Saturday, September 8, 2012

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers

" The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people seem to think, repose upon a manly bosom."

Following the trauma of her murder trial, the remedy for Harriet Vane is a walking tour along the coast of England. One day she decides to eat her lunch on the beach after which she dozes off and is awakened by a scream. On investigation she discovers the body of a man with his throat cut lying on a rock and has the presence of mind to take photographs before the incoming tide washes the body away. It isn't long before Lord Peter Wimsey is on the scene although, with the police accepting it is a case of suicide, there doesn't appear to be a crime to solve. Lord Peter and Harriet become increasingly certain that a murder has been committed.

I'm discovering that Dorothy Sayer's stories are not as light and straightforward as some of her contemporary lady crime writers. Her characters and background setting have more depth which gives a wonderful picture of the time period and I also enjoy the literary allusions she scatters throughout.

The plot of Have His Carcase is complex and revolves around having to break an 'unbreakable alibi'. It's very clever but at times I felt the story dragged with too much detail and I ended up skipping the pages explaining how that complicated code worked. I'm thinking these books deserve to be read more than once as there are many different themes within the pages that get passed over when only focusing on the mystery.

This is only the second Dorothy Sayers I've read , the other being Five Red Herrings in which Lord Peter is on holiday in Scotland, so this was my introduction to Harriet Vane. One of the highlights of the story is the developing relationship between Harriet and Lord Peter which despite his frequent proposals of marriage can hardly yet be called a romance. 

'By all means' said Harriet. 'Where did you come from?'
'From London - like a bird that hears the call of its mate.'
' I didn't - ' began Harriet.
' I didn't mean you. I meant the corpse. But still, talking of mates, will you marry me?.' Certainly not.'
' I thought not, but I felt I might as well ask the question.' 

Deliciously witty dialogue! I look forward to more from this sleuthing couple.

Vintage Mystery Challenge - Golden Age Girls


  1. This isn't my favorite of her novels - as you say, it does drag on a bit. Strong Poison, where Harriet is accused of the murder, is wonderful.

    1. They're quite hard to find here but I'm developing a real liking for them.

  2. I love Dorothy Sayers! She is on my schedule for a reread!

    1. I'm hoping I'll be able to find some more very soon as I really liked the two I've read.