes uses this gambit to flatter older women. In "The Queen's Square", he says to his dance partner that if he'd only had the luck to have been born earlier, he'd have married her. (She is much older than he is and is not offended.)
    • However, when he actually means it, i.e. proposing to Harriet Vane during their first face-to-face conversation, she at first doesn't believe him.
  • Epigraph:
    • Each chapter in The Nine Tailors is headed with a quotation from a work on bell-ringing.
    • Each chapter in Have His Carcase is headed with a quotation from the works of poet and dramatist Thomas Lovell Beddoes, many of them specifically from the play Death's Jest-Book, or: The Fool's Tragedy in Five Acts.
  • Epistolary Novel: Not the whole novel, but the prologue of Busman's Honeymoon tells the story of Peter and Harriet's engagement and wedding through extracts from the letters and diary entries of various interested parties, some of them more biased than others.
  • Erotic Dream: At one point in Gaudy Night, Harriet dreams of being held in Peter's manly arms, but by this point she's had a lot of practice at denying her feelings, so she shrugs it off by saying that dreams are never what they appear to be about and it must have been a metaphor for something.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Whose Body?, Clouds of Witness, Unnatural Death and Have His Carcase, among others, are solved with Eureka Moments. Whose Body? discusses the phenomenon in some detail.
  • Everybody Lives: Each of the novels has at least one major death, at least in the backstory; Gaudy Night is the least bloody, as the death was some years ago and all of the criminal's victims survive.
  • Everybody Smokes: Peter, Parker, Harriet and St George all smoke, as do many supporting characters. Peter's masterwork while working in advertising is a campaign for Whifflets Cigarettes.
    • Dorothy Sayers was herself a heavy smoker; her portrait in the National Portrait Gallery depicts her in her study nonchalantly holding a cigarette between her fingers
    • It's a kind gesture to offer someone a cigarette, without bothering to first ask if they smoke. (Harriet to Miss Cattermole in Gaudy Night; Peter to Cranton in The Nine Tailors.)
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: A downplayed example, since Helen, Duchess of Denver is not exactly evil for all her faults. But nevertheless, she has a fairly low opinion of most of the people around her, and the insights we get into her thought processes suggest that she tends to view the decent things they do as part of some act or gambit that they do for cynical and self-motivating reasons rather than simply because they're just decent people doing the right thing.
  • Evil Counterpart: In Whose Body?: Sir Julian Freke, a genius who kills without remorse, motivated by sexual jealousy and anti-Semitism, is contrasted with Lord Peter who catches criminals for the fun of it and feels deep guilt.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: In "The Bone of Contention", the horse Lord Peter borrows refuses to approach the scene of a long-ago murder.
  • Evil Matriarch: Helen, Duchess of Denver, is a rather unpleasant person, and nobody in her family much likes her. She's openly antagonistic towards Peter and Harriet in the later books.
  • Evil Twin: Appears in the short story "The Image in the Mirror". A pair of mirror-image twins, born out of wedlock, are Separated at Birth — one is raised by a kindly aunt as her own, while the other is taken to the colonies by the mother and left alone and resentful after her death.
  • Executive Meddling: Defied in Have His Carcase: The editor of the novel Harriet's writing wants her to introduce a romance between the heroine and the detective's friend. Harriet flatly refuses. invoked
  • The Exotic Detective: An apparent Upper-Class Twit who solves crimes as a hobby.
  • Expy: Bunter is explicitly compared to Wodehouse's Jeeves; Lord Peter and Freddy Arbuthnot both resemble Bertie Wooster.
  • Face Death with Dignity: In Murder Must Advertise, Tallboy chooses to go out alone, forgoing protection, knowing that the criminal gang has a lethal "accident" planned for him, but also knowing that if he dies in an "accident" his part in the business won't become public knowledge and his family won't suffer for his mistakes.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • In "The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba," Peter stays publicly dead for two years while undercover — even Parker believed him dead (although no one seems too surprised when Peter turns up alive).
    • In The Nine Tailors, it's believed that Geoffrey Deacon died shortly after breaking out of jail, but it turns out he faked his death to get the authorities off his back.
  • Family Versus Career: One of the major themes of Gaudy Night, and of Harriet's arc as a whole. The staff and students of the college reflect a range of approaches to the issue, from Miss Hillyard who Does Not Like Men and hates family women and thinks career should always come first, to Annie Wilson, who believes women should serve their husbands and Stay in the Kitchen. Harriet contrasts both extremes with fellow alumna Phoebe Tucker, who has three children and a flourishing archaeology career alongside her husband.
  • Femme Fatale: Cathcart's mistress Simone Vonderaa in Clouds of Witness — described as a belle à se suicidernote  by one person who met her.
  • Fictional Painting: In Jill Paton Walsh's Thrones, Dominations, the artist Chapparelle paints two portraits: The first is of Harriet, and its in-story purpose is to show her character and to let her see the second portrait in-progress. The second portrait is of Rosamund, and is destroyed by her murderer to hide the clue it portrays: a papier-mâché mask that the murderer used to fool a witness into thinking the victim was still alive, and thus provide the murderer with an alibi.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Performed by a chemist in Murder Must Advertise to determine that a packet of white powder labelled "Bicarbonate of Soda" is in fact cocaine.
  • Flashback-Montage Realization: The literary equivalent occurs in Whose Body? when Lord Peter has his "Eureka!" Moment and figures out who did it and how.
    A bump on the roof of the end house—Levy in a welter of cold rain talking to a prostitute in the Battersea Park Road—a single ruddy hair—lint bandages—Inspector Sugg calling the great surgeon from the dissecting-room of the hospital—Lady Levy with a nervous attack... all these things and many others rang together and made one sound...
  • Follow That Car: Several times; lampshaded in Murder Must Advertise:
    "Follow that taxi," he said, exactly like somebody out of a book. And the driver, nonchalant as though he had stepped from the pages of Edgar Wallace, replied, "Right you are, sir."
  • Food Porn: Lord Peter, being a noted gourmet, often indulges in such meals. The judge's summing-up in Strong Poison is a darker example, as it shows how inappropriate his treatment of the case is.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The Nine Tailors is named after a tradition in which a church's bell is rung nine times to announce a death in the parish. The church's bell tower plays a central role in the specific death that the novel revolves around.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Strong Poison, several people who don't like the look of Norman Urquhart, including one of the only people who suspects him of the murder before even Lord Peter, single out his unnaturally sleek and glossy hair. It turns out that he's been taking small quantities of arsenic regularly to gain an Acquired Poison Immunity, and the state of his hair is one of the symptoms.
    • In The Nine Tailors, the epigraphs on the first few chapters — up to and including the one in which the corpse is discovered — all have something to do with death. The very first one is about the fact that bell-ringing can itself be lethal to the unwary, which foreshadows a revelation all the way off in the final chapter.
    • Also in The Nine Tailors, one of the early examples of the Reverend Venables' character as an Absent-Minded Professor is him misplacing the parish announcements, including the banns of marriage for an upcoming wedding. The banns for a different wedding become a plot point toward the end of the novel.
    • The Nine Tailors again: In frustration at not being able to work out who did the murder, Lord Peter declares that he might as well say that he did it himself, or that the parish priest did it, or the man who rings the church bell to announce a death in the parish. It turns out in the end that all three of them were among those who inadvertantly contributed to Deacon's death.
    • At the beginning of Busman's Honeymoon, Peter and Harriet arrive at their honeymoon cottage and send Bunter to knock loudly when nobody lets them in, saying "Wake Duncan with thy knocking". This is what Macbeth says when Duncan is dead ("Wake Duncan ... I woulds't thou coulds't"). The person being knocked for is dead.
  • Fowl-Mouthed Parrot:
    • The Thodays in The Nine Tailors have a pet parrot, given to them by Will's sailor brother — which, unfortunately, came with a sailor's vocabulary.
    • In Murder Must Advertise, an old man in a pub tells an anecdote about his aunt's parrot, also acquired from a sailor. "Fortunately, the old lady couldn't hear half what it said, and didn't understand the other half."
  • Freudian Excuse: Discussed in Clouds of Witness — the Dowager Duchess of Denver is firmly opposed to modern psychology, and doesn't believe in "subconsciousness" or "repression." Later stories — particularly Gaudy Night — involve a greater deal of psychological analysis, of heroes and villains alike.
  • A Friend in Need:
    • In Strong Poison, two of Harriet's friends stick by her through the trial.
    • In Gaudy Night, after Harriet has defended his detecting — even if he does it for fun, he does do it, and many people have reason to thank him — and another woman brings up a neighbor who had helped with her drains for nothing because he liked working with them.
  • Friend on the Force: Lord Peter has two: Chief Inspector Charles Parker, his best friend who freely consults him on cases, and Sir Andrew Mackenzie, chief of Scotland Yard, who ensures he has formal access to evidence when necessary.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: In Gaudy Night, Peter sends a letter to his nephew, Gerald, Viscount St. George, who has got into trouble largely of his own making. Jerry notes that he can tell how angry Uncle Peter is by whether the letter salutes him by his nickname (Gherkins), as "Jerry", or as "Gerald" — and in this case, Uncle Peter's blazingly furious, because the salutation is "My dear St. George" and it's signed with Peter's full name. (The next letter, following some bridge-mending, begins "Dear Jerry" and ends "your querulous and rapidly decaying uncle, P.W.".)
  • Funetik Aksent: The Five Red Herrings features phonetic renderings of a range of accents from various parts of Scotland and Ireland, not to mention a travelling salesman with a very strange accent of no discernable origin.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Having already fallen for Harriet from afar while watching her navigate the murder trial, Peter falls in love all over again during their first real conversation when he discovers she shares his penchant for literary quotations.
  • Gender Vocabulary Slip: The central point of "The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question".
  • Genius Ditz: Freddy Arbuthnot has a deep understanding of the stock market, but in all other matters is a blithering Upper-Class Twit.
  • Genre Savvy: Peter and other characters often reference how people act in detective stories and the extent to which it fits "reality." It helps that Harriet writes detective fiction herself.
    • In Gaudy Night, the villain attempts to lure Harriet into a trap with a fake phone message from a friend. Harriet nearly falls for it, but then remembers a conversation with Peter laughing about how characters in novels never think to ring back and check the authenticity of messages like this.
