Have his carcase

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Paperback, 1932

Status

Available

Publication

New York, Harper & Row [1986] c1932.

Description

Mystery writer Harriet Vane, recovering from an unhappy love affair and its aftermath, seeks solace on a barren beach - deserted but for the body of a bearded young man with his throat cut. From the moment she photographs the corpse, which soon disappears with the tide, she is puzzled by a mystery that might have been suicide, murder, or a political plot. With her dear friend Lord Peter Wimsey, she begins to investigate.

User reviews

LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
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.
… (more)
LibraryThing member MrsLee
The second in a trilogy involving Lord Peter and Harriet Vane. Not the most exciting love story, but a good mystery none-the-less. Harriet Vane discovers a body and once again Lord Peter is there to make sure she does not get maligned by the law. She is not sure whether this is a fine thing or not. A melodramatic murder and mystery with a very subtle love story on the side.… (more)
LibraryThing member seoulful
The sustaining power of Dorothy Sayers English mysteries continues to be the interesting chemistry between Lord Peter Wimsey, the sensitive yet formidable solver of murder and Harriet Vane, a writer of mysteries and the object of Lord Peter's affections. The plot is complicated with numerous rabbit holes being examined by Lord Peter, Harriet and an ample assortment of policemen, detectives and junior detectives, all trying to discover why a Russian emigre gigolo was found murdered on a lonely, English beach. Along with these experts, we are confronted with codes, false identities, disguises, tides, Bolsheviks, pretenders to thrones, secret letters and uncooperative fishermen. To sift truth from falsehood we have the analytical minds of Lord Peter and Harriet sometimes in harmony and sometimes at odds working together with the competent village constabulary.

The language, settings and cultural mannerisms are interesting in displaying the character of 1920's England. The plot, though intricate, is frequently updated by the author in case the reader has lost a thread. Written by an author who shared her Victorian worldview through the thoughts and actions of her honest and courteous heros. A mystery of still enduring interest.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Smiley
Have His Carcase is a better mystery than Strong Poison. A real baffler. Some of the characters are stock, Mrs. Weldon and Lord Peter seems to merely cardboard at times, but maybe Sayers his not only poking fun at the genre but herself too. Harriet Vane is a solid character. I especially like the fact that Sayers has only one murder and not a body count. The book also contains sly references to classical/English literature and there is quite an education in code writing.… (more)
LibraryThing member shanaqui
I had no idea what was going on for most of this book. The relationship between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane was delightful -- some of their conversations made me grin from ear to ear in a most undignified way, and I love the character of Harriet. But the mystery... so much complication, and the pages on pages of discussion of how to crack the code didn't help.

Bunter gets a chance to shine too, which I liked a lot. Of course, there was very little of Parker, which balanced that pleasure. I love all the recurring characters!

More interesting than Five Red Herrings, to me, by virtue of being more emotionally engaging. But both mystery plots were a wee bit impenetrable, with the missing information in each of them.
… (more)
LibraryThing member JaneSteen
Where I got the book: my bookshelf. Continuing my re-read of the Wimsey books.

The plot: novelist Harriet Vane takes a walking vacation along the south coast of England to work on the plot of her latest murder mystery, but finds the body of a young man instead. Her suitor Lord Peter Wimsey is quickly on the scene, but the investigators are puzzled. All the signs seem to point to a particular perpetrator, but his alibi for the time of death is rock solid. Something is wrong with the picture--but what?

Having waded through Five Red Herrings, I now feel like I'm on the downhill slope of this reading marathon. And what delights are before me--Have His Carcase, Murder Must Advertise, The Nine Tailors and Gaudy Night are, imho, the Golden Age of the Wimsey books.

Sayers simply seems to hit her stride with Have His Carcase and the energy doesn't quit till Busman's Honeymoon, where Wimsey and Vane simply become too quotation-ridden to be believable. One of the beauties of Have His Carcase is the introduction of the inside of Harriet Vane's head, which is a delightfully down-to-earth counterpart to Wimsey's flights of fancy. She is practical, forthright and yet never overly wonderful--her insecurities and mistakes are laid bare for all to see, and she's definitely not always reasonable where Wimsey is concerned. The introduction of a fully-rounded character into the Wimsey books forces Sayers to make Wimsey himself more vulnerable, even as the list of his accomplishments stretches toward the exaggerated.

The only place where my attention flags a bit in this book is the long explanation of the code-cracking, although it is very clever and no doubt puzzle buffs must thoroughly enjoy it. I noticed, for the first time, that my 1977 edition was typeset the old-fashioned way, making the code grids rather wobbly. I'm so glad I kept it, because it reminds me of how books used to be before all this newfangled computer stuff came in. I would truly like to own the yellow-jacketed Gollancz hardbacks (the form in which I discovered the series, in my school library) but I imagine they are collector's items and priced accordingly.

