Suspicion by Dorothy Sayers, 1939
The magic trick:
Making the reader vulnerable by creating a cycle of trust throughout the plot
I’m very excited for this week. We’ve got five non-detective Dorothy Sayers. She’s best known for her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, but she also wrote a lot of great crime and suspense stories. We’re going to dig into those this week, starting with the excellent “Suspicion.”
The story expertly guides the reader along the plot, always putting you one step ahead of the action. The story plants seeds that suggest to the reader that, ‘Oh, OK, I see, yes, that’s how this is.’ You suspect something before the protagonist does. But then very soon the protagonist catches on or the plot moves forward in the exact way the reader has guessed. So there is a chain of trust established. “That thing you thought?” the story seems to reassure the reader. “You were right.”
Well, that’s a devious thing for the story to do, and a dangerously vulnerable spot for the reader to be in. I’ll just leave it at that.
And that’s quite a trick on Sayers’s part.
“Where is Mrs. Mummery? Not feeling bad again, is she?”
“Well, sir, she’s got a bit of a headache, poor lamb. I made her lay down and took her up a nice cup ‘o tea at half-past four. I think she’s dozing nicely now.”
“Dear, dear,” said Mr. Mummery.
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