Harriet Vane has returned to Shrewsbury College at Oxford. She had gotten her education at the all-female university. Now her professors are dealing with a malicious problem. Someone is plaguing the school with nasty letters, vandalism, and threats. The sexual contents of all the incidents are malicious and vulgar. Dean Martin hopes that as an outsider Harriet can give advice. As a mystery writer she might be able to find their "poltergeist".
It is also good for her on a personal level. Lord Peter Wimsey has been asking her to marry him for the past 5 years. She always refuses him. She is grateful for his rescue of her when she was accused of murdering her lover. Is there more? Why does he continue to see her when she keeps refusing him. Why doesn she keep seeing him when she feels she's no good for him. Here in this enclave of women she can revel in some introspection.
But in the meantime, Harriet is involved in the weird happenings at Shrewsbury. She ends up meeting some of the men at Oxford, including Peter's nephew. She learns about the Shrewbury students' lives. She finds herself a confident for many different women and young men. As more incidents happen at the college, the more she wishes she had a confident who could help her and be objective. She knows Peter would be the perfect person but the Foreign Office has sent him to Rome.
The incidents escalate in nature and menace. More than once she barely misses the poltergeist in the midst of wreaking some new havoc and causing more vandalism. More than once people nearly are hurt. When one young woman is driven to a suicide attempt, Harriet gives in. She sends a letter to Lord Peter to get advice and assistance. He answers her letter by coming to Oxford to give his help.
Dorothy L. Sayers was such a good storyteller. Gaudy Night is a wonderful tale for Harriet's and Peter's story. It also is an interesting mystery. I was struck when I read Murder Must Advertise how the mystery could have easily been set today because of the drug trafficking. Gaudy Night has the sexual issues that we believe we set free in the 1960's. But of course sexual tensions and malignancies are as old as - well if not Adam and Eve, not too long after them.
I also had to research the term "gaudy night", knowing it couldn't mean the American definition I normally apply to "gaudy". Instead, in England at the time (perhaps still?) a gaudy night was a celebration gala night - with dressing up and supper, etc.
At times I had troubles keeping all the characters straight, but eventually I was able to keep up with them. There's a lot of introspection on Harriet's part that would probably be cut if the novel were written today, but it helps settle her character. This is a good book that keeps the reader pulled right in. Any mystery lover will enjoy this classic.
|Lord Peter Wimsey :
|You might also like:
Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
Book Rating System