Have His Carcase

Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers I haven't read the Lord Peter Wimsey series systematically and in order. My first was Gaudy Night, which I adored and would rank five stars. I wouldn't myself recommend starting there, because I think readers would enjoy following the development of the romance between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane from its beginning in Strong Poison, the sixth book. This book begins with Harriet, still somewhat shaken by the events of that book, and definitely not intending to comfort herself on the "manly bosom" of Wimsey even though he'd eagerly offer it. There's a feminist subtext there from the beginning I think I enjoyed all the more knowing this was published in 1932. The mystery from internal evidence seems set in the preceding year, in a time between wars where relations between the sexes had undergone a revolution. I found striking this passage in an early chapter regarding women in a ballroom in old-fashioned regalia: The slender-seeming waists were made so, not by savage tight-lacing, but by sheer expensive dressmaking. Tomorrow, on the tennis court, the short, loose tunic-frock would reveal them as the waists of muscular young women of the day, despising all bonds. And the sidelong glances, the downcast eyes, the mock-modesty--masks only.... A quite different kind of womanliness--set on a basis of economic independence. Harriet Vane is a very modern woman--and that's definitely part of the appeal. And Lord Peter Wimsey is a charmer, and underneath the upper-class dandy there's a keen mind--someone who could truly partner her even if she can't yet see it. The beginnings of attraction are hinted at here in her not quite being able to keep her mind off him, in noticing nicely broad shoulders and well-turned calves. There's a sharp wit and humor in the narrative that mostly keeps things bubbling along and since Harriet Vane is herself a mystery novelist, there is some sly twitting at the conventions of the genre. If there's anything here not first rate, it's the mystery itself. Which isn't bad--I don't see yawing holes, but the convoluted scheme does rather strain credibility without quite having a Christie-worthy jaw-dropping resolution. But it did keep me guessing. Some parts dragged for me a bit--especially all the stuff about the ciphers. All in all in my opinion a much stronger novel than the first Wimsey, Whose Body? but not as wonderful as Gaudy Night, yet still an overall engaging read.