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Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery) by…

Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery) (original 1936; edition 1995)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

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4,4391181,683 (4.32)406
Harriet Vane's Oxford reunion is shadowed by a rash of bizarre pranks and malicious mischief that include beautifully worded death threats, burnt effigies, and vicious poison-pen letters, and Harriet finds herself and Lord Peter Wimsey challenged by an elusive set of clues.
Title:Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery)
Authors:Dorothy L. Sayers
Info:HarperTorch (1995), Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:english mystery, oxford, poison pen

Work details

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (1936)

  1. 50
    A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold (PhoenixFalls)
    PhoenixFalls: A Civil Campaign is Lois McMaster Bujold's attempt to replicate Gaudy Night -- with an infusion of Georgette Heyer -- in her long-running Vorkosigan Saga.
  2. 30
    The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh (merry10)
    merry10: The Late Scholar is Jill Paton Walsh's further exploration of Dorothy L. Sayers' themes in Gaudy Night.
  3. 20
    A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (zembla)
    zembla: Both feature good banter, a mystery set in a mostly-female environment, and a tentative romance between the sleuth protagonists.
  4. 20
    Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (kraaivrouw)
  5. 20
    Death Among the Dons by Janet Neel (littlegreycloud)
    littlegreycloud: A murder mystery, an academic setting, an unusual heroine, a knight in shining armour (although John McLeish is more believable than Lord Peter;): check, check, check and check. But most importantly: really good writing.
  6. 22
    A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer (bmlg)
    bmlg: lively and engaging depiction of the community of women scholars
1930s (6)

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» See also 406 mentions

English (109)  Danish (3)  German (3)  Swedish (1)  All languages (116)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
I confess: this is one of my favorite books and I recently took the risk of recommending it to my book club. Harriet Vane returns to the fictional all-woman Shrewsbury College at Oxford University for her reunion, which is called a Gaudy. While she is there, someone starts sending poison pen letters to her, to professors and staff, and to students. At first simply disturbing, the letters are increasingly threatening, and the poison pen writer vandalizes walls, and the new library. Harriet is a mystery writer, and is generally believed to have some detective ability since she has worked a couple of times with famed amateur sleuth (and would be lover) Lord Peter Wimsey, so the dean asks for her help. Harriet finds a good reason to do research at Oxford, moves into Shrewsbury College and begins her investigation.

The mystery is fine, and the setting is appealing. A college full of women, with strong personalities, and various backstories make for a lively story. At the same time, Harriet is struggling with her feelings for Peter. Here Sayers gives us perhaps more inner turmoil, wordily expressed, than I'd like. Overall, a good read. ( )
  rglossne | Jan 6, 2020 |
Dorothy L. Sayers was a snob of the highest order, and not at all my cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with authors who are antiquated in style (Proust, one of my homeboys) or problematic (Woody Allen's comedy) or indeed high-and-mighty, antiquated, and problematic (my bookshelf is a shrine to Lawrence Durrell) but something about Sayers puts me off.

Is it her half-page epigraphs at the commencement of each chapter? Her rambling style? Her characters' proclivity to burst into Latin without a footnote, even in a modern edition (not necessarily a problem for a classicist such as myself, but still annoying)? Or the sheer audacity of a 520-page mystery novel? I mean, even at their best, these things - whether by Christie, Marsh, Tey, or Innes - were designed to be amusements to pass the time, not Tolstoy. Perhaps it's Harriet Vane's unwillingness to really get involved in solving the mystery, and leaving it up to her bf.

Either way, I didn't enjoy Sayers in highschool and I still don't care for Gaudy Night but I appreciate that - much like my willingness to get lost in Pym or Zola - for some, Sayers fits their heart and soul specifically. I'll stick to the other Golden Age crime writers, thanks. (Delectable speech by the non-murderer at the end, though!) ( )
  therebelprince | Dec 14, 2019 |
Sometimes life can be overwhelming -- Global Warming, Impeachment, Corruption, the Housing Crisis, the Opioid epidemic. Well I don't have a fix for any of those problems, but reading a Lord Peter Wimsey cozy mystery feels like a calm refuge in the middle of a storm. The series is based on Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey, the second son of a duke, who excels in activities like cricket, Latin, and solving crimes. Of course as a hobby, he also helps out the Foreign Office on secret missions that send him all over the continent.

