søndag den 3. maj 2009

Dorothy Sayers, Busman´s Honeymoon (1937)

Cozy Mystery Reading Challenge # 2

This crime novel is not only a classic, but also the prototype of a cosy mystery, because the main part of the plot takes place in and around one single house, with the usual, small circle of suspects.

Several letters at the beginning of the novel indicate that Sayers may have planned to write an epistolary novel, but after the first twenty five pages she changes the style and continues in traditional crime fiction mode.

A short plot summary: the coveted bachelor Lord Peter Wimsey has finally married the independent crime fiction writer Harriet Vane, who has a past as a murder suspect. The two set out for their honeymoon in their newly acquired country house, Talboys. Contrary to their expectations, the former owner has vanished into thin air, and nothing has been prepared for their reception. The owner, cynical and stingy Mr Noakes, reappears soon enough, however, at the foot of the stairs of his own cellar.

The peace is over as the detective and crime writer can´t just enjoy their honeymoon with a murderer on the loose. Superintendent Kirk is a good and conscientious police officer, but he accepts their assistance eagerly, and rejoices at every opportunity to exchange literary quotations with Peter Wimsey.

As usual D.L. Sayers has created a fine and coherent crime plot, but the love story does take up a good deal of the book. Peter Wimsey fans will know that the public-spirited nobleman suffers when his own ´victims´ have been brought to justice (at a time when England had not given up the death penalty), and after having tried to cope with his feelings of horror and guilt on his own, he seeks Harriet´s help. “You´re my corner, and I´ve come to hide.”

For readers who enjoy cozy mysteries at all, this master mystery is a must.

Dorothy L Sayers, Peter Wimseys hvedebrødsdage (1950).
Denne krimi er dels en klassiker, dels prototypen på et cozy mystery, fordi så stor en del af handlingen udspiller sig i og omkring et enkelt hus, med den sædvanlige lille kreds af mistænkte.

En lang række breve ved starten af romanen kunne tyde på, at Sayers havde planer om at skrive en brevroman, men efter de første femogtyve skifter hun stil, og fortsætter på traditionel krimivis.

Et kort rids af handlingen: den eftertragtede ungkarl Lord Peter Wimsey er omsider blevet gift, med den uafhængige krimiforfatter Harriet Vane, som har en fortid som mordmistænkt. Parret drager på bryllupsrejse til deres nyindkøbte landsted, hvor alt skulle være klar til at modtage dem, men den tidligere ejer er forsvundet, og intet er forberedt. Ejeren, den kyniske og nærige Mr Noakes, dukker dog snart op igen for foden af sin egen kældertrappe.
Freden er forbi, for naturligvis kan detektiven og krimiforfatteren ikke bare nyde deres hvedebrødsdage, mens en morder er på fri fod. Den lokale mand, Superintendent Kirk er både dygtig og samvittighedsfuld, men tager gerne imod den udstrakte hånd.

Som sædvanlig har D.L. Sayers skabt et fint og sammenhængende krimiplot, men kærlighedshistorien fylder unægtelig også en del i bogen. Peter Wimsey-fans vil vide, at den samfundsbevidste adelsmand har det svært, når hans egne ´ofre´ har været for retten (i en tid hvor England endnu ikke havde opgivet dødsstraffen), og efter at have forsøgt at klare sig igennem på egen hånd som sædvanlig, overgiver han sig, og søger Harriets hjælp. ”Du er mit hjørne, og jeg er kommet for at skjule mig.”

For læsere, som overhovedet er til ´cozy mysteries´, er dette mestermysterium ikke til at komme uden om.

11 kommentarer:

Kate S. sagde ...

I'm a fan of Sayers and I enjoy the Wimsey/Vane partnership, but of the three books in which both characters appear, "Busman's Honeymoon" seemed to me to be the weakest. Still worth reading, but not quite up to the standard of the others!

Beth F sagde ...

I just love this series. I may have to consider rereading the Lord Peter books. It's been at least 20 years.

Dorte H sagde ...

Hi Kate.
I agree that this one is not Sayers´ masterpiece, but I have reviewed it as part of my cosy mysteries challenge, and thought it was well-suited because of the setting.

Beth, it took me some time to get through the first one, but after the second (the one with the body in the bath), I was sold. So even though I re-read books this month to save time, I enjoy it thoroughly.

Unknown sagde ...

I started enjoying cozy mysteries when i read a mystery by Heyer and I will definitely take up reading Sayers now too. Thanks for reviewing one of her books, this way I can add her to my TBR pile.

Dorte H sagde ...

Hi Lilly.

I really think you´ll enjoy her books. But it will probably be a good idea to read them in order, especially the ones with Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane.

Belle Wong sagde ...

It's been a while since I picked up a Lord Wimsey book - I think it's about time for a re-read.

Dorte H sagde ...

I certainly think it was a pleasure to meet him and Harriet Vane again. But then I am truly Anglofile - love the environment & the humour.

Lauren sagde ...

As a non-Brit living here, my experience with Sayers is that she tends to have been remembered more fondly abroad than here - I'd imagine it's harder to feel nostalgic about certain class issues if you'd really had to suffer the consequences.

I'm torn whether to re-read Gaudy Night right now - I have an interview at Oxford(!) in a fortnight, and am not sure whether it will soothe my nerves or just tempt fate...

Dorte H sagde ...

Lauren, you are probably right. I tend to see Sayers as remote fiction whereas it annoys me that Elizabeth George tries to recreate ´the good old days´ with her icon, Inspector Lynley.

With regard to Gaudy Night, what about keeping it on the shelf until after your interview?
And I wish you good luck, of course :D

Lauren sagde ...

Well, I've never even visited Oxford and now I'm being considered for a job there, so I thought Gaudy Night might either calm my nerves or provide me with some urgent background. (I don't have any Morse with me, or I might go with that). However, it might be best to stick with mundane reality!

I agree about Elizabeth George. She has some nice ideas, but the class conflict is really obnoxious. Plus the other anachronistic trappings - I remember one scene where Lynley has trouble parking his Bentley in a rought part of London, and it just made me sigh.

And thanks for the best wishes!

Dorte H sagde ...

Lauren, Oxford is a wonderful & beautiful town so the nightmareish atmosphere of Gaudy Night is nothing to go by ;)

As you say, Elizabeth George has ´some nice ideas´ why don´t someone tell her to stick to her talent for writing good crime fiction & forget all her dainty lords & ladies?