If I thought really hard about this novel I would probably discover its flaws; Sayers herself cheerfully admitted that she screwed up sometimes. But I was too busy reading it...
… (more)
LibraryThing member teckelvik
Having been found innocent of murder, thanks to Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet takes off on a walking tour of the south coast of England. She falls asleep on the beach reading Tristram Shandy (I did too, although not on the beach, when I tried to follow her example), and wakes up to find a dead body. She manages to photograph it before the tide carries it out to sea, and then she and Peter set out to find out who it was and how he died.

What makes this a good book is not so much the mystery, but the growing relationship between Peter and Harriet. Sayers gives Harriet a distinct personality and style that nicely complement Peter's, and Peter begins to come down to earth a bit. There were contemporaneous complaints that he was losing his elfin charm, but Sayers rather sharply said that at his age, if he had elfin charm he should be locked in a lethal chamber. Watching the two of them adjust to each other, and watching their minds work and seeing how well their different styles mesh is simply a delight.
… (more)
LibraryThing member phoebesmum
The second Harriet Vane novel, in which Harriet finds what appears to be a fresh corpse on a deserted beach, she and Wimsey investigate, and the two of them develop their prickly and cautious relationship.
LibraryThing member riverwillow
I am a big fan of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels and this is the second novel to feature Harriet Vane. I love the relationship between these two, the back and forth of their dialogue as Harriet slowly opens up her heart. The murder mystery is good too.
LibraryThing member thesmellofbooks
Some pure beauty in this prose and the story itself is all right but yeesh, they gnaw away at the details so long I ACTUALLY skipped a few pages. Unheard of. Still worth reading, especially the first two pages.
LibraryThing member katekf
As I've been rereading the Sayers' novels, I keep noticing how overly complex the plots are and this is one that rivals The Five Red Herrings for twists and turns. Harriet Vane is on a walking tour of the coast of England and finds a body on a beach, takes pictures of it and then it disappears. Peter Whimsey comes down and they work with the police to solve the case but every new piece of information creates more confusion. The final reveal is simple and clever but the true joy of this novel is seeing the growing partnership between Vane and Whimsey. Their dialogue and interactions feel true of two people who are trying to understand who they are and might be with each other. This book is best read after Strong Poison and before Gaudy Night to see the progression of Vane and Whimsey's romance.… (more)
LibraryThing member iayork
Going Around in Circles: The mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers are intricate and intelligent, models of perfectly maddening puzzles that readers can barely solve. "Have His Carcase" is no exception, a fine round and round-about mystery that keeps readers (and the two detectives) searching till the final chapter.

The story finds Harriet Vane, recently acquited of murder, on a walking vacation. Mystery has a way of following her, and she encounters a dead body on the beach. Was it suicide or murder? Knowing that the tide is about to come in, Harriet takes pictures and clues to preserve what she can, and searches out the local authorities. Lord Peter Wimsey, gentleman detective, comes to Harriet's aid and also delves into the crime, a case of murder with a baffling array of suspects and alibis. Every clue and every alibi makes a strong case for suicide, but Wimsey knows it to be a murder, if only he could prove it.

"Have His Carcase" is a story with a lot on its plate; the wide cast of characters creates a web of further mystery and cluelessness around the death. This is all layered in with the flirtation between Wimsey and Vane, a delectable pairing of romance and comedy, as Harriet rebuffs Wimsey's marriage proposals at every turn. Sayers is perhaps almost too intelligent in her mysteries, giving her detectives almost unlimited knowledge on a wide range of topics. The chapters involving ciphers are particularly hard to decipher, but do little to distract from the excellent mystery at hand. And while the story does seem to go round and round, it comes full circle in the end.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Kasthu
I’ve been reading my way, slowly but surely, through the Lord Peter Wimsey series for about 4 years now—not necessarily in series order, since I started with Murder Must Advertise.

Have His Carcase opens with the mystery writer Harriet Vane, who, on a walking tour, discovers a dead body lying on a rock. The murdered man is a Russian emigrant and a dancing teacher at a local hotel who may or may not have been associated with Bolsheviks. Naturally, Lord Peter is interested in the case, and he makes haste to join Harriet Vane to solve the mystery (with periodic marriage proposals). However, once the tide comes in, the body is swept out to see, leaving the two detectives with a mystery but no physical evidence.

Dorothy Sayers was the queen of sharp, smart mystery stories. On the surface they’re straightforward police procedurals that happen to have a rich dilettante as the detective. But her stories are much more than that—Sayers understands human motives better than most detective writers I’ve read. The Lord Peter Winsey series is better, I think, with the addition of Harriet, who is Lord Peter’s equal in terms of wit and intelligence. I love watching the banter and barely-concealed sexual tension between the two of them as they tried to solve the murder. Dorothy Sayers doesn’t insult her reader with endless exposition, or a scene at the ending in which the villain conveniently reveals all. She is a master of the genre because of her subtlety in writing.

What’s interesting about this case is the lack of physical evidence—if Harriet hadn’t seen the body and taken photographs, it’s almost as though the murder might not have taken place at all (if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a noise?). Have His Carcase is another really strong addition to this series, but if you’re new to the series, I’d try another one of her books first to gain more background on the recurring characters.
… (more)
LibraryThing member shanaqui
I really loved rereading this one. I knew I would, when I revisited the opening lines...