  • Genre Shift: It doesn't stick, but The Nine Tailors makes gestures toward Magic Realism, and in Busman's Honeymoon the existence of the Wimsey family ghosts is an easily accepted fact.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Lord Peter. Expert on rare books, fond of obscure facts, World War I veteran who won the undying devotion of Sgt. Bunter (who becomes his valet), skillful in unarmed combat, an aristocrat with a self-deprecating sense of humor, an oenophile with an encyclopedic palate, legendary cricket player, keenly intelligent amateur detective, and (until he falls in love with Harriet Vane) definitely a ladies' man.
  • Gentleman Detective: Lord Peter.
  • Gentleman Thief: Nobby Cranton in The Nine Tailors wants to be one, but he's more of an aspirational burglar and spiv, and is not well-spoken or -mannered.
  • Give Away the Bride: In Busman's Honeymoon, Harriet's father and all her other blood relatives are dead by the time she marries. The closest thing she has to a family are the scholars of Shrewbury College, so the Warden of Shrewsbury gives her away.
  • A Glass in the Hand: In The Five Red Herrings, Peter is talking to a witness/suspect while playing with a tube of paint. When the witness innocently says something important to the case, Peter inadvertantly tightens his grip and bursts the tube. The real clue here turns out to be the brand of paint.
  • Gold Digger: In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, the murderer, for most of the novel, obviously had means and opportunity to do the crime, but no apparent motive. This changes when Lord Peter learns that he had been romancing Ann Dorland with the aim of getting a share of her inheritance.
  • Good Old Ways: Lord Peter tries to uphold them; the positives and negatives of such an approach (including the arrogance and entitlement of the male-dominated aristocratic elite) are freely discussed.
  • Gossipy Hens: The ladies of the church working party in Unnatural Death.
  • Go-to Alias: Peter generally uses "Death Bredon" (his two middle names).
  • Grande Dame: Helen, Duchess of Denver is a humourless, stuffy Society woman; Lady Hermione Creethorpe, in "The Queen's Square," is a more typical elderly example.
  • The Great Depression: Not a major factor, as it didn't hit England as hard as some other countries, but it is mentioned in the later books.
  • Greedy Jew: Averted. Lord Peter and his fellow aristocrats associate with a number of Jewish financiers, jewellers, and so forth, who are invariably presented sympathetically. The anti-Semitism of the era is discussed, but the only characters who express it themselves are either villainous or rather stupid.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Several villains are motivated by severe jealousy, including Sir Julian Freke, William Grimethorpe, Eric P. Loder, and Standish Weatherall.
  • Hanging Judge: The magistrate in Clouds of Witness and the judge in Strong Poison both deliberately steer their juries toward a guilty verdict on a capital charge. Fortunately, the former has no sentencing power, and the latter is stymied by an obstinate juror.
  • Harmless Lady Disguise: In "The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question", a lady's maid turns out to be a disguised male criminal. The noble lady employing the 'maid' is less than horrified to discover she's been dressed and undressed for the better part of a month by a young man. In fact she seems rather pleased.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Peter declares, "I am not gay." He's quoting a catchphrase from Maurice Maeterlinck's Pelleas And Melisande: "Je suis pas heureuse", which today would certainly be translated as "I am not happy."
  • Height Angst: After he fails to identify a clue relating to a tall man's murder in Busman's Honeymoon, a passage describes the 5'9" Lord Peter as opining: '"If I'd had more inches," said Peter, regretfully (for his height was a sensitive point with him) ...'
  • Hellish Horse: Invoked in "The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention", where a hoax haunting features a silent "death-coach" drawn by noiseless, headless horses.
  • Henpecked Husband: In In the Teeth of the Evidence, the police inspector is uncertain whether the death was accident or suicide. After interviewing the man's wife, he begins to strongly suspect the latter.
  • Here There Be Dragons: Discussed in "The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head". One of the things that arouses Lord Peter's suspicion of the villain is that he claims to have seen "hic dracones" on the maps in a mediaeval book. Lord Peter, being an actual book collector, knows how unlikely this is.
  • Heroic BSoD: Peter was badly shell-shocked in World War I, some years before the series begins; during the series, he has two intense breakdowns: one in Whose Body? and another in The Nine Tailors. He also feels his innocence and his very morality slowly slipping away over the course of the series.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Will Thoday in Nine Tailors dives into a flood to try to save a friend who fell. Neither of them make it. It's also a case of Death Equals Redemption, as Will is feeling guilty over his part in Deacon's death.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Peter has sent so many people to their deaths, even though most of them were murderers themselves, that he has come to view himself as a killer just as evil as those whom he brings to justice—if not more so, since he does it for his own amusement.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: In Gaudy Night, a female student is badly hung over. Harriet Vane writes out a recipe for a hangover remedy and tells another student to go to the chemist (Americans would say "drug store") and have them make up a batch. It works. The book doesn't say what's in it, though Harriet says that she suspects from the ingredients that it will be awful and hopes that it is because that might encourage the student to avoid needing it again.
  • High-Class Glass:
    • Peter wears a monocle. He's been known to swap it out for a fake monocle that's actually a powerful magnifying glass for surreptitiously examining crime scenes, but Gaudy Night establishes that he wore a monocle even during his active military service, which suggests it's not entirely an affectation. (Gaudy Night also establishes that he had the monocle during his college days, but that could go either way, really.)
    • The Bright Young Things' party in Murder Must Advertise has a female dancer who wears a top hat, monocle and patent-leather boots. And nothing else.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted; Peter was raised in the Church of England, and, though he's unsure of his own beliefs, he knows Christianity inside-out and bears it no ill will. He's friendly with a number of clergymen, consults them for moral advice, and politely attends church services and assists in ringing the bells.
  • Honorary Aunt: Viscount St George cajoles Harriet into the role. Later, of course, she becomes a real aunt.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Lord Peter suffers from this in his early cases. In Whose Body?, he feels compelled to visit the criminal shortly before they are arrested, and this warning very nearly allows them to escape justice.
    • Gerald appears to be doing this for much of Clouds of Witness. Subverted, though, in that he feels (not without some reason) that the harm he will cause to someone else by speaking out may be as great as the harm he may suffer by keeping silent.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards:
    • Unpleasantness ends with Robert Fentiman taking Ann Dorland out to a show. Totally un-coincidently he is exactly the kind of man Lord Peter predicted would like Anne very much and take a sincere pride in her intellectual superiority having no pretensions himself in that area.
    • In Have His Carcase, the murder victim was a professional dancer at a hotel, who had been going to marry one of the hotel's regular guests. The bride-to-be is inconsolable when she learns of his death, but at the end of the book there are signs she's finding solace in the arms of another dancer.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Hilary Thorpe in The Nine Tailors, described as "A red-haired girl of fifteen... tall and thin and rather gawky".
  • Identification by Dental Records: Though the identification is usually subverted. For example, in "In the Teeth of the Evidence," an evil dentist fakes his own death by deliberately faking a patient's teeth to look like his, then murdering the patient. The Nine Tailors also featured a failed dental identification.
  • Identifying the Body: In Whose Body?, after Lord Peter figures out the secret of the second body, the victim's widow is brought in to make a positive identification. It's shown to be difficult for her, particularly because of the condition of the corpse: it has been dissected; the head has been so mutilated as to be unrecognizable, so the identification relies on her knowledge of the rest of his body; and it has been decomposing in a flimsy pauper's coffin for several days.
  • Idiot Plot: Invoked in The Summation of Clouds of Witness - if Cathcart's death had been the only event taking place on the night in question, the solution would have been obvious. But, because Denver and Mary and Goyles were sneaking around on their own business at the same time, everyone involved in the case came to completely the wrong conclusions and nearly got themselves killed trying to untangle the mess.
  • Idle Rich: Discussed with scathing contempt by Antoine in Have His Carcase. He works in a resort town and part of his job involves pretending to be interested while rich tourists tell him how difficult their lives are, and none of them have any idea what real difficulty is.
  • If We Survive This: When they were serving together in the army, Lord Peter offered Bunter a job if they both survived.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: During the inquest in Whose Body? the Dowager Duchess's (high audible) comments to Parker conclude with, "What an awful little man the coroner is, isn't he? He's looking daggers at me. Do you think he'll dare to clear me out of the court or commit me for what-you-may-call-it?" Seeing that she is the Dowager Duchess, the coroner can only glare.
  • Imagine Spot: In Have His Carcase when Peter gently mocks Harriet for not being able to ride, she pictures him on a large, spirited horse. Her imagination then makes a "terrific effort" and places her by his side, riding an even larger, more spirited horse.
  • Impersonation Gambit: The "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste" has a villainous example; foreign agents get wind that Lord Peter has been sent to obtain certain secret information for Britain, and send an impostor to try and get the information first. The possessor of the secret, faced with two men claiming to be Lord Peter Wimsey, has to figure out a way to detect the real one. They're both impostors. Another character turns out to be the real Lord Peter, who travelled to the meeting under an alias, and had not yet made himself known when the first impostor showed up, at which point he decided to keep quiet and see what happened next.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Thorpes are this in The Nine Tailors due to the theft of a houseguest's priceless emerald necklace that they insisted on compensating her for.
  • Inheritance Murder:
    • In Unnatural Death, this is considered the most plausible reason why somebody might have wanted to murder old Miss Dawson — the difficulty being that she was already dying, and apparently had no intentions of changing her will, so her death would have made no difference to who inherited. The light dawns when Peter recalls that a new law recently went into effect, changing the rules of inheritance... and her early death ensured that the inheritance was disposed of under the old rules.
    • In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, inheritance also seems like the obvious motive, complicated by the fact that the will had some intricate conditions and not everybody involved had a clear idea what it stipulated, so the solution involves not only who stood to benefit from the death but who believed, rightly or wrongly, that they stood to benefit. All the direct legatees turn out to be innocent; the murderer is one legatee's gold-digging fiancé.
    • Busman's Honeymoon uses a similar solution to Unpleasantness. In this case, it takes a while for inheritance to come up as a possible motive, because (unbeknownst, it turns out, to the murderer) the victim was on verge of bankruptcy and had nothing to bequeath except a pile of debts.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • In Have His Carcase, Lord Peter gets in touch with some old friends at the Foreign Office, whom he addresses as "Chumps", "Bungo", and "Trotters". They, in turn, know him as "Wimbles".
    • In Gaudy Night, one of the men who served under Peter in the War tells Harriet that his unit used to call him "Windowpane", on account of his High-Class Glass.
    • It's revealed at one point that at school Peter was saddled with the mocking nickname "Flimsy Wimsey", which evolved into the less disrespectful "Flim" as he gained the esteem of his peers.
