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1001 Book Review: Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers


Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers
Published in: 1933
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Find it here:Murder Must Advertise

I’ve always associated cozy mysteries with the types of mystery books that appeal to either children or older ladies with lots of cats.

I went through an Agatha Christie phase (a.k.a. an obsession) when I was in my early teens and it was only until recently that I picked up the genre again with Dorothy Sayer’s the Nine Tailors. Granted as an adult I haven’t read too many mystery books, but those I have read fell more in line with The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo category of novels.

Murder Must Advertise exemplifies the cozy mystery genre and I have to admit that I enjoyed it quite a lot. It is the kind of book that makes you want to read while curled up in front of a fireplace with a cup of tea and a couple of cats (or a dog). What it isn’t, is a book that is only for children or grandparents. Sayers was a wonderful writer. Her sentences are beautifully crafted and her protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey is charming with a cynical and humorous edge. I especially enjoy the added amount of detail she includes about the context of her novels. In the case of the Nine Tailors, the detail is related to bells (and she even makes them seem fascinating) and in the case of this book, it’s related to the inner workings of an advertising firm.

In this book, a young employee of Pym’s advertising Agency dies after mysteriously “falling” down the stairs. When Lord Peter Wimsey is called in to investigate, he uncovers details that casts doubts on the accidental nature of the fall. While the book centers on the solving of the murder and other events, it is much more than a mystery: It is also a scathing commentary of the advertising industry. As one character comments:

Three years in this soul-searing profession have not yet robbed me of all human feeling. But that will come in time.

We undermine ’em with one hand and build ’em with the other. The vitamins we destroy in the canning, we restore in the Revito, the roughage we remove from Peabody’s Piper Parritch we make up into a package and market as Bunbury’s Breakfast Bran; the stomachs we ruin with Pompayne, we re-line with Peplets to aid digestion. And by forcing the fool public to pay twice over – once to have its food emasculated and once to have the vitality put back again, we keep the wheels of commerce turning and give employment to thousands – including you and me.

It comes as no surprise that Sayers herself worked in an advertising agency. The details clearly come from a place of personal experience. Some of the slogans are hilarious and my favorite parts of the book occurred when Lord Wimsey was attempting to come up with his own slogans.

The headline is more than half the battle. IF YOU WERE A COW — no, no, I’m afraid we mustn’t call the customer a cow.

Overall this was a fun book filled with humor, intelligence, and social commentary. I recommend this book for an entertaining and intelligent mystery novel.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find it here: Murder Must Advertise

We want to hear from you. Have you read this book, or any other by Sayers? What did you think?

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. So excited to see Dorothy L Sayers here! I love reading this genre too, and did a blog post about Ms. Sayers and some of her compatriots last year:

    Liked by 1 person

    May 26, 2015
    • Thanks, I’ll check it out. I don’t read a huge amount in this genre but this was on the 1001 list along with Nine Tailors. I liked both of them quite a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 26, 2015
      • I liked Nine Tailors too 🙂


        May 30, 2015
  2. Lizrd #

    I am a huge fan of Sayers! Murder Must Advertise is funnier than Nine Tailors by far, although Nine Tailors is a much deeper, more well-wrought, book. If you get all the way to Gaudy Night, you’re hooked.


    May 27, 2015
    • I’ll have to try it out. I completely agree with your assessment. They are both fairly different in tone and good for different reasons.


      May 27, 2015
  3. Define “lots” in the phrase lots of cats? I was introduced to Sayers in my early twenties and whipped through the entire series in a few years. The only one that I’ve re-read since was the one with a painter in Scotland? I found it a bit dry though I hadn’t remembered the killer etc… I’ll have to try one of the Harriet Vane series for my next re-read.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 27, 2015
    • I guess I should mention that we have two cats. My husband would say that anything more than 2 is lots but he’s a dog person. I think more than 3? The lady who lived next door to us had 15 cats and she loved Cozy mysteries 🙂


      May 27, 2015

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