I’m happy to be participating in Classic Circuit’s The Golden Age of Detective Fiction. I’m sure you already know of my devotion to this age via my obsession with reading all the Agatha Christie novels. But for the Classic Circuit I chose to read a Dorothy L. Sayer’s novel. I read somewhere that if you could only read one Dorothy Sayers novel, pick Gaudy Night. That turned out to be a good recommendation.
Set in the 1930s, Gaudy Night is the story of Harriet Vane and her beau, Lord Peter Wimsey. Harriet has become famous as a writer of detective fiction. She agrees to attend a reunion, a “Gaudy”, at her old college at Oxford.
While at the school Harriet learns the school has been experiencing some nasty problems. Someone is sending cruel messages, defaming the campus buildings, and other acts of vandalism.
The professors are sure it is someone within the all-girl college. The director asks Harriet to help them solve this mystery. They believe that, since Harriet has experience writing about detectives, she can use her detective skills to solve the mystery.
Harriet agreed to stay at the college for a few months under the guise of doing research. She chats with the professors, the students and staff, carefully sifting through information. There doesn’t seem to be a motive. But then the vandalism escalates and Harriet finds herself in danger.
Meanwhile, Lord Peter Wimsey has been out of the country on government business. (He works for the foreign office.) On his return, he drives to the college, to check on Harriet. [Wimsey is in love with Harriet and wants her to marry him, but Harriet has been putting him off.] Now that Peter has come to the college Harriet asks him to help her find a solution to all the problems.
Of course, Peter and Harriet solve the mystery, and Harriet grows a bit more fond of Peter. It was a satisfying story and was also a very well written mystery. It was both smart and sophisticated. There was no murder involved which was refreshing. There was still plenty of intrigue to keep any mystery buff satisfied. I loved the dialogue and the descriptions of the school and the various characters. It definitely had that 1930s feel to it.
I checked a copy of the book out from the library and, I swear, it was the original book from 1936. The cover was plain gray with black binding where it had been repaired. Every page laid flat and looked worn. It even had that “old book” smell. The best part was the library envelope in the front of the book with inserts with the dates the book has been checked out. That really added to the whole Golden Age experience.
The library also had a copy of the video made by Warner Brothers. It featured Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Walter played the part of Harriet Vane. The costumes and the setting added significantly to the book. If your library carries the video, I’d suggest viewing the video in addition to reading the novel.
I hope you’ll visit more of the blogs who are featuring the Golden Age of Fiction. Today is just the second day of the tour so you have plenty of time to catch the whole tour. The complete schedule is at Golden Age of Fiction.
This post fulfills several of my challenges: Mystery and Thrillers, Read the Book, See the Movie, Awesome Authors, and the 1930s Challenge.