For this mystery, there are some strange things happening at the all-female Shrewsbury College in Oxford. People are receiving poison pen messages using letters cut out from a newspaper and other malicious activities. Nothing scandalous by today's standards, but in a refined women's school in 1930's England, if the news got out, the school's reputation would be tarnished -- disaster! So rather than call the police or a private detective, the school reaches out to Harriet Vane, a Shrewsbury graduate and a successful mystery author ... because of course writing about mysteries makes you an expert on crime.

In a completely civilized and refined manner, the mystery gradually unfolds, reaches a climax and is of course, solved. But to be honest, the real strength behind this series isn't the whodunit plot, but the lovely interplay between Harriet and Lord Peter. Whether it's dropping allusions to Dante's Inferno, or quoting little Latin phrases, these characters are quick-witted, bright, self-deprecating, and so incredibly lovable. You're guaranteed to be entertained and come away with the feeling that what we need right now is a Peter Wimsey for our current time.

Grab a spot of tea and snuggle in for a fun read. ( )
  jmoncton | Oct 19, 2019 |
Bemoaned by some as not a proper mystery because no actual murder occurs, Gaudy Night is more a psychological examination of Harriet and of the role of the intellect in life. Not the best introduction to Sayers since Lord Peter has a small onstage rold compared to the others featuring Harriet Vane (Strong Poison, Have His Carcase and Busman's Honeymoon) ( )
  ritaer | Oct 17, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy L. Sayersprimary authorall editionscalculated
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juva, KerstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ledwidge, NatachaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The University is a Paradise. Rivers of Knowledge are there. Arts and Sciences flow from thence. Counsell Tables are Horti conclusi, (as it is said in the Canticles) Gardens that are walled in, and they are Fontes signati. Wells that are sealed up; bottomless depths of unsearchable Counsels there.

John Donne
First words
Harriet Vane sat at her writing-table and stared out into Mecklenburg Square.
'The social principle seems to be,' suggested Miss Pyke, 'that we should die for our own fun and not other people's.' 'Of course I admit,' said Miss Barton, rather angrily, 'that murder must be prevented and murderers kept from doing further harm. But they ought not to be punished and they certainly ought not to be killed.' 'I suppose they ought to be kept in hospitals at vast expense, along with other unfit specimens,' said Miss Edwards. 'Speaking as a biologist, I must say I think public money might be better employed. What with the number of imbeciles and physical wrecks we allow to go about and propagate their species, we shall end by devitalising whole nations.' 'Miss Schuster-Slatt would advocate sterilisation,' said the Dean. 'They're trying it in Germany, I believe,' said Miss Edwards. 'Together,' said Miss Hillyard, 'with the relegation of woman to her proper place in the home.' 'But they execute people there quite a lot,' said Wimsey, 'so Miss Barton can't take over their organisation lock, stock and barrel.'
`Were you really being as cautious and exacting about it as you would be about writing a passage of fine prose?’
‘That’s rather a difficult sort of comparison. One can’t, surely, deal with emotional excitements in that detached spirit’.
‘Isn’t the writing of good prose an emotional excitement?’
‘Yes, of course it is. At least, when you get the thing dead right and know it’s dead right, there’s no excitement like it. It’s marvellous. It makes you feel like God on the Seventh Day – for a bit, anyhow.’
‘Well, that’s what I mean. You expend the trouble and you don’t make any mistake – and then you experience the ecstasy. But if there’s any subject in which you’re content with the second-rate, then it isn’t really your subject.’
All the children seem to be coming out quite intelligent, thank goodness. It would have been such a bore to be the mother of morons, and it's an absolute toss-up, isn't it? If one could only invent them, like characters in books, it would be much more satisfactory to a well-regulated mind.
Detachment is a rare virtue, and very few people find it lovable, either in themselves or in others. If you ever find a person who likes you in spite of it--still more, because of it--that liking has very great value, because it is perfectly sincere, and because, with that person, you will never need to be anything but sincere yourself.
...never again would she mistake the will to feel for the feeling itself.
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