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4.4 out of 5 stars
Have His Carcase (Lord Peter Wimsey)
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2001
Well, how do I start? If you're not fond of romantic interest in detective novels, then don't read this book. It is as much about the murder as it is about the relationship between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. The murder is in my opinion even eclipsed by these two.
It is, however, absolutely imperative for the enjoyment of this book that you like Harriet and Peter both and are not entirely fixated on the crime aspect. This is a very character-driven book. Also, it is hillariously funny at times. Another word of caution: it might be better to read "Strong Poison" before reading this one, because the relationship between Peter and Hariet is not easily understood unless you've read how and why they met. So I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I laughed, I was puzzled, I was delighted by the characters. What more can you ask?
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Dorothy L Sayers provided some of the great treasures to be found in the so-called "Golden Age of Detective Fiction". A classical scholar with a formidable intellect, she was an eminent practitioner and an eloquent critic of detective fiction. Her feisty, detective fiction writing character, Harriet Vane, and her aristocratic, monocled, amateur detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, may be found together for the second time in her 1932 novel "Have His Carcase".
On a walking holiday, while recovering from a court case in which she was alleged to have killed her lover, Harriet Vane discovers the body of a man. It is lying on rocks on a beach, close to low tide level. The evidence suggests suicide. After taking photographs with her camera, finding a cut throat razor and removing a shoe from the corpse, Harriet vainly tries to enlist help in moving the body before it is washed away by the incoming tide. The local police force is alerted and so is Lord Peter Wimsey.
This is a long novel. Interest focuses not only on the solution to the mystery but also on the likelihood of Wimsey succeeding with his wish to marry Harriet. There is witty dialogue, there are fulsome reports from a range of eccentric characters, there are descriptions of the human anatomy and how it responds to the throat being cut, there is an interminable attempt to decode a ciphered letter, and there are classical quotations provided at the start of each chapter. There is little dramatic tension, no suspense, and no thrills. Dorothy L Sayers was a cultivated, fluent writer, sometimes boring but never banal.
If your tolerance of boredom is low, but your credit balance at the bank is high, then invest in the audio tape reading of the book provided by Ian Carmichael. English actor Ian Carmichael has had great success associated with various adaptations of the novels of Dorothy L Sayers. He brings wonderful energy and gusto to this full-length reading, enough to keep you delighted for more than fifteen hours.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Have His Carcase begins with a bang when Harriet Vane finding the body of a man with his throat cut on a beach near the seaside resort of Wilvercombe. Unable to drag the body to a safer location and aware that the tide is coming in, she settles for taking photographs of the body before heading off to find a telephone so she can alert the authorities. Unfortunately, by the time she's able to do so, the tide has come in and the body disappeared. Without a body, there can be no inquest but this doesn't unnecessarily worry the local police who believe that the victim, Paul Alexis (a dancer come gigolo) committed suicide. However Harriet is not so sure and when Lord Peter Wimsey comes to offer support, he too finds it difficult to buy into the theory. And then the body finally shows up ...

This is an intricately and densely plotted mystery novel as Sayers deftly takes the reader through Wimsey and Vane's investigations, with the ever-loyal Bunter doing the required footwork. Much of the plot turns on the timing of the discovery of the murder (which I'm not going to spoil but which ties in with the alibi for the main suspect) and the reader is really kept on their toes as Sayers goes through all the possible permutations and what they would mean.

Against this, we're also given more on Wimsey and Vane's relationship as Wimsey persists in asking Harriet to marry him and she persists in refusing. What makes this so interesting is that Sayers successfully sets it up as a kind of running joke whilst at the same time creating a genuinely emotional scene between the two that explores the undercurrents of why each behaves as they do and which I found to be moving (not least because you end up rooting for and understanding the position taken by both characters).

There are some laugh-out-loud moments in the book, my favourite being where Wimsey's visit to a theatrical agent results in him auditioning for a part in a show (complete with a mincing walk), but Harriet's attempts to 'vamp up' for a suspect runs a very close second.

My only criticism of the book is that I thought the ending was far too abrupt. Sayers does tie the loose ends together of how and why the murder was done (incorporating references to the Russian revolution along the way) but we don't know what happens next and I found this open-endedness to be a little frustrating.