  • Inspector Lestrade:
    • Charles Parker usually fills this role to Lord Peter. The two are very good friends, however, and Parker is a lot sharper than the stereotypical example of the trope, but he definitely benefits from Peter's lateral thinking skills.
    • In Whose Body?, Inspector Sugg is the kind who spends the entire novel being territorial and barking up wrong trees. Lampshaded, with Lord Peter remarking that he's "like a detective in a novel".
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: At the climax of Busman's Honeymoon, Lord Peter demonstrates how the murderer set up a death trap that killed the victim while the murderer was miles away establishing an alibi. Harriet remarks that it all depends on the victim not noticing that anything has changed about the way the furniture is arranged; the words are barely out of her mouth when the murderer walks in, doesn't notice that anything has changed about the way the furniture is arranged, and comes within inches of being killed by his own death trap.
  • Insult Friendly Fire: In The Unpleasantness of the Bellona Club, Peter and Parker are discussing the case when Peter makes a complaining comment about the police always taking the most suspicious view of things, having forgotten for the moment that the category of "the police" includes his friend.
  • Inter-Class Romance:
    • Peter, the younger son of a duke, courts Harriet, the orphan of a country doctor.
    • Mary, daughter of a duke, courts Parker, a middle-class police inspector.
  • Interdisciplinary Sleuth: Usually Peter is an Amateur Sleuth, but occasionally his sleuthing intersects with his bibliophily, his classical education and/or his historical training.
  • I Owe You My Life: Harriet feels this way toward Peter after Strong Poison, and resents him for the debt, for the continuing scandal she endures after the trial, and for restoring her to life and then pursuing her affections.
  • I Remember Because...:
    • One witness in Unnatural Death notes that she remembers Miss Dawson's maids' surname because it was such a silly name: "Gotobed".
    • Averted in Whose Body? and Clouds of Witness, where investigators and witnesses spend several pages painstakingly reconstructing memories with reference to physical records, and where I Remember Because... explanations are specifically referred to as inadmissible in court.
    • Subverted in Strong Poison; the servants remember in detail everything Boyes could possibly have eaten or drank in their house because the murderer is their master and he made sure they remembered, to create the impression Boyes couldn't have been poisoned on their premises.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Gaude, Sabaoth, John, Jericho, Jubilee, Dimity, Batty Thomas, and Tailor Paul. Nine Tailors Make a Man.
    • The first spoken word in Whose Body? is the same as the final spoken word in Busman's Honeymoon, and is said by the same person, but in a very different context and mood.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Regularly sending people to the gallows eventually causes Peter to view himself as an evil person, the cause for the He Who Fights Monsters and Hollywood Atheist tropes above.
  • It's for a Book:
    • In Unnatural Death, Peter claims to be writing a history of local families when he investigates the Dawson family tree.
    • Inverted in Strong Poison: the suspicious behaviour that makes Harriet a suspect in Boyes' murder really was research for a book.
    • In The Five Red Herrings, the killer acquires a tool he uses to fake up his alibi by claiming he needs it for a book-binding hobby.
  • The Jeeves: Bunter is famously efficient and deferential, and is explicitly compared to Jeeves.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Inspector Sugg spends Whose Body? bullying witnesses, arresting the wrong suspects, and trying to keep Lord Peter out of his investigation. He's next seen in Clouds of Witness helping Peter, Parker and Freddie Arbuthnot safely home after a drunken night out.
    • Gerald Wimsey, Duke of Denver, is thoroughly conventional and rather stupid but faced with a choice between risking his own life and endangering the woman he's been having an extramarital affair with he unhesitatingly plumps for the former. He's been accused of murder and she's his alibi, but she's married to a violently abusive man who will certainly kill her if he finds out she's been unfaithful. And his only concern about Peter's marriage to Harriet - a woman well below him in rank and somewhat notorious - is whether she really loves him or not.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: Busman's Holiday provides the page quote, which lampshades the trope. One of the suspects is indeed left-handed, but it turns out that the fatal blow was struck in a way that renders considerations of handedness irrelevant.
    Lord Peter Wimsey: On the left, from behind downwards. That looks like another of our old friends.
    Harriet Vane: The left-handed criminal.
    Lord Peter Wimsey: It's surprising how often you get them in detective fiction. A sort of sinister twist running right through the character.
  • Kissing Cousins: The duke and his wife, as Harriet points out when Peter worries about children.
  • Knight Templar:
    • At the climax of Strong Poison, Lord Peter tells Norman Urquhart that he has just given him a massive dose of arsenic and asks why he isn't showing symptoms. This prompts Urquhart to break down and confess that he has made himself immune to arsenic, and so was able to kill his cousin by splitting an arsenic-laced omelette with him. Then Parker arrests him. Of course, Peter says that he was lying about the arsenic in the sweets, but there's also a possibility that he wasn't...
    • Lord Peter talking a murderer into shooting himself at the end of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy:
    • In Strong Poison, The Hon. Freddy saw a man who knows a fellow who has it from a chappie that the villain is in financial trouble. The man owed Freddy a favour, and can have the fellow put him in touch with the chappie in exchange for another favour — for the chappie, that is, not for the fellow, or the man. Y'see?
    • Have His Carcase has the more restrained version; Lord Peter knows a fellow who can put him in touch with a man who's an expert in code-breaking and can easily decipher the secret message he's found. Unfortunately, the fellow explains that the expert is out of the country, so Peter and Harriet have to figure out the secret message themselves.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: In the cricket match in Murder Must Advertise, Ingleby in his first innings is out for zero, called "out for a duck". When he returns to the pavilion, Wimsey tells him "Quack, quack." Ingleby throws the bat at him.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Repeatedly. For the entire mystery genre.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Lord Peter gets a blackmailer to return the stolen items by turning the tables.
  • Last-Name Basis:
    • The staff of Pym's Publicity in Murder Must Advertise. Some of them have worked there for years but it's still 'Mr.' this and 'Miss' that.
    • The SCR in Gaudy Night all refer to each other by title or honorific, except for very close friends, who use last-name-based nicknames, like "Teddy" for Miss Edwards.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Harriet and Peter have a conversation about her latest detective novel and the pros and cons of stretching herself beyond the genre standards to give the protagonists authentic psychological depth — in Gaudy Night, the novel that's all about stretching beyond the genre standards to give the protagonists authentic psychological depth.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol:
    • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club has Lord Peter and one of his allies allow Dr. Penberthy to take this way out to spare his innocent ex-fiancée the disgrace of a wrongful trial.
    • Less literally in Murder Must Advertise. During their final conversation, Tallboy mentions to Lord Peter that he's considered suicide to spare his family the trouble that will come when his part in the criminal conspiracy comes out. Lord Peter points out that at the moment he could commit suicide just by walking down the street, as the other criminal conspirators have a history of arranging "accidents" for people who have let them down. Tallboy takes the hint.
  • Let Off by the Detective: In The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face Lord Peter decides not to try to prove his theory because the victim is a villain and the alleged murderer a gifted painter.
  • Likes Older Women: Reggie Pomfret in Gaudy Night, an undergraduate of twenty or so, is taken with Harriet (who's in her early-to-mid-thirties).
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Mr. Oliver, from a copy of Oliver Twist, in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.
  • Lite Crème: In Murder Must Advertise, Lord Peter, who is working undercover at an ad agency as a copywriter, explains the limitations and requirements of the English labeling laws in some detail to his sister and brother-in-law while visiting them, including details such as the difference between "made from pears" and "made with pears".
  • Literary Allusion Title:
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: Miss Climpson investigates solo in Unnatural Death and Strong Poison.
  • Loan Shark: In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, George Fentiman's financial troubles are exacerbated by a loan taken in the past from one of these, which has left him facing an imminent repayment of 1500 pounds. Neither the loan shark nor any of his agents appear in person, but the situation makes George a suspect for a spot of Inheritance Murder.
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: Discussed and averted in Busman's Honeymoon. Peter refuses to have either at his wedding, and the happy couple is played out with Bach instead.
  • Long Game: In Whose Body? Julian Freke pretended to be friends with Reuben and Christine Levy for decades, all the while waiting for the perfect opportunity to murder Reuben for "stealing" Christine from him.
  • Long List: Peter rattles off a particularly impressive one in The Nine Tailors, consisting of all the things he's figured out about the case. The only thing missing from it is the identity of the murderer.
  • Lost in Character: In Murder Must Advertise, Peter gets enough into the character of Death Bredon and the details of his Whiffle campaign that an interruption from Scotland Yard with evidence related to his actual case is greeted with genuinely heartfelt cursing.
  • Lost Wedding Ring: Played with in Busman's Honeymoon. The best man at Peter and Harriet's wedding does lose the ring, but Peter uses his detective skills to find it again so quickly that the whole thing is only a one sentence aside instead of a major plot point.
  • Lost Will and Testament:
    • In "The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention", the governor's will is discovered next to an old book in a decrepit library. Lord Peter deduces, from the water stains on the book but not the will, that one of the heirs had hidden it there to keep the condition from being fulfilled.
    • In "The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will", Meleager Finch hides his will and leaves his niece a set of clues to its location in the form of a crossword puzzle.
  • Loveable Rogue: Jock Graham in The Five Red Herrings; Nobby Cranton in The Nine Tailors.
  • Luck-Based Search Technique: In Strong Poison, Miss Murchison attempts to open a secret wall cavity by pressing anything that looks like it might be a concealed switch, with no success during a quarter-hour's concerted effort. Then she trips and falls against the wall and hits the switch entirely by chance.
  • Mad Artist: "The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers" concerns a sculptor who disposed of his murdered girlfriend by dipping her into his bronze-plating solution, thus turning her into a statue.
  • Mad Lib Thriller Title: The Dawson Pedigree, an alternate title used by some US editions of Unnatural Death.
  • Magic from Technology: In one story, Lord Peter convinces the inhabitants of a small Basque village that he is a magician by using modern technology. ("Jesu Maria, the wizard could make music come out of a box!") It seems that this is a village so backwards and isolated that not only has not heard about the radio by the late '20s, but neither the gramophone or even music boxes.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: In The Nine Tailors, Lord Peter convinces the Chief Constable to swear him in as a special constable so that he can follow up a clue with the French police in person (even though it wouldn't be part of a special constable's duties, and the proper course of action would be to send to Scotland Yard for a police officer who can speak French).
