Date of Award

Summer 2007

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Hay, Carla H.

Second Advisor

McMahon, Timothy G.

Third Advisor

Ruff, Julius R.


In Dorothy L. Sayers' Whose Body?, a 1923 Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, the nude body of a middle-aged "Semitic-looking" man is found in the Battersea bathtub of a timid accountant. At the same time, a middle-aged Jewish financier named Sir Reuben Levy goes missing from his Park Lane home. As Sir Reuben was apparently not wearing any clothes at the time of his disappearance, his butler confirming that all of his clothes were accounted for, the very thick Inspector Sugg quickly concludes that the body in the bathtub must be Sir Reuben. Lord Peter's friend, Scotland Yard detective Charles Parker, realizes at once that "as a matter of fact, the man in the bath is no more Sir Reuben Levy than Adolf Beck, poor devil, was John Smith." Thirty years later, in Agatha Christie's classic 1954 play Witness for the Prosecution, the suspect Leonard Vole, after being assured by his solicitor that the English justice system is "the finest in the world," is not comforted. He argues "Of course there was that case of-what was his name-Adolf Beck. I read about it only the other day. After he'd been in prison for years, they found out it was another chap called Smith. They gave him a free pardon then. That's a thing that seems odd to me-giving you a 'pardon' for something you haven't done." Who then are Adolf Beck and John Smith? They are certainly not characters in the novel or play. Neither sayers nor Christie provides any further explanation. In fact, neither mentions either name again. Presumably their intended audience-British, interested in crime, at least fictional crime-knew of Adolf Beck and John Smith and did not need to be told. Although it may now be somewhat of an obscure reference, there was obviously something about the case that still resonated decades after the original events...



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