Have his carcase

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Paperback, 1932




New York, Harper & Row [1986] c1932.


When Harriet Vane finds a dead body on the beach, she and Lord Peter Wimsey must solve a murder when all the evidence has washed out to sea Harriet Vane has gone on vacation to forget her recent murder trial and, more importantly, to forget the man who cleared her name—the dapper, handsome, and maddening Lord Peter Wimsey. She is alone on a beach when she spies a man lying on a rock, surf lapping at his ankles. She tries to wake him, but he doesn’t budge. His throat has been cut, and his blood has drained out onto the sand. As the tide inches forward, Harriet makes what observations she can and photographs the scene. Finally, she goes for the police, but by the time they return the body has gone. Only one person can help her discover how the poor man died at the beach: Lord Peter, the amateur sleuth who won her freedom and her heart in one fell swoop. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Dorothy L. Sayers including rare images from the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.… (more)

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.
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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...
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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.
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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 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.
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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 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 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.
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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 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 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 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 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 aliceunderskies
A glorious return to form after the painful Five Red Herrings nearly halted my obsessive devouring of this series. Alas! No Miss Climpson, but we've got Harriet Vane to make up for it. I like the Vane/Wimsey duo because it adds an interesting element of actual character development to the detective romping. The mystery element of the books is also stronger with Miss Vane present because she serves as a sounding board for Lord P.--there's a lot less of the climactic "all is revealed!" explication of the crime; through Harriet's interactions with Peter Sayers actually shows a bit of the thought process behind the detecting, which is much more fun.

I desperately want the next book after so thoroughly enjoying this one but it is not to be found anywhere in Western Colorado. I may have to break down and order from the internet. These books are the best kind of comfort reading: witty and wonderful, light enough to decrease stress but intelligent enough to give sustenance.
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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 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 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.
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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.
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LibraryThing member quondame
Once the solution is known, this book stands up less well than any to re-reading. I so often wanted to bash LPW&HV for not figuring it out chapters earlier, and really didn't enjoy the rotten lots and the rotten attitudes which filled the majority of those chapters. It's full of cleverness, of course, and making games, rhymes and puzzles of bits is so literary, but to me, quite unreal.… (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 Lindoula
This mystery was good - not a straightforward, easy-to-solve one - but some parts lingered on for longer than I would have liked. I love codes and codebreaking, but even so, some of the discussions about solving the code were just way too long. The banter between Wimsey and Harriet was good. More of that, please!
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 wealhtheowwylfing
Whimsy and Harriet Vane work together to solve another murder she's stumbled upon. I love their conversations, which are both natural and incredibly witty. There are some misunderstandings between them, but it is so obvious that they belong together that I squee whenever they're on the same page. Contains some great quotes about relationships, including "But you must remember that one may have an important love for an unimportant person." As to the mystery, I had the key fact figured out within like 10 pages, so eh. Sayers, get more ingenius!… (more)
LibraryThing member Helenliz
Harriet is on a walking holiday on the south coast when she comes across a dead body on a deserted rock on a beach. She takes advantage of her crime writer's experience to take note of the body, the location, state, the gloves, the pockets, the blood, remembers to take some pictures and remove some of the contents of the pockets to identify him. Good thing she does, as it then takes her quite some time to walk to civilisation and contact the authorities. She then contacts the newspaper with an exclusive and that brings Lord Peter Wimsey running to her side. Between them, they investigate. It gets difficult when the body seems to have vanished and doesn't turn up for some time.
This is a fun read, as it progresses the relationship between Harriet & Peter, they bicker and banter and are on the high road to falling in love. A good read all round.
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