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Invoked in Have His Carcase. When Lord Peter, Harriet, and the local policeman all hear a story revolving about an Indian rajah who supposedly did not know about banknotes, the policeman objects: what sort of Indian rajah would not know about banknotes? Why, many of them had been educated at Oxford.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In Murder Must Advertise, members of the drug ring who are too indiscreet or otherwise become liabilities have a statistically unlikely tendency to be hit by runaway lorries or fall under subway trains.
  • Malaproper: The Dowager Duchess, on occasion.
    I said to her, "Well, my dear, tell Peter what you feel, but do remember he's just as vain and foolish as most men and not a chameleon to smell any sweeter for being trodden on." On consideration, think I meant "camomile".
  • Malicious Slander:
    • In Unnatural Death, a doctor recounts to Lord Peter how his suspicions about an old woman's death had been translated into wild accusations by the rumor mill, forcing him to leave town.
    • The villain in Gaudy Night distributes slanderous letters to turn her victims against each other and themselves.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: In Strong Poison — who knows who is the father of the children born to an infamous actress?
  • Matter of Life and Death: Sir Julian's attempt to get into Parker's cab and there murder him has him urging this.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • The solution to The Nine Tailors — rationally plausible, but spooky.
    • "The Image in the Mirror" suggests that twin brothers might share a psychic connection, though it lampshades the unlikelihood.
    • In Murder Must Advertise, Dian de Momerie, in conversation with a disguised Lord Peter, seems to have a moment of telepathy: "There's a hanged man in your thoughts. Why are you thinking of hanging?" Lord Peter's internal monologue tries to explain it as an effect of the drink and drugs she's taken.
  • Meaningful Echo: Halfway through Murder Must Advertise, there's a scene where a diguised Lord Peter, playing up his role as a mystery man, tells Dian de Momerie that when his task is complete he will return to the place from which he came, deliberately echoing the traditional wording of a judge handing down a death sentence. At the end, as the murderer goes to his death, Lord Peter completes the quotation to himself, picking up from where the earlier quotation left off.
  • Meaningful Name: Hallelujah Dawson. Yes, that's his real name. Yes, he's a missionary. How did you guess? Then there's the venerable Rev. Venables (see The Vicar, below) and the equally Reverend Tredgold (named in anticipation of Heaven's golden streets). Arguably, Wimsey's own name is an example, and lampshaded in the series: his coat of arms bears the motto "As My Whimsy Takes Me."
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The murder in Murder Must Advertise was an attempt to keep the lid on an extensive criminal conspiracy, and Lord Peter's investigation of the murder results in the entire criminal organisation being brought down.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: In Five Red Herrings, the wealthy painter Gowan has his friends and servants arrange an elaborate alibi, and skips the country in the middle of the night, because Campbell cut off his prized beard.
  • Mirroring Factions: As a few characters in Murder Must Advertise point out, there are distinct parallels between illegal drug distribution and the advertising industry.
  • Mirror Routine: In "The Image in the Mirror", a man who suffers from a chronic fear of doppelgängers meets his long-lost Evil Twin when he mistakes him for a reflection in a glass door, then has a panic attack.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Mentioned by Wimsey in Murder Must Advertise:
    In all social difficulties, ask Uncle Ugly. Do you want to know how many buttons there should be on a dress waistcoat? How to eat an orange in public? How to introduce your first-wife-that-was to your third-wife-to-be? Uncle Ugly will put you right.
  • More Hero Than Thou: In Nine Tailors, two men try to shield each other from blame for murder, unaware that neither of them did it.
  • Morning Sickness: In Jill Paton Walsh's Thrones, Dominations, Harriet vomits several times earlier throughout the book, foreshadowing that she's pregnant with their first child, Bredon.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Harriet Vane is a mystery writer, enabling a lot of lampshade-hanging and some venting about the difficulties of the writer's life.
  • Motive Rant: Annie Wilson at the end of Gaudy Night berates the S.C.R. for what she sees as a betrayal of the feminine ideal (never mind that the S.C.R. are actually for the most part fairly girly — they're bluestockings, not tomboys). She is arguably the only ideologically-motivated villain in the entire series (although revenge also plays a part), and the scene in question is both highly effective and unbelievably offensive and disturbing. This single scene is typically considered Sayers's masterpiece.
  • Motor Mouth: Peter has a tendency to gabble on impulsively, particularly in the earlier books. His mother has the same habit, but it's also suggested that Peter uses it as a defence mechanism of sorts against his emotional demons.
  • Mysterious Note: Mysterious poison-pen letters (together with pranks and outright vandalism) are part of a plot against Shrewsbury College, Oxford in Gaudy Night.
  • Mystery Writer Detective: Harriet Vane is best known for her detective novels. She takes an active part in the investigations of Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • Sir Julian Freke in Whose Body?.
    • William Bright (because Light Is Not Good) in Have His Carcase.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: The Five Red Herrings features several foul-mouthed characters, whose utterances are hidden variously behind euphemisms ("I'll break your qualified neck for this") and a large number of dashes, with or without an initial letter. (When there's an initial letter, it's most often a "b" — and, interestingly, the word "bastard" appears openly more than once, suggesting that "b———" is something even stronger. note )
  • Necessarily Evil: Peter hates himself a lot.
  • Never One Murder:
    • Averted in the first two novels, but the third makes up for it, with the antagonist following up the original murder by bumping off two people who know too much and making attempts on the lives of three more. Peter is left feeling guilty about it, because some if not all of those people would have been left alone if he hadn't frightened the murderer by sticking his nose in.
    • Discussed in Have His Carcase, when Peter and Harriet are discussing ways of narrowing down the list of suspects.
      'No; well, there's the Philo Vance method. You shake your head and say: "There's worse yet to come", and then the murderer kills five more people, and that thins the suspects out a bit and you spot who it is.'
      'Wasteful, wasteful,' said Wimsey. 'And too slow.'
  • Never the Obvious Suspect:
    • In Strong Poison, Harriet is the obvious suspect in the poisoning of Philip Boyes — so much so that the story starts with a judge summing up the evidence for the jury at Harriet's trial. After the jury returns a hung verdict, Lord Peter has thirty days to prove that Harriet didn't do it.
    • Discussed in The Five Red Herrings. Lord Peter says that if he ever writes a detective novel, it will begin with a man being murdered in such a way that there's only one, very obvious, suspect, and end, twenty chapters full of red herrings later, with the revelation that it was the obvious suspect who did it. Parker laughs and mentions that this is the ordinary solution in real life.
    • Discussed in Busman's Honeymoon, just before interviewing the last person to see the victim alive:
      Lord Peter: Enter the obvious suspect.
      Harriet: The obvious suspect is always innocent.
      Superintendent Kirk: In books, my lady.
  • Never Suicide: Played both ways over the course of the series. In Have His Carcase, Peter correctly suspects murder when the police are ready to write the death off as suicide; on the other hand, in Clouds of Witness the apparent murder turns out to have been suicide in the end.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: When the time comes to take undercover work in an advertising agency, Wimsey turns out to be a great copywriter. When he has to learn to pick locks, the expert criminal says he could have been a great thief. When a spoiled society girl wants a thrilling adventure, he delivers it perfectly. When a theatrical agent seeks the lead for his play, Wimsey is perfect. Even when the elderly vicar of a tiny village which still keeps up the ancient practice of bell-tolling needs help, Lord Peter Wimsey is the expert bell-ringer.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: "The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba" was published in 1928 and set in 1929.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: At the beginning of The Nine Tailors, Lord Peter agrees to help with Fenchurch St Paul's new-year bell-ringing, which would otherwise have to be cancelled due to a shortfall of experienced bell-ringers. If the bell-ringing had not gone ahead, Deacon would not have died, and Lord Peter would not have the guilt of his part in the tragedy to add to all his other guilts.
  • No More for Me: Lord Peter's reaction to seeing a spectral coach drawn by headless horses, in "The Bone of Contention": "Good Lord! How many whiskies did we have?"
  • Non-Idle Rich: Lord Peter.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The Attenbury Emeralds case.
    • An incident with a pig, during the war, mentioned in Gaudy Night.
  • Notable Non Sequitur: In the short story "The String of Pearls", when the suspects are all searched the pearls don't appear but Sayers takes an apparent whimsical tangent on the weird and random stuff people keep in their pockets. Inevitably, one of these random things turns out to be a clue as to who took the pearls and where they are now. Also inevitably, the reader is expected to realise this, so some of the other suspects have random items that really are random, but which look as if they could be used to conceal the pearls somehow, or else suggest a motive.
  • Notably Quick Deliberation: Subverted in Strong Poison, when Harriet is on trial for murder. Everybody in the gallery expects a quick deliberation, but it drags on for hours and the jury foreman eventually reports that they've been unable to agree on a verdict.
  • Not a Game: Investigating murder. Parker points this out explicitly in Whose Body?
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: In Gaudy Night, Peter has been investigating the backgrounds of the suspects, but Harriet is too distracted to take in what he's saying. She's able to recite some of his findings back to him, but misses the clues that would have allowed her to join the dots and identify the criminal herself.
  • Not Proven: Have His Carcase ends with Peter and Harriet knowing who committed the murder, how it was done, and that it will be incredibly difficult to prove it to a jury—but in Gaudy Night it's revealed that the murderer was in fact convicted and hanged.
  • Not with Them for the Money:
    • One of the reasons Parker takes so long to make his feelings for Lady Mary known is the disparity between her wealth and his middle-class earnings. Part of the agreement they come to is that her money is put in a trust for their children, out of which the trustees pay her an allowance in line with his income.
    • Lord Peter's courtship of Harriet Vane is, if anything, impeded by his vast wealth clashing with her strong desire to stand on her own feet. Shortly after they finally get together, Lord Peter expresses the suspicion that if he'd had nothing more than the clothes on his back, she'd probably have married him years earlier, and Harriet admits that this is quite plausible.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Peter and Climpson seem to use this as their entire modus operandi.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive:
    • In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, an attempt is made to obscure the time of death by propping the deceased up in a phone booth and then establishing him in his usual armchair at the club, apparently asleep behind a newspaper — where, since that's his usual daily routine, he remains undisturbed for nearly three hours.
    • In Five Red Herrings, it initially seems that Campbell slipped and fell to his death while out painting, but it's quickly established that he's been dead since before he was seen heading out to paint, and ultimately that every time somebody thought they saw him alive that morning was his killer impersonating him to lay a false trail. (It's not a full example of the trope, however, as the killer does it by dressing in his distinctive outerwear and never goes to the extreme of puppeteering the corpse itself.)
