The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Dorothy L. Sayers gives Lord Peter Wimsey a less prominent role in this novel than she does in her other detective fiction. Hilary Thorpe finds the cryptogram that leads to the discovery of the jewels, Venables helps decode it, and members of the regular British and French police forces provide vital information.

Still, Lord Peter is the first to recognize the significance of the cryptogram’s message and the first to realize that Deacon did not die in 1918. His typically brilliant intuition is matched by his arcane knowledge, in this novel of campanology and the history of the draining of the fens in East Anglia. He also remains indifferent to religion and more interested in the life of the common people than in his aristocratic relatives at Denver.

Bunter, his valet, is also his usually resourceful self. He pilfers a crucial letter from the post office, and he obliges his master in less dramatic ways as well. He supplies a wreath in Lord Peter’s name for Lady Thorpe’s funeral and has the prayer books ready for Sunday service.

In addition to meeting these two regulars of Sayers’ mysteries, the reader encounters a number of fascinating villagers. There are only about three hundred people living in Fenchurch St. Paul, and the reader feels he has met most of them by the end of the book. Each of the bell-ringers has his own personality, from the seventy-five-year-old Hezekiah Lavendar down to the young, nervous Walter Pratt....

(The entire section is 432 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey

Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey, a brilliant, irrepressible, and wealthy amateur sleuth. Wimsey’s main faults are his insatiable curiosity and his willingness to help almost anyone in trouble. These traits lead Wimsey into the mystery of an unknown corpse buried in another’s grave, a mysterious stranger in a small village, and a set of valuable emeralds, missing since 1914. Wimsey is a linguistic and historical scholar, a brilliant musician, a natural aristocrat and gentleman, and, by the time of this case, an experienced detective who takes on cases out of a sense of social responsibility as well as curiosity. Once interested in a problem, Wimsey never gives up. Still a gifted athlete although nearing forty, Wimsey makes up for his relative lack of height (five feet, eight inches) through skill and determination. He is irresistible to many women.

Mervyn Bunter

Mervyn Bunter, Wimsey’s sergeant during World War I, now his extremely proper valet, crime photographer, and valued assistant. Like his slightly younger master, Bunter is skilled in many trades, and he provides Wimsey’s somewhat bohemian lifestyle with organization. Tall and handsome, Bunter has an eye for maids and other working-class women.

The Reverend Theodore Venables

The Reverend Theodore Venables, the elderly and absentminded rector of the Anglican Church in Fenchurch, St. Paul. His kindness and love of bell-ringing allow him to make friends with Wimsey on New Year’s Eve, when Wimsey and Bunter are stranded in his village by an auto wreck. When a mysterious corpse later appears in his graveyard, it is Venables who calls Wimsey in for help.

Agnes Venables

Agnes Venables, his wife. She is the organized member of the pair and remembers all the important facts her husband often forgets.

Superintendent Blundell

Superintendent Blundell, the officer in charge of the case and one of the original officers who investigated the 1914...

(The entire section is 845 words.)