- Review by Molly O.
On Monday, March 7th, the 7% Solution Book Club meets to discuss one of Dorothy Sayer’s many mysteries to feature Lord Peter Wimsey, Murder Must Advertise. April’s book is Murder on the Ballerat Train, by Kerry Greenwood. As always, book club selections are 10% off at the registers in the month of their selection.
Advertising has taken on a glamorous sheen since Mad Men brilliantly depicted the industry at its hedonistic zenith, but advertising agencies themselves have been around for quite a bit longer. Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy Sayer’s masterful send-off of an industry she herself worked in for some time, takes place in an advertising agency in the early 30s, infiltrated by an undercover Lord Peter Wimsey on a quest to find out if a deceased copywriter’s fatal plunge down the agency’s curved iron staircase was caused by foul play.
Sayers’ copywriters are not glamorous, but gossipy; they write copy as pedantic hacks, not as avant-garde figures of capitalist design; they advertise sardines, corsets, and other mundane products. They feel the hypocrisy of their requests to the public to spend dwindling cash as the Great Depression settles around them. Many of the characters working at the agency come from aristocratic backgrounds, forced into finding gentlemanly work by the sudden loss of their assets.
Dorothy Sayers, like many authors of her time, mars her well-designed plot and clever repartee with the occasional bigoted remark. At best, these moments are distracting, and at worst, hurtful and offensive. Sayers takes a critical eye to each of her characters, however, no matter their background, and for the most part, any judgments come from characters’ mouths, rather than from an omniscient narrator, freeing the reader from any nauseating assumptions that they agree with characters’ judgement. As a reader, there is little need, or even encouragement, to emphasize with the characters in Murder Must Advertise – quite the opposite. The reader may instead feel an urge to laugh uproariously as the petty characters filling the novel’s ad agency sabotage themselves with pettiness and gossip.
The Seven Percent Solution Book Club meets Monday, March 7th, at 7 PM up on BookPeople’s 3rd floor to discuss this golden era classic. You can find copies of Murder Must Advertise on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.