  • Oh, Crap!: Younger brother of an Upper-Class Twit, Lord Peter goes out of his way to cultivate an Upper-Class Twit image himself. The hapless criminals of Britain think of him as "Bertie Wooster playing detective"; by the time they find themselves face to face with Lord Peter's frightening intelligence, it's much too late.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Wimsey and Harriet Vane go punting in Gaudy Night, and the scene is retained in the 1987 BBC television production. Such boating excursions are traditional at Oxford, where the story is set. The modern twists on this are their practical discussion of Harriet's poison pen prankster investigation and the "spot of celibacy" Harriet is maintaining, despite Wimsey's numerous proposals of matrimony.
  • Old Flame Fizzle: Harriet goes to the Shrewsbury Gaudy for the chance to see an old schoolmate who was her inseparable best friend in their college days. She discovers that they've changed too much in the intervening years and now have nothing in common.
  • Old Retainer: Bunter is young yet, and the first of his family to serve a Wimsey, but he has all the hallmarks of maturing into it. Even more so in Jill Paton Walsh's sequels.
  • Ominous Fog: At one point in Clouds of Witness, Lord Peter and Bunter spend several hours wandering the moor in increasing distress after becoming lost in the fog. With a bit of dramatic appropriateness, this occurs at a point when the investigation has hit a dead end and they can't see what line of inquiry to pursue next — and their rescue from the fog leads directly to Lord Peter stumbling over a clue that breaks one part of the mystery wide open.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: Climpson stages a seance using this at the climax of Strong Poison.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Several quite unusual names — Gotobed, Pomfret, Jukes — reappear throughout the books, attached to presumably unrelated characters. There's also one story where two brothers are called Haviland and Martin, and in a later book an unrelated character is called Haviland Martin.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Peter is shot in the shoulder in Clouds of Witness, and seems barely wounded at all — he tells the shooter that if he'd hit him "in the head, or the heart, or anywhere that matters," they'd really be in trouble.
  • Only One Plausible Suspect: In Strong Poison, it's clear to the reader from quite early on which character must have done the murder; the suspense is maintained because it's less clear how and why.
  • On One Condition:
    • In "The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will", the will specifies a puzzle that must be solved in order to locate the actual bequest.
    • "The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention" turns on a will by which The Unfavorite son inherited until his father was buried, whereupon it would all pass to the other son. Friends of The Unfavorite stole the body to prevent burial, Lord Peter discovers the will in a book, family disputes erupt, and the final touch is Lord Peter's deducing that from the water stain in the book but not the will, that the other son had hidden the will so The Unfavorite would not find out about the condition in time.
  • Oop North:
    • Clouds of Witness begins in rural Yorkshire, complete with dour, taciturn farmers and boggy moors.
    • The Five Red Herrings is set largely in the south of Scotland, but occasionally crosses the border.
    • Parker is originally from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
  • Open Sesame: The words Open Sesame must be spoken in Peter's voice to open the inner compartment of the safe in The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba.
  • Opposites Attract: Inspector Parker and Lady Mary for multiple reasons. One is that she's the daughter of a Duke and a member of hereditary aristocracy, and he's a commoner. The other is that he's a high-ranking police officer and she's a devoted communist-sympathiser.
  • The Pardon: The post-World War I pardon of deserters is a plot point in Nine Tailors. In the backstory, a man deserted from a British regiment during a battle in France and settled down nearby. His French wife knew he was a deserter and helped him keep his identity secret.note  However, he continued to keep his identity secret even after the pardon, showing he had something else to hide.
  • Parental Favoritism: In Busman's Honeymoon, the Dowager Duchess explicitly tells Harriet that Peter is her favorite child.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Several parents attempt this, including Lady Levy's and Lady Dormer's, because the prospective spouse is middle-class and/or Jewish. Often, the couple frustrate them by eloping. The Levys go on to veto The Hon. Freddy Arbuthnot's suit to Rachel Levy, but he proves himself by courting her for seven years and agreeing to raise their children Jewish.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Lord Peter is brought in to determine who it is. Subverted. One of the two wills leaves a generous sum of money to two brothers, but leaves far more to the younger. Peter wonders if the elder brother might have felt passed over, only to be told that he knew and approved; he had a steady job and no family to support, whereas his younger brother had a wife and children and a difficult time finding work due to PTSD.
  • The Perfect Crime:
    • In Whose Body?, part of the murderer's motive is the desire to demonstrate that it's possible to commit the perfect crime when unhampered by irrational considerations like sentiment and conscience; he claims that if he hadn't been caught he would have written up the whole experiment and arranged for it to be published after his death for the edification of posterity.
    • In Unnatural Death, contemplating a murder that initially passed as a death by natural causes, Lord Peter asserts that the only perfect crime is one that goes undetected; as soon as anybody suspects that there's been a crime, it's a failure.
  • Perp Sweating: Sir Impey Biggs actually pulls this on Wimsey in Clouds of Witness, complete with the lamp in the face, while pumping him for information to use in Gerald's defence. Wimsey, annoyed, turns the lamp off, unplugs it, and moves it to the other side of the room.
  • Pirate Booty: In "The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head", Lord Peter and his nephew track down the treasure of "Cut-Throat" Conyers, who was widely believed to have been a pirate and sailed with Blackbeard. Conyers hid the treasure many years after he'd retired from piracy and settled down as a country landowner.
  • Planning with Props: In Have His Carcase, Peter asks Harriet over breakfast to tell him about how she found the body, and she uses knives, spoons, and a salt cellar to lay out the key details of the location.
  • Poison Is Evil: Much discussed in Strong Poison. Mystery novelist Harriet Vane is tried for poisoning her lover Phillip Boyes with arsenic. Despite a mistrial, she is widely assumed to be guilty and vilified on that account. Norman Urquhart's cook comments on this to Bunter, "...but the horrors of slow poisoning, that's the work of a fiend."
  • Priceless Ming Vase: Played for drama in Gaudy Night. Harriet spends several chapters desiring an ancient and delicate chess set, which Peter eventually buys for her, marking a turning point in their relationship. It lasts less than a chapter before being smashed to pieces by the Shrewsbury vandal.
  • Professional Maiden Name: In Busman's Honeymoon, Lord Peter's new wife Harriet agrees to be Harriet Wimsey for everyday purposes (and gets a small thrill the first time she has occasion to write her new name), but states without hesitation that she'll continue to be "Harriet Vane" on her book covers.
  • Promotion to Parent: Peter becomes trustee of a fortune left to the orphaned Hilary Thorpe in The Nine Tailors, letting him ensure she gets the best education and pursues her career, despite the objections of her old-fashioned uncle and guardian.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: In Murder Must Advertise, Death Bredon's new co-workers ask him how he pronounces his first name (which so far they've only seen written down). He says that most people with the name "Death" pronounce it to rhyme with "teeth", but he prefers it to rhyme with "breath". He is promptly addressed only as 'Bredon' or 'Mr. Bredon.'
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Ann Dorland's ex tries to portray her this way in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. Wimsey recognises in her the same trauma he experienced after the war, and is able to gain her trust enough to determine that she's entirely innocent, while her ex is not only a cad but a murderer.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Mary Whitaker in Unnatural Death fits a lot of the lesbian stereotypes of the era - she's described as "sexless", domineering, having no use for men, and as predating on a younger woman. Ultimately, her sexuality, if any, is never confirmed, and money becomes her only goal.
  • Pun-Based Title: Lots of these in the short stories, for example:
    • "The Entertaining Episode Of The Article In Question"
    • "In The Teeth Of The Evidence"
    • "The Undignified Melodrama Of The Bone Of Contention"
  • Quicksand Sucks: Clouds of Witness has Peter's Pot, a dangerous bog just outside Farmer Grimethorpe's farm.
  • Quitting to Get Married:
    • In Strong Poison, this is how Lord Peter was able to get one of his staffers from his typing bureau to infiltrate Norman Urquhart's law office. The office manager complains to him that the last female secretary was overcome by "a whim" and she ran off to get married. Lord Peter advises Miss Climpson to instruct the replacement to "make sure her skirts are the regulation four inches below the knee" because the manager is "feeling anti-sex appeal".
    • A few books later in Gaudy Night, Harriet tries to get hold of Miss Murchison (the lady from the typing bureau who did the infiltration) only to find that she has left the typing bureau to get married.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Defied in Strong Poison — Wimsey, frustrated with his lack of progress, is tempted to smash the mirror and throw a tantrum. But he quickly overrules the instinct, on the grounds that it wouldn't help at all with the problem at hand.
  • Rats in a Box: In The Nine Tailors, neither Wimsey nor the police can figure out which of two brothers murdered the victim, so they put the brothers alone in a room and secretly listen to what they say to each other. It turns out that neither of them did it, but both thought the other did, and so they had been unnecessarily covering for each other.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Contemporary critics thought the method of murder used in Unnatural Death was laughable. Not only is it plausible, it was used as a method of execution by the Nazi medical system, and was the M.O. of at least one real-world serial killer.
  • Real Name as an Alias: Peter Death Bredon Wimsey goes in disguise under the name of "Death Bredon" in Murder Must Advertise and "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In Clouds of Witness Peter delivers a richly deserved one to Mary's fiancé, Goyles when, after spending half the book tracking him down it turns out that Goyles hadn't shot Cathcart at all, only stumbled across his body in the dark and ran off in a panic.
  • Redemption Equals Death: In The Nine Tailors, Will Thoday dies at the end trying to rescue a friend from a flood. He had been (inadvertantly) responsible for the painful death of another character, and had been unable to forgive himself.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Male members of the Wimsey family usually turn out this way, according to their chronicler. From the other Wiki:
    "Most Wimseys were like the 16th Duke, and his father: 'Bluff, courageous, physically powerful' but not very intelligent; of hearty and voracious appetites of all kinds. They could be 'cruel, yet without malice or ingenuity.' The other type is physically slighter, smarter, with great nervous energy, and 'lusts no less powerful, but more dangerously controlled to a long-sighted policy.' These became churchmen, statesmen, traitors; but sometimes poets and saints.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The murderer's plot in Whose Body?, which is, at that, less audacious than their original plan — to make it look like Sir Reuben disappeared into thin air, leaving behind a pile of empty clothes.
  • Regal Ruff: In Thrones, Dominations, Harriet's mourning dress has "a sort of Elizabethan collar," white and pleated. Her dressmaker has a dozen of them made up for her, and she loans one to Rosamund Harwell which ends up being a clue in Rosamund's murder: It's supposed to go with a black mourning dress, not the white dress her corpse was found wearing.
