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January 18, 2022


#Mystery Gaudy Night

by N@ncy

Magdalen Bridge, Oxford University (…last scene in the book)



11. Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey, #10) by Dorothy L. Sayers by Dorothy L. Sayers Dorothy L. Sayers

Finish date: 13 January 2022
Genre: novel wrapped in a mystery
Rating: D

Bad news: The first chapters are all about a bevy of young women meeting at a 10 yr class reunion at Oxford University. There’s no suspense…no tension…no push to propel the plot! Where is the hook?

Bad news: I was NOT given what I expected. I wanted a “scratch your head” puzzle…who is trolling all these academics with threats?
The center of the story….is NOT the poison-pen letters…but Harriet Vane’s issues with marriage!

Good news: Literary challenge – Each chapter is introduced by a quote by an Elizabethan poet/writer and I had fun researching the words mentioned and tied to find the connection Sayers intended to make with that particular chapter.

Bad news: Unfortunately….this literary adventure fizzled out. The clues about the book are so deeply embedded it lofty poetic allusions….I lost interest. This is just not something I was looking for in a mystery.


Sir Philip Sidney – (1554-1586) ch 1 – “Thou blind man’s mark, thou fool’s self-chosen snare….” (desire is the snare).
So if desire is a swamp we become lost in, then virtue is the brilliant and guiding sun that leads us out of the it. Once you finish the book this idea could be applicable to the relationship between Harriet Vane and Lord Wimsey)…but you’ll have to get through some soporific (23 chapters) to understand this high moral, intellectual value Sayers wants to give us.
Not what I’m looking for in a mystery!

Robert Burton (1577-1640) ch 2 – “’Tis proper to all melancholy men…”
Burton treats suicide as an outcome of melancholy, depression. One character we NEVER see unfortunately “blows his brains out” ends. Again you must slog through the book to find out who! Not my idea of building tension throughout the book. I read this and asked myself “Who is this character….?”

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) ch 3 – “…They do best who, if they cannot but admit love…”

Is love and marriage are worth…the sacrifice? Need she (Harriet Vane) sacrifice her brain to achieve keeping a husband and a home? “…washing, cooking, feeding the cattle and digging potatoes…these things take the edge of the razor.” (ch 3).

W. Shakespeare (1564-1616) ch 4 – “…Thou canst not, love, disgrace me half so ill,…

Harriet Vane fears the proposed bond of marriage to Lord Wimsey will not be one of of equals.

Personal: If you want to dream away and enter the gothic and hallowed grounds of Oxford University …this is your book. If you want a thrilling, dazzling mystery that will keep you up thinking “whodunnit?” …this is NOT your book. I tired to stay engaged…I tried not falling asleep…I tried to give Dorothy Sayers (one of the Queens of Golden Age English mystery) the respect she deserves but I could not. I did discover Lord Wimsey is the great sleuth….NOT Harriet! He narrows down the list of suspects responsible for poison-pen messages while Harriet sits shell-shocked in the corner of the room!
IMO this would have been a good novel…just a love story and leave the mystery element on the “editing floor”.


7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 18 2022

    I had fun with a couple of Lord Whimsey’s when we travel Elle’s around Cuba a few years ago. Her was a fabulous travelling companion! Easy, uncomplicated & undemanding.


    • Jan 18 2022

      Yikes trying to comment on my phone at lunch time is a minefield of errors!! Big thumb syndrome 🙂


    • Jan 18 2022

      Brona, many thanks for your comments. “thumbs and all”! I won’t give up on HV and Lord Wimsy. There isn’t much tension one can create by poison-letters. I must admit Dorothy Sayers did raise the bar with the quality of her writing mysteries. She was a very educated woman and it shows!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. tracybham
    Jan 19 2022

    You haven’t had good luck finding mystery fiction you like lately. I think the only one you liked at all was The Hunting Dogs.

    I liked Gaudy Night the first time I read it, and on the second read did not like it so much. Partly because it isn’t much of a mystery, and partly because I wasn’t satisfied with the ending. But I agree that trying more by Dorothy Sayers is worthwhile. There were some I enjoyed a lot on a second read.


    • Jan 19 2022

      Tracy, it seems I bought several CF IN 2015 after reading a few CF blogs and the announcement of the Petrona Prize that year. I’ve had more success with French CF writers like P. Lemaitre and some classic writers G. Leroux and E. Gaboriau!


  3. MaryR
    Jan 20 2022

    Gaudy Night is actually one of my very favorite books — my go to comfort re-read — but you are absolutely right that it isn’t much of a mystery. Murder Must Advertise is a much better choice (Peter only) for a more who-dunnit mystery from Sayers.


  4. tracybham
    Jan 20 2022

    Murder Must Advertise is my favorite in the Wimsey series, with Strong Poison a close second.



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