4 of 5 stars to Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers, a strong and talented writer of detective mysteries in their Golden Age of publication. This was truly an excellent book. Upon finishing my third year at college, I’d taken all the required courses and a variety of electives to complete my double majors. My advisors and professors, knowing I had an affinity for reading and writing mystery stories, encouraged me to do an independent study on this era of literature; but they also told me I wouldn’t be allowed to select any of the books I had to read. She would pick two per month for me to read and discuss. And this was one of the very first ones… she was a big Dorothy Sayers fan and thought this was the author’s most popular book. Despite it being in the middle of a series, which I severely dislike, I read it without enjoying the prior installments. And it turned out OK.
Though it’s hailed as a Lord Peter Wimsey book, it’s really about Harriet Vane: young wife accused and jailed for murdering her husband; after 5 years, she’s released when Wimsey proves her innocence. And they begin their own little flirtation and romance. Harriet goes on to be a writer and plans to visit her alma mater, a women’s college in the 1930s… what an intriguing concept. Full of some feminism, some mystery, some romance, some education… I loved it, even tho at times it was a little too “eyes slanted down one’s nose” for my taste.
The writing is fantastic. The mystery is complex. And it’s more about proving false clues, sometimes revisiting them, but always applying sound logic. Sayers helped pave the way for many future female authors of detective stories. Christie is still my preference, but I thoroughly enjoyed Sayers’ approach and character-creation. If you enjoy 75+ year old stories, give this one a chance. It’s really quite psychological and introspective.
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