  • Releasing from the Promise: Lord Peter released his first fiancée from their engagement when he had to go away to war, having been persuaded that it wouldn't be fair on her if he came back crippled. In the event, he came back whole of wind and limb, to find that in the interim she'd married somebody else with fewer scruples.
  • Remember That You Trust Me: Toward the end of Busman's Honeymoon, when the stress of the case starts getting to Peter, he inadvertantly shuts Harriet out emotionally because he's not yet used to having her there to support him. At the very end, he makes a conscious decision to turn to her for comfort, signalling that he's going to remember in future.
  • Rescue Romance: Played with. Harriet doesn't fall immediately into Peter's arms after he rescues her, partly because she still has to work through the emotional wreckage of the situation he's rescued her from, and then she has to work through the emotional tangle resulting from having to be rescued. It's years before they eventually get together, and there's a strong impression that not only would they still have got together if they'd met in a rescue-free context, it probably would have happened much quicker.
  • Rich Bitch:
  • Rich Boredom: Harriet admits that Peter catches murderers for fun, but it's still good work.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Peter's standard pose. Younger brother of an Upper-Class Twit, Lord Peter goes out of his way to cultivate an Upper-Class Twit image himself. The hapless criminals of Britain think of him as "Bertie Wooster playing detective"; by the time they find themselves face to face with Lord Peter's frightening intelligence, it's much too late.
  • Rightful King Returns: Invoked in Have His Carcase. The murder victim, whose family were refugees from the Russian Revolution, read a lot of novels with this trope and believed himself to be a rightful heir due a return. The murderer learned about his delusion and played on it to lure him to his doom.
  • Right on the Tick: At the end of Busman's Honeymoon. Lord Peter falls apart at 8am, because he knows that's when the murderer he caught is being hanged.
  • Rogue Juror: At the beginning of Strong Poison, Miss Climpson is the jury holdout in the murder trial of Harriet Vane, and convices a couple of other jurors to hold out with her. This leads to a hung jury and a retrial, allowing Peter time to find the evidence to clear Harriet.
  • Royal Blood: Invoked in Have His Carcase. Harriet wonders if the victim really did have imperial blood, which provides a "Eureka!" Moment for Peter: Did he have haemophilia, like the Russian royal family?
  • Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: The solution to Busman's Honeymoon. The murderer weighted a metal cactus pot that hung above the radio, such that when the victim opened the radio cabinet to turn it on, the pot would drop and kill him.
  • Running Gag: Invoked in Have His Carcase. The first half of the novel has a running gag where Peter ends every conversation with Harriet, no matter how short, by asking her to marry him. Halfway through the novel they have a conversation about the state of their relationship in which Peter admits he's been deliberately making a joke out of it so that neither of them have to treat the offer any more seriously than they're ready for. After that, he still proposes from time to time, but not with the same regularity (and Harriet is more unsettled than she expected the first time she notices that he's finished a conversation without proposing).
  • Satchel Switcheroo: In "The Cat in the Bag" a bag containing stolen jewellery accidentally gets swapped with one containing an actress's severed head.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Discussed in Whose Body?, when Peter considers ceasing investigating the railway baron Milligan because he made a generous donation to the Duke's Denver church. Parker reminds him that he has a duty to catch criminals even if they're rich, or charitable, or likeable.
  • Second Love: Harriet, for Lord Peter (his first love was Barbara, to whom he briefly alludes in Strong Poison). And possibly vice versa, though in retrospect she would probably decline to dignify her feelings for Philip Boyes as "love".
  • Second-Person Narration: In the exhumation sequence in Whose Body? — 'you' is Lord Peter.
  • Secret Test of Character: As mentioned under Silly Will below, one of Lord Peter's cases involves figuring out why a fabulously rich and extremely eccentric uncle had left to his medical student nephew the uncle's digestive tract, and all contents thereof. The explanation turns out to be that the uncle purchased and swallowed a fortune in gemstones just before jumping out a window. If the nephew could work this out, he would legally inherit all those gemstones, which would be more than enough money to last him a lifetime.
  • Self-Poisoning Gambit: The solution of Strong Poison.
  • Serial Killer: Mary Whitaker is the Black Widow variant, and relies on a low-profile, Make It Look Like an Accident method.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Huge whacks of Busman's Honeymoon
  • Shaped Like Itself: In Bellona Club, a stranger is described as looking like an attorney's clerk. He turns out to be an attorney's clerk.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Wimsey in his early thirties is bony and gawky, and regarded as so funny-looking that caricaturists tone him down a bit when drawing him. Wimsey in his late forties is considered very handsome. Maturity was evidently kind to him.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • During the First World War, Peter was buried alive in a collapsed dug-out, and suffers from what would nowadays be called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    • His friend George Fentiman in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club has an even worse case, suffering frequent psychotic episodes. Sayers's own husband was a shell-shocked ex-soldier, so she knew whereof she wrote.
  • Sherlock Scan: Lord Peter does this once, on the Reverend Mr Goodacre in Busman's Honeymoon. He explains some of his deductions explicitly, and the clues to the others are scattered in the narration for the alert reader to pick out.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In Murder Must Advertise, Death Bredon creates an innovative advertising campaign that he predicts (accurately) will be "the biggest advertising stunt since the Mustard Club"; the Mustard Club was a famous Real Life advertising gimmick for Colman's Mustard. Murder Must Advertise was inspired by the time Sayers spent working in advertising before the Wimsey novels took off — and now, three guesses who came up with the Mustard Club...
    • One of the characters in Murder Must Advertise refers to the advertising slogan "Guinness is good for you." Guess who came up with that slogan? (If you go into an "Oirish Pub" and see one of those old Guinness ads with zookeepers and toucans, you may be satisfied to learn that that was Sayers, too.)
    • Peter's address, 110 A Piccadilly, is a subtle salute to Sherlock Holmes, who lived at 221 B Baker Street.
    • It's a rare Wimsey story that doesn't include a Shout-Out to Gilbert and Sullivan, Alice in Wonderland, or both.
    • In Five Red Herrings, there are mentions of several other detective novels. At least two of them are deliberate hints to the solution of the murder: "Sir John Magill's Last Journey" in which the murderer impersonates his victim to conceal the true time of death, and "The Two Tickets Puzzle", in which a vital railway ticket is forged.
    • In Clouds of Witness, Lord Peter bumps into a wooden chest and decides to investigate it. The narrator playfully wonders if, "like the heroine of Northanger Abbey" he was expecting to find something gruesome, rather than just the spare bed linen it contained. note 
    • The Dr. Thorndyke novels of R. Austin Freeman (referred to as just Austin Freeman) are mentioned a few times.
    • In Have His Carcase, Harriet riffs on the theme of how famous fictional detectives would solve their current puzzle, mentioning Dr. Thorndyke, Philo Vance, Freeman Wills Crofts's Inspector French, and Anthony Berkeley's Roger Sheringham.
  • Silly Will:
    • In "The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach", a wealthy man leaves his stomach to his great-nephew, a medical student. When Lord Peter decides he wants to see the actual wording of the will, he poses as an author collecting examples of comic wills.
    • In "The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will", the eccentric uncle leaves his fortune to the (Conservative) Primrose League, just to annoy his Communist niece. There's a covering note, explaining that there's a later will leaving the money to her, if she can be frivolous enough to find it.
  • Skewed Priorities: The Nine Tailors has a minor example, as a sign of the Reverend Venables being an unworldly Absent-Minded Professor. On being introduced to Lord Peter Wimsey, he immediately recognises the name — from Lord Peter's other hobby of collecting antique books. He has no idea about Lord Peter's fame as a detective until somebody else tells him about it later.
  • Smart People Know Latin: And Peter and Harriet are smart enough that he proposes to her, and she accepts, in Latin. This is Truth in Television for educated English people of that generation. Also, the specific words he uses (placetne, magistra?) are a Shout-Out to the Oxford degree ceremony. note 
  • Smart People Play Chess:
    • Sir Julian Freke in Whose Body? mentions near the end that he's been an accomplished chess player since his youth, and uses a chess metaphor to explain why he's not going to try and escape the consequences of Lord Peter uncovering his murder plot.
    • Lord Peter says in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club that he's no good at chess himself because he doesn't have the right kind of mind for it; he keeps thinking of the pieces as people instead of as objects to be used and discarded.
    • Gaudy Night establishes that Harriet is also bad at chess, for similar reasons to Peter.
  • Smoking Gun: In Clouds of Witness, the murder case goes to trial and gets very close to convicting the innocent defendant before Lord Peter shows up with a new piece of evidence proving the identity of the real killer, which he had had to travel to America and back to fetch. It's noted that he had briefed the defence lawyers about the evidence as soon as he'd deduced its existence, but they had to vamp until he got hold of it because the truth was strange enough that the jury would be unlikely to accept it without evidence.
  • Smoky Gentlemen's Club: Lord Peter is a member of several. The Bellona Club, featured in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, has a membership of men with military backgrounds. The Egotists' Club, mentioned in several stories, caters to the rich and eccentric.
  • Sneaking Snacks: Gaudy Night mentions that the students at the college, both in Harriet's day and in the present, have been known to sneak down to the college kitchen for late-night snacks, and that although the kitchen's supposed to be locked up at night it's not unknown for students to find a sympathetic staff member to leave it unlocked for them.
  • Sommelier Speak: Displayed in the wine taste-off in "The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste".
  • Spell My Name with a Blank:
    • Among the generic products mentioned by the narrator in "Murder Must Advertise" are "So-and-so's Silks, Blank's Gloves, Dash's Footwear, Whatnot's Weatherproof Complexion Cream and Thingummy's Beautifying Shampoos"
    • Part of The Nine Tailors takes place in a French town identified only as "C—y".
    • In Have His Carcase, a vehicle the police are trying to trace is said to have been registered in ——shire.
  • Spiteful Spit: In Gaudy Night, the antagonist finishes up her Motive Rant by spitting in Peter's face.
  • The Spock: Parker is the cautious, logical counterpart to the more emotional and imaginative Wimsey.
  • Sports Hero Backstory: Lord Peter is an adept cricketer, and played for Oxford in his student days. At one point in Murder Must Advertise his undercover persona is endangered when he encounters a cricket enthusiast who recognises his batting style.
  • Spousal Privilege:
    • In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Inspector Parker learns that one of the suspects is about to marry his fiancée in a hurry, and hastens to intervene, surmising that the fiancée knows something that her husband-to-be doesn't want her testifying about in court. It turns out that the fiancée doesn't know anything relevant; the real reason for the hasty marriage is so that nobody will connect the man with his previous fiancée and thus realise what his motive was.
