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Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsley Mystery (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery) [Paperback]

Dorothy L Sayers
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 1987 A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery

Harriet Vane has never dared to return to her old Oxford college. Now, despite her scandalous life, she has been summoned back . . .

At first she thinks her worst fears have been fulfilled, as she encounters obscene graffiti, poison pen letters and a disgusting effigy when she arrives at sedate Shrewsbury College for the 'Gaudy' celebrations.

But soon, Harriet realises that she is not the only target of this murderous malice - and asks Lord Peter Wimsey to help.

'I admire her novels ... she has great fertility of invention, ingenuity and a wonderful eye for detail' P. D. James

Frequently Bought Together

Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsley Mystery (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery) + Strong Poison (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery) + Have His Carcase (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery)
Price For All Three: £22.56

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; New Ed edition (1 Mar 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0450021548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0450021541
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 3.7 x 17.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Her books are English Literature at its best. Her plots are finely tuned and her Lord Peter Wimsey is delightful (THe Times (letter))

I admire her novels . . . she has great fertility of invention, ingenuity and a wonderful eye for detail (Ruth Rendell)

She brought to the detective novel originality, intelligence, energy and wit. (P. D. James)

A truly great storyteller (Minette Walters)

D. L. Sayers is one of the best detective story writers. (E. C. Bentley, Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

The best of the golden age crime writers, praised by all the top modern writers in the field including P. D. James and Ruth Rendell, Dorothy L. Sayers created the immortal Lord Peter Wimsey. The twelfth book featuring Lord Peter (the third novel to feature Harriet Vane) is set in an Oxford women's college. With an introduction by Elizabeth George.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful journey back to the Oxford of 1935 26 Aug 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
About her book "Gaudy Night," Dorothy L. Sayers had this to say:

"It would be idle to deny that the city and University of Oxford (in aeternum floreant) do actually exist...." But, "Shrewsbury College, with its dons, students and scouts, is entirely imaginary; nor are the distressing events described as taking place within its wall founded upon any events that have ever occurred anywhere. Detective-story writers are obliged by their disagreeable profession to invent startling and unpleasant incidents and people, and are (I presume) at liberty to imagine what might happen if such incidents and people were to intrude upon the life of an innocent and well-ordered community.... Certain apologies are, however, due from me: first to the University of Oxford, for having presented it ... with a college of 150 women students, in excess of the limit ordained by statute. Next, and with deep humility, to Balliol College--not only for having saddled it with so wayward an alumnus as Peter Wimsey, but also for my monstrous impertinence in having erected Shrewsbury College upon its spacious and sacred cricket-ground."

That passage will give you a feeling for Sayers' rather grand, even lofty (by detective story standards, anyway) prose style, as well as the tongue-in-cheek, in-your-eye amusement that lurks behind her formal persona.

When I first encountered Sayers and fell into a binge of reading her works, I was a teenager. With the breezy assurance of that age, I confidently ranked "Gaudy Night" as her feeblest work and "The Nine Tailors"--or maybe "Murder Must Advertise" as her best. If anyone at the time had asked me why I had done so, I would have pointed out that the mystery element was only a strand among many in "Gaudy Night," and far from the most important one.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime has consequences 26 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read `Gaudy Night' about 40 years ago and I have re-read it many times since. It's a book which can be read on many levels. First for the mystery of who is writing the poison pen letters; second for the growing relationship between Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey; thirdly for the position of women in 1930s society; and fourth for the consequences of a crime on those connected with both criminal and victim.

Set in a fictitious Oxford College - Shrewsbury - the story features an outbreak of graffiti and poison pen letters sent to students and staff at the college. Shrewsbury is Harriet Vane's alma mater and she is asked to try and help the dons unravel the mystery. Harriet returns to Oxford to attend the college Gaudy (reunion) and finds no one pays attention to her own chequered past (see `Strong Poison'). When she receives an unpleasant anonymous letter the thing becomes personal and she feel compelled to get involved.

