Gaudy Night

Cover of Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers.
Cover by Robin Bilardello. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: Gaudy Night

Author: Dorothy Sayers

Nutshell: Harriet Vane returns! Still plagued by the ever charming and mischievous Peter Wimsey, the as-yet-un-fully-moved Harriet returns to her alma mater, Oxford University, for what amounts to a class reunion. She expects nothing more than to see the hallowed past tarnished by the unfortunate present, but someone decides to pen vile messages and leave them around the grounds for incomprehensible reasons. Harriet manages to be the only member of the college above suspicion, and as her day job has exalted her logical faculties in the eyes of her college’s faculty, they appoint her to investigate. What joy. Happy day. Harriet accepts, if only to keep the messages from getting into the gossip channels and damaging the college’s reputation, but this case will run close to her heart — like a knife.

Readalikes: This is so much more like a novel of manners (and social commentary) than a detective novel that I’m claiming Jane Austen as a readalike.

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Strong Poison

Cover of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. Cover by Robin Bildardello.
Cover by Robin Bilardello. Click to read a preview!

Title: Strong Poison

Author: Dorothy Sayers

Nutshell: Lord Peter Wimsey is the extraneous brother of an English Duke in the 1930s. He is quite well off, and spends his time and money solving crimes. The case in his sights is the poisoning of a little-known author. The suspect is the author’s ex-lover (Shocked gasps are appropriate. Lovers simply were not had without social stigma in the ‘30s.), Harriet Vane, who was the only person with opportunity to poison him, had a clear grudge, and also had the misfortune to acquire a large quantity of arsenic before the murderous incident. Enter Lord Wimsey, who, on the premise that such a clear-cut case must have missed crucial information, determines to discover the true culprit and exonerate Miss Vane.

Also he has fallen in love with her.

Driven by love, punctuated by hilarity, Peter Wimsey must discover which is tougher to crack: a despicably airtight murder case, or the heart of the accused murderess?

Read-alikes: Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is not too far removed from this, although more intellectual and less humorous. Agatha Christie knows somewhat more of humor. Georgette Heyer’s books, though neither mysteries nor set in the 1930s, have a similar flavor of ridiculous to their humor, especially in how close both authors run to satirizing their characters. And my recent read Her Royal Spyness has a similar setting, though obviously a more modern tone and content.

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