    • In The Nine Tailors Will and Mary Thoday learn that their marriage is invalid because Mary's first husband faked his death and was still alive. They resolve to get married again/properly, but the police can't allow it until they've established that Will isn't the murderer/Mary doesn't know anything they might need to rely on in court.
  • Spy Speak: In Murder Must Advertise, part of the mystery involves trying to discover the recognition code used by members of the criminal gang.
  • Straw Feminist: Miss Hillyard in Gaudy Night, whose prejudice against "womanly" women, married women and mothers, especially in the workplace, is implied to arise from simple jealousy and is contrasted against the various more reasoned models of feminism displayed by the university staff and students.
  • Stronger Than They Look: Lord Peter is a small, slight man, and gets thrown around when caught in a scrum, but has terrific strength in his arms and body, and can't be overpowered one-on-one.
  • The Summation: Once per book, but most epically in Gaudy Night. It's not always Lord Peter who gets to do the summation: in one book, where the case has proceeded to trial before Lord Peter finds the key bit of evidence, the defence's summation to the jury doubles as the summation for the reader, while in another, the job of laying out exactly who did what to whom when is done by the murderer himself, who wants to make sure everyone understands how clever he was.
  • Surprise Witness: In Clouds of Witness, the defence are prepared to produce a Surprise Witness if it looks like the other evidence won't be sufficient to sway the jury. They'd rather not, because it's an alibi by a woman the defendant was having an affair with, which would be embarrassing all around, dangerous to the woman, whose husband is jealous, and provide the prosecution with a motive, since if the dead man knew it would be reason to silence him. Fortunately, Lord Peter manages to produce a Smoking Gun instead.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: A variation occurs in Strong Poison. Though it isn't considered real evidence, the discovery of the lengths Norman Urquhart went to avoid any possible opportunity to poison the victim is what convinces Parker of his guilt.
  • Sweet Tooth: Norman Urquhart has a serious one, which leads to his downfall. Peter's lack of one saves his life at least once.
  • Sword Cane: Lord Peter's favourite walking stick is "a handsome malacca, marked off in inches for detective convenience, and concealing a sword in its belly and a compass in its head".
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: In Clouds of Witness, Mrs. Grimethorpe is trapped in an abusive marriage and accepts the Duke of Denver's advances as an escape from her troubles. The Duke has less excuse for his behaviour — the Duchess is unpleasant, but not nearly as evil or controlling as Mr. Grimethorpe — but earns some sympathy for the lengths he goes to to shield his lover from the consequences of discovery.
  • Table Space: In Jill Paton Walsh's Thrones, Dominations, Harriet, newly married to Lord Peter, is still getting used to some of his eccentricities, including "the passion for ritual that set ten feet of mahogany between husband and wife at a solitary meal."
  • Taking the Heat: Lady Mary attempts this in Clouds of Witness. It turns out the suspect she's protecting didn't do it — he's just too paranoid to come forward and exonerate himself.
  • Taking the Veil: A gender-inverted example occurs in the Back Story of Unnatural Death; Miss Dawson's Uncle Paul became a monk after suffering a disappointment in love.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Strong Poison It was in the cracked egg.
  • Tasty Gold: Lord Peter digresses on the subject in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, suggesting that you could kill a taxi driver by giving him a coin that poisons him when he bites it.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In Unnatural Death, Lord Peter decides to place an advertisement asking a possible witness to contact him. Parker remarks that he doesn't expect anything to come of it, but it can't do any harm. This gives Peter such a strong feeling of tempting fate that he nearly decides not to run the ad. He goes ahead, though, and it results in the witness being murdered to keep her from talking.
    • Played for laughs in The Five Red Herrings. One of the police officers, having developed a pet theory about who did the murder, remarks that he'll eat his hat if a particular piece of evidence doesn't belong to his preferred suspect... and almost immediately receives a telephone call proving definitely that it doesn't.
  • That Came Out Wrong: In Whose Body?, the jurors at the inquest are taken to see the injuries on the deceased (who was found naked); watching them as they return to the courtroom, Lord Peter's mother observes that one of the female jurors is looking shocked while another is trying to look "as if she sat on undraped gentlemen every day", then immediately adds that she didn't mean that the way it came out.
  • Theory Tunnelvision: At the end of Whose Body?, the murderer boasts that he planned out his murder on very logical lines, avoiding all the irrational impulses that usually trip up murderers, and was only caught due to a piece of bad luck that he couldn't have predicted. He goes on to relate, without apparently recognizing the significance, that the only reason Mr Thipps got caught up in events (and thus the only reason Lord Peter was on the case) was that the murderer changed part of his plan at the last moment due to a sudden vindictive impulse.
  • There Are No Coincidences: In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Lord Peter explains that he suspected murder because while it was certainly possible for the timing of General Fentiman's death to be coincidental, it was more believable if it had been deliberate.
    Aristotle... says, you know, that one should always prefer the probable impossible to the improbable possible.
  • There Will Be Toilet Paper: In Murder Must Advertise, Mr Copley cuts himself shaving the morning after he had to change the Nutrax headline at the last minute — so he has to explain himself to his bosses with a blob of cotton wool on his cheek.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: The Five Red Herrings has its own special notice on the dedication page, stating that the places and train timetables are real, but the characters and their goings-on are entirely fictional and "just put in for fun and to make it more exciting". It goes on to say that if any real people have the same name as an unpleasant character it's only a coincidence; "even bad characters have to be called something".
  • This Is Reality:
    • Very common among the Genre Savvy protagonists.
    • In Have His Carcase, Harriet is accustomed to writing scenes where people examine horribly mutilated corpses in the calmest manner. Then she discovers a dead man whose throat has been cut, and finds it a much more distressing experience than she'd imagined.
    • In Busman's Honeymoon, as they prepare to interview the last person to see the victim alive:
      Lord Peter: Enter the obvious suspect.
      Harriet: The obvious suspect is always innocent.
      Superintendent Kirk: In books, my lady.
  • Thrifty Scot:
    • Peter makes a lot of Thrifty Scot jokes. Of the many Scottish characters in the stories, only Great-Uncle Joseph and Jock from The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach seem noticeably thrifty.
    • Subversion in Busman's Honeymoon, where Bunter announces that a "financial gentleman" called Mr MacBride is calling — and, rather than a stereotypical Scot, he's a Londoner with a cockney accent.
  • Time-Delayed Death:
    • Busman's Honeymoon. The cause of death is a head injury that doesn't kill the victim for some time, during which he moves away from the place where it was inflicted. The nature of the injury is recognised during the initial medical examination, so the investigators don't make the mistake of assuming he was killed on the spot where he was found, but it does make it harder to determine how he was killed.
    • Have His Carcase has its own spin on this trope. The victim died instantly from a cut throat, but when the body is found a couple of hours later his blood clotting disorder makes it look like he's only just been killed. As a result, a lot of time is wasted investigating the wrong alibis, trying to figure out how the murderer was not seen by the person who found the body, and so on.
  • Tomboy: It's hard to find a little girl in the books who isn't a tomboy of some sort — usually a car/motorbike fanatic. Five Red Herrings has two!
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Sylvia Marriott and Eiluned Price, particularly in the 1987 Edward Petherbridge series.
  • The Tooth Hurts: The reason Lord Peter visited his dentist in In the Teeth of the Evidence? A tooth broke.
  • Tranquil Fury: Peter's first letter to his nephew in Gaudy Night.
  • Trauma Button: Peter suffers from a particularly nasty one. His use of his detective talents is the only thing that makes him feel useful and dispels his Survivor Guilt from the War... but because of his role as an officer his PTSD is bound up with having other people die because of decisions he made that he thought were necessary, which is an inevitable result of his detective activities due to capital punishment.
  • Tricked into Signing: Averted in Unnatural Death. Mary Whittaker tries to trick her great-aunt Agatha Dawson into signing a will by burying it in a bunch of other papers that need a signature — and by having two of the housemaids ready to witness the signing of the will without Agatha realizing it. However, Agatha notices the will and refuses to sign.
  • Trickster Mentor: Meleager Finch's posthumous plan to make his niece Hannah more frivolous, involving two wills and a crossword puzzle.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe, Peter meets a number of bohemian thinkers who hold to this belief, expressing that, for instance, "Scenes which make emotional history should ideally be expressed in a series of animal squeals."
  • Tuneless Song of Madness: In "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club", one of George Fentiman's PTSD episodes found him dancing naked in a field and singing to the sheep "like a hoarse and rumbling wind in a chimney".
  • '20s Bob Haircut: It's a minor plot point in Clouds of Witness that Lady Mary and Simone Vonderaa have the same bobbed hairstyle.
  • Unable to Support a Wife:
    • George in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club — unusually, the condition arises after he marries.
    • Why Denver was able to dismiss Goyles as a suitor for his sister Mary in Clouds of Witness — he was unable to support a wife to any extent, let alone to the standard appropriate to someone of Mary's station.
    • One Dawson family member lost his fiancée when his family lost its money, in Unnatural Death
  • Unbuilt Trope: A detective fiction series where the main protagonist is a war veteran who occasionally gets PTSD flashbacks and worries about the morality of his job? Must be some sort of post-WWII noir story, right? Or maybe some gritty modern series? Nope.
    • Peter acts like a stereotypical Rich Idiot With No Day Job, but he does manage his holdings. Quite well, actually. He's also quite famous for his 'hobby', so basically everyone knows he's actually intelligent, just eccentric. Except for certain criminals tricked by his act until it's much too late.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Invoked in the invention of Peter's identical cousin, Death Bredon, in Murder Must Advertise and The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste.
  • Unconventional Wedding Dress: When Harriet marries Peter, her wedding dress is gold lamé.
  • Undercover When Alone: In The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba, Lord Peter goes undercover to infiltrate a criminal gang. He stays in his cover personality even when alone, to ensure he doesn't accidentally slip out of it when he isn't.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: Each book has a different system. Some have plain numbers; some are named for that chapter's chief character; some are thematic. (In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, for instance, most of the chapter titles are metaphors drawn from card games.)
