I can't remember when I first read a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. I can't even remember which one it was. My best bet is that it was sometime in the 1970's, as I read my way through the library stacks in my hometown in Pennsylvania, and then in my new town in Ohio. I do know that once I had read one, I kept looking for them until I had read them all (12 novels and a couple of short-story collections.) And I passed this enthusiasm for Dorothy L. Sayers' creation along to my daughters.
Last Christmas, looking for an unexpected-type present for me, Roger discovered a non-fiction book -- The Remarkable Case of DOROTHY L. SAYERS, by Catherine Kenny. (Kent State University Press, Ohio) I have been slowly working through it, and am finding it interesting. But what I have mostly learned so far is that it was time for me to revisit the Peter Wimsey books, in order. I like to reread favorite series straight through (Narnia, Harry Potter, Amelia Peabody and more), but I've never actually done it with the Wimsey stories. This is probably because I only own some of them, based on what was available (usually at the Friends of the Library sale) when I had funds to buy them. But between my tattered paperbacks and the library's storage section, I've managed to collect them all.
I have finished the first three (Whose Body, Clouds of Witness (my least favorite), and Unnatural Death), and expect to polish off The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club before dinner, as soon as I post this. I am intrigued to notice things that Kenny mentions in her book; mostly that the stories, and Lord Peter, mature as the series progresses. Kenny makes the argument that Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon, which have always been my favorites, are actually well-rounded novels which only incidentally have a mystery as their focus, and I'm starting to see what she means.
I also got from the library Thrones, Dominations and A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh. The first of these is Walsh's attempt to finish an incomplete manuscript by Sayers; the second is her own plot continuing with the same characters. I read these when they first came out, and at that time thought they were acceptably "Sayers-ish", but we will see whether that still holds directly after a read-through of the real thing. I'll keep you posted!