There is tension around the issue of married women not putting their jobs before their families and much ill feeling between certain members of the college on this issue. Should women have careers or should they have families? Can they have both and do both well? There are examples, good and bad, of all situations in the novel. Truth and honesty are also philosophical questions which are involved in the story. Should people be punished for suppressing facts which interfere with their theories especially if the punishment adversely affects their dependents?

Relationships between men and women and the proper basis for these are also explored. Harriet values honesty in herself and others and does not see her role in society as looking after a man and bringing up his children. Should women always put their husband and children first?
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great - intelligent and deep 12 Jan 2001
By Raina
well, I simply loved this book. But the ones out there who need corpses and action, turn back now. This is a character-piece. Also, if you haven't read "Strong Poison" and "Have His Carcase", I recommend you read them first. You don't need it to understand the story, but it is necessary to understand both Harriet and Peter Wimsey, and more importantly, their relationship. And if you don't like Harriet Vane, don't bother either. I, for one, liked Harriet a lot, and it was great to see her develop from love-interest in "Strong Poison" to an independant, strongly-built character in "Have his Carcase" and this book. The fascination of this novel is not driven by the crimes committed, but by the atmosphere of the place and Harriet's state of mind. Psychology, philosophy and an entire world-view are examined and presented. One really would like to be part of this community, as it is depicted. But what clinches it for me is again, the romance, if you can call it that. Harriet's relationship with Peter Wimsey at it's best and worst. The developement of Peter is also quite clear,he is given a depth he never had before So, conclusion: a great book, lots of atmosphere, lots of romance, lots of character. I hated it when this book ended...
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Intellectually rapacious, heartstoppingly romantic, and fiendishly clever, this is Sayers' finest hour. The full blooming of Harriet and Peter's romance is handled so beautifully - we see LPW as he really is, stripped of the Woosterish facade he has always adopted in the past. And we realise just why he loves Harriet - she is an intellectual partner for him in every way. The Oxford setting is perfect - the all-female college is brilliantly handled - and Sayers manages to be feminist without drumbeating. And still creates a swooningly old fashioned romance where the hero - finally - gets the girl ... There are better Lord Peter mysteries, if that's what you want (the Nine Tailors, for example), but give me this any day.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
every chapter beautifully crafted. A book to re-read.
Published 1 month ago by Kathy
5.0 out of 5 stars Oxford works its magic on two good people
My original copy, (owned for about 50 years) was falling to bits, with missing pages, etc. The new copy is a joy to read, and I can recommend it to everyone who enjoys the stories... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Barb Mackenzie
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Joan
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic but not dated if you love good writing
I love LPW and his crew - especially his relationships. Read and enjoy.
Published 2 months ago by Sandra Harvey
5.0 out of 5 stars I really did not like this rendition
As a dedicated Lord Peter Wimsey fan, and as compared to the book, I really did not like this rendition. Read more
Published 2 months ago by William Swindlehurst
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to Grade
This is a review of the BBC radio series starring Ian Carmichael

This is a difficult CD to review. It is classed as part of the Lord peter cannon. Read more
Published 4 months ago by tubbydaddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Snooty
Perhaps this wasn't a good choice for my first Dorothy L. Sayers book. The era it was written in and the setting (Oxbridge) was very class conscious - fine, but most of the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by spike
3.0 out of 5 stars Gaudy Night
Excellently written, it works on many levels.
It can be read as a detective novel, a romance, a critique on women's education, a view of the choices women must make and their... Read more
Published 5 months ago by T J MURRELL
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant
This is my favourite Lord Peter Wimsey novel, though the very different 'Busman's Honeymoon' which followed it is pretty good, too. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Aletheuon
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavenly Gaudy
Wonderful feminist view of female Oxford college - and Harriet great - pity Wimsey has to come along
and take over
Published 6 months ago by g.somerville-large
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