  • Unwanted Assistance: Mrs Ruddle the housekeeper in Busman's Honeymoon several times takes the initiative to make herself useful in ways that, due to her ignorance or simple thoughtlessness, make matters worse than if she'd done nothing. The example with the most dramatic fallout is when she decides to clean up "them dirty old bottles in the pantry" — the discovery of the damage her mishandling has done to his lordship's collection of vintage port is the only provocation in the entire series to successfully crack Bunter's facade of professional detachment. It also comes out in the denouement that on the day the murder was discovered she cleaned away a vital piece of evidence without thinking to wonder how it came to be in that state or to mention it to anybody, perhaps singlehandedly preventing Lord Peter from solving the case on day one.
  • Upper-Class Equestrian: Lord Peter's equestrian skills crop up occasionally. In Have His Carcase he makes deductions from a horseshoe Harriet finds, finds the horse that lost the shoe, rides it bareback as part of reenacting the crime, and manages to stay on and bring the horse back under control when it utterly panics and bolts away from the murder site.
  • Upper-Class Twit:
    • Peter's brother Gerald, the Duke of Denver; Gerald's wife Helen, the Duchess of Denver
    • Freddie Arbuthnot, as long as he's not discussing finance or the stock market.
    • Peter himself cultivates this image on many occasions. It frequently lulls a suspect into false security when talking to him.
  • The Vicar: Several across the stories, reflecting Sayers's interest in theology.
    • The Reverend Tredgold in Unnatural Death is High Church and conscientious, and offers Peter sensible moral counsel.
    • The Reverend Boyes in Strong Poison is long-suffering, poor and notably tender-hearted.
    • The Reverend Venables in The Nine Tailors is High Church (again), energetic, long-winded and obsessed with his pet subject of campanology.
    • The Reverend Goodacre in Busman's Honeymoon is a classic bumbling Vicar, complete with an inept attempt at a sherry party.
    • Mr Hancock in The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention is High Church (yet again!), over-earnest, and out of his depth in a conservative rural parish.
    • All of these, especially the Rev. Venables, are based to a greater or lesser degree on Sayers' father.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Well, readers anyway. The books are stuffed with obscure literary allusions, and just try to solve the crossword puzzle clue in The Fascinating Problem Of Uncle Meleager's Will. In "The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question," understanding the vital clue requires a knowledge of French grammar; The grammar point in question is quite elementary, but the clue is hidden in half a page of untranslated French dialogue. While most of the original audience would have learned French in school, it's still quite a demand to make of the reader.
  • Villainous Harlequin: In Murder Must Advertise, Lord Peter adopts the disguise of a harlequin to infiltrate Dian de Momerie's social circle. The harlequin starts out merely flashy and acrobatic, but gradually becomes mysterious and sinister as Lord Peter adjusts the persona to better fit Dian's interests.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Campbell, the hot-tempered Asshole Victim of The Five Red Herrings, is specifically stated to have been born in Glasgow. And for added stereotypical value, his mother is mentioned to have been Irish.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Gaudy Night has a comic-relief group of American visitors whose leader rejoices in the name of Mrs. J. Poppelhinken.
  • Waking Non Sequitur: In Clouds of Witness, Parker falls asleep in front of the fireplace while waiting for Lord Peter. As Peter enters, Parker wakes up and says: "The glass-blower's cat is bompstaple". In the dream that Parker just had, this is the solution to the mystery. Awake, he can't even remember what "bompstaple" meant. note 
  • The Watson: Parker, Bunter, Harriet or a local policeman typically serve as Peter's Watson, and various members of the SCR serve as Harriet's. These Watsons are generally very bright themselves, and serve as sounding-boards to more speculative theories or areas of highly-specialised exposition.
  • Wax Museum Morgue: In The Abominable History of the Man With the Copper Fingers. The last statue the jealous sculptor made of his mistress ... isn't quite a statue.
  • Wham Episode: The cricket match chapter in Murder Must Advertise ends with Lord Peter getting arrested. Howzat?
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Averted in Busman's Honeymoon. Waking up next to Peter on the morning after their wedding, Harriet is struck by a fear that Peter's reaction on waking will be confusion about who she is or why they're in bed together. After reassuring her as to the felicity of his memory, Peter says that in his pre-Harriet career as a sociable bachelor, he lived by the rule that it's a gentleman's duty to always remember the lady's name.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In The Five Red Herrings, part of the evidence against Waters is the absence of his bicycle, and the police note that they don't know whether to arrest Waters, or make a search for a bicycle thief. Waters is innocent, and the bicycle thief is never mentioned again.
  • What Would X Do?: In Have His Carcase, Harriet Vane discovers a dead body and thinks: What would Lord Peter, or Robert Templeton (the detective in the books she writes) do?
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: Campbell, the murder victim in Five Red Herrings. He's a cantankerous, belligerent drunk who's managed to get on the bad side of everyone else in his town, save for one, who's a woman married to a man he's feuding with, which only makes everyone else suspect him of adultery. This is the reason for the titular Five Red Herrings, since so many people hate his guts that initial field of suspects is quite large. The ending even notes that his killer will most likely get off fairly lightly, since Campbell essentially provoked him and he's got good grounds for a self-defence justification.
  • Who's on First?:
    • In Strong Poison, Wimsey needs three attempts to tell Miss Murchison Bill Rumm's name, because she thinks he's saying his name is rum (as in "strange, peculiar").
    • In The Nine Tailors, he has even greater difficulty trying to explain the difference between Paul Taylor (a criminal's pseudonym), Tailor Paul and Batty Thomas (named church bells), and being batty (like trying to write a letter to a bell, rather than to a criminal using a pseudonym).
  • The Wicked Stage: In Strong Poison, a major element of the Back Story is Rosanna Wrayburn, aka "Cremorna Garden", who ran away to go on stage and fully lived up the reputation of actresses.
  • Widow's Weeds: In Unnatural Death, a lawyer definitely realizes that a woman who asked him a question — for a friend — had actually asked for herself, when he sees her again, and she tells him that the woman she had asked about, the purported friend's great-aunt, had died, and she herself is wearing mourning.
  • Wiki Walk: Lord Peter's mother is famous for constantly going off on a tangent, whenever she speaks - and then on a tangent to the tangent, and so on. Back when the books were written, it was probably great fun to read, if you were reasonably educated and followed the news. These days, it's mostly confusing.
  • Wine Is Classy: Lord Peter is a big time oenophilenote  and so this trope comes up often.
  • Wishful Projection: Dr Penberthy in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club accuses a number of women around him of having an obsession with sex, until it becomes clear that he's got one himself.
  • With Due Respect: Bunter frequently addresses Lord Peter in this manner, with equal parts sincerity and criticism. Naturally, he's always right.
  • Working the Same Case: In Murder Must Advertise, Lord Peter looks into irregularities at an advertising firm, while Parker is occupied trying to track down a drug smuggling ring. The latter are responsible for the former.
    • In Whose Body?, Peter questions whether a missing man and the titular body are even related at all. Turns out they are.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: In "The Abominable History of the Man With Copper Fingers", Lord Peter mentions that one of the lucky breaks he got in the case was that the villain sent a crucial telegram from an office where they use hard pencils.
  • Year X:
    • In Whose Body?, Lord Peter receives a letter dated "17 November, 192-".note 
    • In Clouds of Witness, a newspaper article is dated "Monday, November -, 19—". However, the trial scene straight-up says that the year in question is 1923.
    • In The Nine Tailors, the bell-ringing at the beginning of the novel is subsequently marked with a commemmorative plaque; the year on the plaque is given as "19—".
  • You Didn't Ask:
    • In Thrones, Dominations (finished by Jill Paton Walsh) a secondary character does (indirectly) tell the police about his illicit alibi for a murder. However, he completely fails to mention that he visited the victim that afternoon (well, before she was last seen alive) and gave her a gift that then allowed the real murderer to establish an alibi.
    • During the climactic trial scene in Clouds of Witnesses, the butler gives evidence of delivering a letter to the dead man the night of his death. When the prosecuting attorney demands to know why he never mentioned this before, the answer is, not only was he not asked but he was specifically told to confine his answers to the questions.
  • You Know the One: An example in The Five Red Herrings provides the trope's page quote.
    Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant exactly what to look for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page.
The object in question is subsequently referred to by the narrator and the characters as "the missing object" until its identity is revealed as part of The Summation.
  • You Need to Get Laid:
    • In Gaudy Night, after one of the faculty of the women's college makes a rather obnoxious speech and leaves, another one says, "I always thought it was a great pity she never married." The narrator remarks that she had a way of putting what everyone was thinking in terms a child could understand.
    • Directed at Bunter by the narrator in Busman's Honeymoon. Lord Peter, happily married, considers throwing a paperweight at a yowling tomcat, but decides against it. Bunter, still single and "prompted by God knows what savage libido", has no such qualms.
  • Zany Scheme: Clouds of Witness has pretty nearly every character trying to pull one of these on the others.

Tropes found in adaptations include:

  • Adaptation Name Change: In the TV Have His Carcase, a couple of names are made more obviously Cornish: Inspector Umpelty is renamed Inspector Trethowan, and Gaffer Gander becomes Gaffer Trewin.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the 1975 Five Red Herrings, Mrs Farren is made jealous of her husband's friendship with Strachan, to the point that she strongly hints that they're in a relationship. To make this more plausible, Strachan becomes a bachelor, so his tomboy daughter is replaced by a teenage niece.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The BBC Five Red Herrings removes Constable Ross.
    • In the BBC Murder Must Advertise loses its cricket match, and a number of characters who only appear in it.
    • The TV Have His Carcase removes Charis, one of the professional dancers at the hotel.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the BBC Five Red Herrings, Bunter notices Campbell's unattended easel in the distance and suggests that he walk up the river to investigate. Lord Peter tells him not to interfere, then adds: "Now just you listen to me. The idea of walking over there is quite absurd... We'll go in the car."
  • Bifauxnen: In the 1986 adaptation of Strong Poison, the 'anti-man' Eiluned Price dresses in this style.
  • Composite Character:
    • The TV Five Red Herrings removes Constable Duncan and gives his plot elements to Sergeant Dalziel.
    • The radio version of Murder Must Advertise amalgamates Garratt, Copley and Smayle into a single character.
    • The TV Murder Must Advertise combines Miss Rossiter and Mrs Johnson.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Rather than being killed at the end of the 1972 BBC Clouds of Witness, Grimethorpe survives and is hospitalised.
    • Milligan survives to the end of the TV Murder Must Advertise and is one of Parker's arrests when he breaks up the drug-smuggling ring.
  • Take Our Word for It: The TV adaptation of Murder Must Advertise is very careful not to show the allegedly obscene Nutrax advertisement, only the characters' reactions to it.

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