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Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Posted by timallan (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 3, 14 at 12:38

I have been stockpiling some of the mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers for a few years now. I am now in a bit of quandary, for which I am soliciting some advice.

I have some of her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, but not all.

I just discovered that I now have all the mysteries featuring Harriet Vane, though I am missing the last book, which is a collection of stories. The Vane books were published intermittently.

Should I read all the books featuring Lord Peter and his lady love Harriet in the order in which they were published, and leave the other mysteries till later? Or should I read all the books in chronological order, regardless of whether they further the story of the courtship and romance of Wimsey and Vane?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Can't help you on that Tim. I do remember reading that Sayers was a rather/very strange person. She gave birth to a child just for the 'experience' and then neglected the boy very badly.
I did enjoy The Nine Tailors which was 'done' by the BBC and is available on DVD along with several other Wimsey stories.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Nine Tailors


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

I would probably read all the Vane books in order first and then go back and read the others in order of publication. The only thing wrong with that is you might get a little tired of Harriett unless you intersperse the books with others by different authors.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

I recommend reading them in order, whether Harriet is a character or not; events and characters from the other stories are referenced in the Vane books.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Have you heard of the further Wimsey stories by Jill Paton Walsh, based on Sayer's writings? There are four so far and are very good.
I think I have read all the original books also the short stories but found the casual mention of a whopping great flea in one book more ghoulish than the actual murder. Thank heavens for DDT!


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

I would follow Donnamira's advice and read them in order.

If you don't want to do that, read at least one pre-Harriet book before you pick up Strong Poison, to get to know Peter as he is before they meet. All the Harriet books show him more or less through her eyes and I don't think you get the whole picture without reading books taking place before Harriet (and between books featuring her).


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

It sounds like I would get more from Sayers by reading her novels in order. Thanks for everyone's input.

Annpan, thanks for the Jill Paton Walsh suggestion. I will have to check her out too.

I am currently reading Whose Body, the first Lord Peter Wimsey novel. He's a peculiar character so far, sort of a cross between Albert Campion and a character from Wodehouse.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Hi Tim -

SNAP!

I'm also reading Sayer's "Whose Body" as it's available on Project Gutenberg and it fits nicely into my own personal Century of Books (CoB) challenge and also the RP CoB project. (Going to update that when I get a sec.)

I'm only on the first chapter so far, but it has potential. Hasn't mentioned Harriet yet - only Lord Peter Wimsey.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Hi Lemonhead,

Harriet Vane does not appear until 1930.Whose Body? is Sayers's first published book, published way back in 1923. I enjoyed it very much, especially the characters of his manservant Bunter and his delightful mother, the Duchess of Denver. I will be interested in hearing your response.

Reading Sayers is part of a personal reading project. I am a huge fan of the "Golden Age" mysteries. I was reading Agatha Christie in chronological order, but have now decided to read Sayers, Allingham, Mitchell, Wentworth, and eventually, Ngaio Marsh in order too. Hopefully I will get to see the whole genre evolve.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

I think I've read all the Peter Wimsey books and I like Bunter and the Duchess of Denver too, Timallan.

I also went through a time where I read all the golden age mysteries I could find. I haven't read many of Patricia Wentworth's books yet but have read and liked Marjorie Allingham and Nagio Marsh's works. I don't recognize the author Mitchell, what is his/her first name so I can look for his/her books?


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Gladys Mitchell wrote a large body of crime fiction. Her Mrs Bradley mysteries have been a TV series but the character was glamourised!


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Thanks Annpan, I'll look for her books at my library.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

If you search on Amazon for "British Library Crime Classics" you will find a lot of the less well known mystery writers of the Golden Age.

Rosefolly


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Mitchell's books are an acquired taste, at least in my experience. I suspect she must have been a bit of an eccentric. My favorite Mitchell book so far has been The Saltmarsh Murders.

I want to start Patricia Wentworth this summer. I need to keep on reading Josephine Tey, but I think she is a really interesting writer.

There is another English lady of Golden Age mysteries: Celia Framlin. But I know little about her, and have never found one of her books.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Did a little bit of research and identified my missing mystery lady as Celia Fremlin (not Framlin). She died in 2009, aged 94. Most of her books were published in the 1960s. She might be a little late to be a "Golden Age" mystery writer, but her books sound intriguing. Has anyone ever read her?


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Timallan, as soon as you mentioned the title, The Saltmarsh Murders, I recognized it. I read it a few years ago but had forgotten the author's name.
And re: Josephine Tey, I've read and enjoyed all of her books I've read.

Rosefolly, thanks for the tip about searching Amazon; I'll check it out.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

I have one Celia Fremlin book from the 50s, The Hours before Dawn. It has been so long since I read it that I have no recollection of the story at all, but the inside cover info sounds super. I think I will read it again.

Speedy Death was the first Mrs. Mitchell book. It is on some list I ran across as one of her best books.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Carolyn, I read Speedy Death a few months ago. It wasn't perfect, but there was some amazing plot twists which genuinely caught me off guard. I find Mitchell's books to be a little weird, but still quite fun. I've also read her The Mystery of a Butcher's Shop.

I am interested in Celia Fremlin. I will keep a look out for her secondhand.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Timallan, be warned that Patricia Wentworth‘s books vary widely in quality. Some are frankly dreadful.

Ngaio Marsh also wrote a handful of not-so-good books. I‘ve read all of her Alleyn mysteries and my absolute least favourite of the lot was Spinsters in Jeopardy, with Black as He's Painted (by some reckoned to be among her best) a close second..

Josephine Tey was a good, good writer. I especially liked The Franchise Affair and To Love and Be Wise.

You might want to consider adding Georgette Heyer to your list. Her mysteries are generally not on par with Christie and Sayers - the plots tend either to be ridiculous or overly convoluted - but she writes great characters and dialogue.


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

I like to read "Imposter" books to see how it is managed. I don't think there are many in that genre.
"Brat Farrar" by Tey is excellent and is quoted as a reference in Mary Stewart's imposter mystery "The Ivy Tree" and a Madeleine Brent story where a woman returns to England to find she is being impersonated.
There are a couple of real life stories but I am more interested in fiction and not the Mills and Boon types! "His Fake Wife etc."!!
Anyone know of any others?


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

I've never heard the term 'Imposter' books before but for anyone interested in the subject I would recommend The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier. Not so much a whodunnit but a 'how do I get out of it'.
Ann, you in Australia, will know the story of the Tichborne Claimant. An imposter in Victorian England who took his unlikely case to court and lost. There must be a book about him out there.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Tichborne Claimant


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Vee, yes, I have read at least one book about that case. Of course, a DNA test would have sorted that out!
I read "The Scapegoat" a long time ago. Some stories let the reader know that there is an imposter, some make you decide!
Sorry, I have named that genre myself, I don't think it is a general term!


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RE: Dorothy L. Sayers & Harriet Vane: Advice?

Annpan, The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey might fit into your "impostor" category, although the reader is fully aware of the impersonation at all times. It's more how the false inspector manages to avoid being found out that's interesting about that one.


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