Sunday, 5 May 2013

Harriet Vane


After re-reading Gaudy Night earlier this year I promised myself that I would read more of the wonderful literary detective novels of Dorothy L Sayers.  I'm rather fond of Harriet Vane who features in four of the books - Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon - so I'm starting with those.

Have His Carcase published in 1932 begins with Harriet on a solitary coastal walking tour.  As an independent young woman who writes detective novels, enjoys her own company and repeatedly turns down marriage proposals from the adorable Lord Peter Wimsey she is a character ahead of her time:
She was twenty-eight years old, dark, slight, with a skin naturally a little sallow, but now tanned to an agreeable biscuit-colour by sun and wind.  Persons of this fortunate complexion are not troubled by midges and sunburn, and Harriet, though not too old to care for her personal appearance was old enough to prefer convenience to outward display:
After finding a cove on the beach to sit down for lunch the hot sunshine sends her to sleep.  Upon waking she walks along the sand and is puzzled by an object on a rock a short way out to sea known as the 'flat iron'.  Upon close inspection it turns out to be a man's body with the blood still wet and the chilling suggestion that perhaps he was murdered while she was asleep.  Harriet is not the kind of woman who runs away screaming, instead she examines the body, tries to calculate the tides and searches for help.

I'm only about 100 pages in but very much enjoying it so far.  Do you have any favourites from the golden age of detective fiction?

17 comments:

Audrey said...

Every time I read about one of these (I love the ones with Harriet best) I want to go back and re-read all of them in order. I love the illustrations!

lyn said...

I love the Harriet books best as well. Other favourite Golden Age writers are Josephine Tey, Edmund Crispin Margery Allingham & Ngaio Marsh. DLS is one of the few mystery authors I can reread even after I know the solution. I love the atmosphere of the 20s & 30s in her books.

Ronda Kisner said...

I have never read Sayers. I am feeling inspired! I am a big fan of female detectives. I will have to look for a nice copy.

Anbolyn said...

I just bought a copy of Gaudy Night, but was given a tip that it is better to read Have His Carcase first - so I'll be reading this soon. I finished Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey recently and loved it - more Tey is in my future also!

Kat said...

Dorothy Sayers is my favorite. I do enjoy the Harriet Vane mysteries. Perhaps I love Five Red Herrings best.

I read a lot of Golden Age Detective Fiction about 10 years ago, and also enjoyed Cyril Hare.

Ed said...

My favourite Golden Age writer in Margery Allingham. I am actually re-reading "Tiger in the Smoke" right now. I have also enjoyed a number of Agatha Christie books. I have only read one Sayers book (without Harriet Vane) and don't remember much about it. I may need to try Sayers again.

vicki (skiourophile) said...

I second Tey! (Strong Poison is also an excellent Sayers - the first in the Harriet Vane sequence)

Peggy Ann said...

I am ashamed to admit I have not 'read' any DLS! I have 'watched' them on PBS. I have a couple on the shelf though. Maybe this year? I love Tey and Dickson Carr, Ngaio and Agatha too of course. Mary Roberts Rhinehart too!

cathy at potterjotter said...

Oh, now you're talking! Have read them ALL and re-read a lot of them. You will absolutely enjoy them - Lord Peter, lovely, well-mannered, decent, charming, clever ... hmmm, may have to re-re-read! xCathy

Lori, The Eclectic Book Gatherer said...

Hello! Yes, Dorothy L.Sayers is wonderful, I love her mysteries and have recently been thinking of reading them all in order as can't remember all the ones I've read as it was before I started listing all books read. Gaudy Night is definitely a favourite.

Carol said...

Hi Nicola, came to your blog via worthwile books. My fave Sayers books are Strong Poison & Gaudy Night; read my first Allingham novel a few months ago: Mystery Mile & loved it; Ngaio Marsh's Opening Night was quite enjoyable also.

hopeinbrazil said...

This Sayers title is on my TBR list for this year. It was nice to read of other Golden Age writers in the responses. I've just discovered Tey, but I'm not familiar with the others.

Shelley said...

I happen to be rereading it right now too.

Sayers is way underrated in terms of what she has to say about male-female relations.

If you ask me, she's as helpful as Jane Austen.

Penny O'Neill said...

I do need to put this on my list right now. Love that cover.

Vintage Reading said...

Audrey, yes the illustrations in these Folio editions are perfect. I'm going to read all the Harriet Vane titles and then maybe the rest.

Lyn, I'll check out the writers you mentioned. I could re-read Gaudy Night many times. By the way, I've had real problems posting comments on your blog lately.

Ronda, hi, I would recommend Gaudy Night to start with - do post a review!

Anbolyn, I'd start with Gaudy Night. Have His Carcase is enjoyable but goes on a bit! Thanks for the Tey recommendation.

Kat, when I've finished the Harriet Vane titles I'll read Five Red Herrings if you recommend it. I'm getting very fond of Lord Peter!

Ed, hi, thanks for recommendation. Margery Allingham is a name that keeps coming up. Will try next!

Vicki, thanks! I'm about to start Srong Poison. I'm reading them all in the wrong order. At least I've not read Busman's Honeymoon so they're not married yet. I like the way Lord Peter keeps proposing!

Peggy Ann, I'm ashamed to admit I've not read any of the writers you mention. I have a lot of catching up to do. Hope you enjoy DLS!

Cathy, I have a real crush on Lord Peter. Harriet is crazy to keep turning his proposals down!

Lori, I adore Gaudy Night. I think it's the Oxford setting. I do like books set in academia!

Carol, hi, Strong Poison will be my next read. I need to check out the titles you mention, thanks!

hopeinbrazil, yes I'm feeling all the Sayers love on this thread and everyone is so knowledgeable about the golden age of British crime.

Shelley, yes, DLS is highly intellectual. It's true that some of the language has dated but she has a humour which is wonderful Hope you will post some DLS reviews!

Penny, the illustrations in these Folio editions are very good. Rarely buy books with illustrations!

Elaine said...

I love DL Sayers and read and re-read them over and over. Of course I love Agatha Christie but am totally hooked on Ngaio Marsh. Another one I read and re-read, so stylistic and with a wonderful detective

Mrs. B. said...

I love Have His Carcasse and Strong Poison. I consider them comfort reads and have reread them a few times. I still have to finish Gaudy Night. I've started twice but always end up putting it aside somewhere in the middle.