Since she graduated from Oxford’s Shrewsbury College, Harriet Vane has found fame by writing novels about ingenious murders. She also won infamy when she was accused of committing a murder herself. It took a timely intervention from the debonair Lord Peter Wimsey to save her from the gallows, and since then she has devoted her spare time to resisting his attempts to marry her. Putting aside her lingering shame from the trial, Harriet returns to Oxford for her college reunion with her head held high—only to find that her life is in danger once again.
The first poison-pen letter calls her a “dirty murderess,” and those that follow are no kinder. As the threats become more frightening, she calls on Lord Peter for help. Among the dons of Oxford lurks a killer, but it will take more than a superior education to match Lord Peter and the daring Harriet.
Gaudy Night is the 12th book in the Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, but you may enjoy the series by reading the books in any order.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Dorothy L. Sayers including rare images from the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.
Topics: London, England, Women Detectives, Crime, Female Protagonist, Suicide, Blackmail, Scandal, Love, Marriage, Love Story, College, Suspenseful, Psychological, Witty, Contemplative, Series, 1930s, 20th Century, Female Author, and British Author
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The mystery itself, I actually spoilered myself on the criminal by the time I was one hundred pages in. Beware of wikipedia! Anyway, knowing what I knew, I could see the clues that lead there, but if I didn't, I don't know if I would have figured it out.
The whole plot rather seems to serve Harriet's character development and the development of her relationship with Lord Peter. On the other hand, there's some commentary about female academics and so on (that seems awfully outdated to a female academic at the end of her second year of university in this day and age), and the setting -- Oxford -- is lovely and the atmosphere well-rendered.more
This book contains so much awesome - Oxford in the thirties, romance, complexly drawn characters, feminism, extremely silly slang, humor, and oh yes, a mystery.
Sayers is wonderful because she allows her characters to have their own opinions and even to be wrong. Peter is allowed to be agnostic (even though Sayers wrote Christian theology), kind-hearted Padgett is allowed to be a Fascist, Harriet is allowed to write novels with flat characterization and not get on with old schoolfriends and be wrong about what kind of person Peter is.
Dear authors of the world - let your characters be wrong about all sorts of things. You'll like them better, I promise.more
Harriet Vane was introduced to the Lord Peter Wimsey series in Strong Poison, returned in Have His Carcase, and has her time to shine here in Gaudy Night. She’s been invited to her Oxford college’s Gaudy, a sort of reunion weekend, and when she gets there she finds (as you do) that everything is exactly the same and everything has changed. She no longer has much in common with her old best friend, but her old professors are as delightful as ever. The college is still filled with students, younger and more modern but with much the same problems. Oh, and someone is sending horrible threatening letters to students and faculty and wreaking havoc whenever possible.
This is most definitely a mystery novel, but it’s also a deeply feminist novel. The whole thing is from Harriet’s point of view, as she contemplates returning to academia, her career as a mystery novelist, her obligation to investigate the crimes at the college on behalf of a faculty who’s terrified of what the bad publicity would do to one of the few women’s colleges in existence, and her potential romance with Lord Peter Wimsey. The plot keeps the whole thing going with plenty of suspense, but it’s the depth and intelligence of Harriet that makes this one of the best books I’ve ever read.
I’m often disappointed when I read period feminist books, not because of anything to do with the book most times but because I’m disappointed that it still seems so relevant today. Surely feminism ought to have progressed since 1935? I don’t feel that way about Gaudy Night, though, and I think part of the reason is that the book is feminist because of its subject matter, but it deals with issues that everyone ought to care about, but seem to become women’s issues by default. The question of what happens when professional standards and ethics intersect with family and romantic interests is a very different one when applied to men than when it’s applied to women.
Also, I am not ashamed to admit that I squeed like a fifteen-year-old fangirl at all of the scenes with Harriet and Peter together. Punting! Picnicking! Reading one another’s books! Discussing literature! I do believe they have one of my favorite relationships in fiction, and I cannot wait to start Busman’s Honeymoon when they will both finally agree with me.more