The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people seem to think, repose upon a manly bosom. Much more efficacious are honest work, physical activity, and the sudden acquisition of wealth. After being acquitted of murdering her lover, and indeed, in consequence of that acquittal, Harriet Vane found all three specifics abundantly at her disposal; and although Lord Peter Wimsey, with a touching faith in tradition, persisted day in and day out in presenting the bosom for her approval, she showed no inclination to recline upon it.


The way Harriet and Peter interact is brilliant (and oh, how good it is to have Harriet saying no to Peter so determinedly, neither falling in love with him instantly because he's that perfect, nor agreeing to him to stop him pestering her which it is implied she did with her previous lover, nor playing him for a fool: she is as honest as she can be about how she feels and doesn't feel, and he doesn't expect or want to play on the clichés of gratitude and so on either), and their (sometimes strained) partnership as a crime-solving duo is awesome. Bunter gets some very good moments too, and the whole scenario is satisfyingly convoluted.

Granted, if you've read it before, you do get the urge to shake Peter for making certain assumptions, and the code-breaking part becomes even more boring, but overall, it stands up well to a second (or third) reading.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
Ha, ha, ha another great Dorothy Sayers ending. The problem is that after listening to about 5 of these Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, I'm getting a little tired of all the convolutions getting to that great ending. My advice, don't listen to too many of these at once. Separate them by a few months and you'll probably find them witty and entertaining and of course, informative.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kateingilo
a novel mostly about Harriet Vane, with Lord Peter Wimsey playing only a supporting role.
LibraryThing member raschneid
Funny, romantic, psychologically complex, and a really good (if somewhat out there) mystery! One of my favorites in the series.
LibraryThing member JeremyPreacher
I'm a fan of Harriet, and the counterpoint between her and Wimsey kept the story going. I'm not entirely sure I'm in love with their romance, but a pair of well-matched detectives is better than just one. And the central assumption that sets up the whole rigmarole was very clever - I'm not quite sure how scientific it is, but it seemed plausible enough to me.… (more)
LibraryThing member sail7
Harriet Vine is on a walking holiday, and finds a freshly dead body on a deserted beach. This one was had too many twists, and hard to keep track of.the characters involved.
LibraryThing member JBD1
Another good mystery featuring Wimsey and Vane. Not quite as good as Strong Poison, perhaps, but still a nice read with some very amusing moments.
LibraryThing member veracite
I wonder if I should create a cosy or comfy shelf? For the e-books, anyway. I know where I keep my comfort hard copies.

I find I skip the technical parts of detective stories like this (the railway timetable sections - though in this one it's several pages of deciphering secret letters) much as I used to skip the technical descriptions in Golden Age science fiction. Oh, Doc Smith, you were always a fast read!

Anyway, long passages of detail aside, there's the slow progress of a witty romance and a mystery I thought I'd got but there was always another ludicrous twist.
… (more)
LibraryThing member carlyrose
An improvement on Five Red Herrings, mostly due to the interactions between Peter and Harriet. It still felt a bit "too clever" to me compared to some of the earlier books.
LibraryThing member pgchuis
Harriet Vane, on a walking holiday, discovers a body on a rock about to be washed away by the tide. She examines and photographs it. The police have to decide if it was suicide or murder (the body is eventually recovered) and Sir Peter Wimsey travels down to assist and vouch for Harriet. Overall very enjoyable, especially the relationship between Harriet and Peter. The plot is pretty convoluted and far-fetched, but it moves along briskly for the most part, although I did skim various paragraphs about timings and horses and speeds and skipped an entire chapter in which a cipher is broken. Bunter shadowing a suspect was a lovely chapter. My enjoyment was slightly marred by the fact that my copy is missing four pages and I somehow managed to remember the fact which is the key to the whole thing from the last time I read it, about 25 years ago!… (more)
LibraryThing member antiquary
I believe this was the first Peter Wimsey novel I read, in a copy belonging to my parents. I was drawn in by the pseudo-Ruritanian plot (as I loved and still love Ruritanian adventures) ; at the time I knew nothing of the novel's place in the whole Wimsey-Vane saga. I have seen a critic refer to this books "longeurs" but actually I think it gets off to a faster start than several of the others and has some interesting twists.… (more)
LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers is the seventh book in her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series and I enjoyed this one a great deal. Harriet Vane moves front and center in this story as she discovers a dead body on a beach. The second he hears of this, Lord Peter is there is assist her and ferret out the truth - is this suicide or a murder?

An entertaining puzzler that moves Harriet and Lord Peter’s relationship along. He is still throwing marriage proposals at her and she is still refusing but, the reader can’t escape that sparks are flying between these two and it is pretty obvious that the lady is on the cusp of falling in love. The mystery was intricate and inventive. The banter between Lord Peter and Harriet was crisp, funny and irresistible. These two characters are made to be together and I look forward to reading more about them.

I have enjoyed all of the Lord Peter mysteries but I would have to say Have His Carcase is my favorite one so far. This complex mystery combined with it’s charming romance made for a delightful read.
… (more)

Language

Barcode

3735
Page: 0.2738 seconds