Still, I absolutely loved the book and whilst I think readers would benefit from having read Strong Poison first (as it explains some of Harriet's odd behaviour at the start), it's most definitely worth a read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Dorothy L Sayers provided some of the great treasures to be found in the so-called "Golden Age of Detective Fiction". A classical scholar with a formidable intellect, she was an eminent practitioner and an eloquent critic of detective fiction. Her feisty, detective fiction writing character, Harriet Vane, and her aristocratic, monocled, amateur detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, may be found together for the second time in her 1932 novel "Have His Carcase".
On a walking holiday, while recovering from a court case in which she was alleged to have killed her lover, Harriet Vane discovers the body of a man. It is lying on rocks on a beach, close to low tide level. The evidence suggests suicide. After taking photographs with her camera, finding a cut throat razor and removing a shoe from the corpse, Harriet vainly tries to enlist help in moving the body before it is washed away by the incoming tide. The local police force is alerted and so is Lord Peter Wimsey.
This is a long novel. Interest focuses not only on the solution to the mystery but also on the likelihood of Wimsey succeeding with his wish to marry Harriet. There is witty dialogue, there are fulsome reports from a range of eccentric characters, there are descriptions of the human anatomy and how it responds to the throat being cut, there is an interminable attempt to decode a ciphered letter, and there are classical quotations provided at the start of each chapter. There is little dramatic tension, no suspense, and no thrills. Dorothy L Sayers was a cultivated, fluent writer, sometimes boring but never banal.
If your tolerance of boredom is low, but your credit balance at the bank is high, then invest in the audio tape reading of the book provided by Ian Carmichael. English actor Ian Carmichael has had great success associated with various adaptations of the novels of Dorothy L Sayers. He brings wonderful energy and gusto to this full-length reading, enough to keep you delighted for more than fifteen hours.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 31 March 2005
My first encounter with Dorothy L. Sayers was the Mobile Mystery Theater series showing on PBS. I now have all three DVD's of the series ("Strong Poison", "Gaudy Night" and "Have His Carcase".) They never produced "Busman's Honeymoon" Dorothy sold the rights to Hollywood and BBC could not get them back. The Resulting movie is "Haunted Honeymoon"(1940)
Naturally the TV media cannot fill in all the details that you would pick up from reading the book.
So I read the book. This added more depth to the story, now I appreciate Dorothy L. Sayers more than Agatha Christie. Dorothy not only fleshes her characters out better but her side trips into philosophy and psychology make the story that much more interesting. And just when you say what is the relevance to this conversation it is wrapped up in the final solution.
This is the second of the book series. The story is complete and can be used as a stand-alone story. The notorious Harriet Vane is out for a walk and takes a nap. She wakes up and finds (you guest it) a body. If not for her trusty camera, no one would believe her. As it is the authorities think it was suicide. Wimsey thinks it is murder. Naturally everyone, especially the main suspect has an airtight alibi. The real interest is the interaction between Lord Peter and Harriet.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2006
This was my introduction to Dorothy Sayers - what terrific fun I've been missing out on all these years! In lesser hands, "Have His Carcase" would have been as dull as ditchwater - quite frankly, by the end of the book, I couldn't have cared less who carried out the long and involved murder of Paul Alexis - but what fun along the way! Sayers' prose is so witty, erudite and full of life that despite the artificiality of the central murder plot, the whole thing just rattles along in such a diverting manner that it is quite a disappointment when Wimsey and Vane wrap the whole thing up at the end. And what great characters they are: Harriet Vane's sparky modernity is decades ahead of her time, and Lord Peter Wimsey completely dominates and energises every scene in which he appears, or is even mentioned. Crime fans looking for Holmesian brilliance from this story might come away disappointed, but fans of great writing, humour and characterisation have a lot to look forward to. I'm only withholding the fifth star because, as one of the other reviewers has mentioned, the chapter in which "The Evidence Of The Cipher" is decoded really is for dedicated puzzle enthusiasts only!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 October 2007
Dorothy L Sayers' novels are the best of the Golden Age of detective fiction. I reread them often, even though I know the details of the plot, because they convey the flavour of the 20s and 30s. Have His Carcase is a fascinating look at the seaside towns of the period. Rich old ladies with time on their hands, professional dancers looking for a secure future with the said rich old ladies, journalists after a scoop and theatrical landladies with refined accents. The plot is as convoluted as any Sayers ever wrote. The discovery of Paul Alexis' body, lying on the Flatiron rock on a lonely beach, is one of the great openings of a detective novel. Harriet Vane is a prickly heroine, resenting her gratitude to Lord Peter Wimsey (whose detecting saved her life when she was on trial for murder in Strong Poison), yet reluctantly admiring his intelligence and his calves in one memorable scene. Wimsey is a fantasy figure, but no less interesting for that. If you love the Golden Age, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Have His Carcase is the seventh book featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and the second also featuring his love interest, Harriet Vane. Harriet was introduced in Strong Poison, where Peter saved her life and complicated his romantic pursuit of her by the very burden of gratitude that she owes him.
Apparently, the book's title is from a translation of Homer's Iliad by William Cowper: "The vulture's maw shall have his carcase, and the dogs his bones." Dorothy Sayers' books are steeped in such classical allusions . Even the chapter headings all feature quotes from the poet Thomas Lovell Beddoes. Often, I don't understand the classical references, but I find them fascinating, a reminder of the classical education received by middle-class students of the English past. I admit to being more than a little envious!
The book continues the on-off romance between Peter and Harriet. He pursues her, apologetically and wittily but persistently, and she repulses him rudely, never quite driving him away, perversely enjoying the mental and emotional sparring and too seared by experience to be able to surrender. This aspect of their relationship is explored in more depth in `Gaudy Night', the crowning glory of the whole series. Their sparring provides a lot of the fun in the book, in stark contrast with the nastiness of the murder, and one feels a lot of sympathy for poor Peter (or, at least, I did). Harriet is a pain in the neck with all her hang-ups, but one can understand them, because Dorothy Sayers understands them so well. She should do, since Harriet is a thinly disguised version of herself. I loved that aspect of the book and read and re-read the passages where the two central characters are alone together.
The plot is pretty clever. Acquitted of murder, Harriet takes off on a solitary hiking holiday to recover emotionally. Unhelpfully in this regard, she finds a body on an isolated beach, his throat cut and still bleeding. But why are there no footprints in the sand, except his own and Harriet's? With great presence of mind (and a background of writing detective novels) she photographs the body. It is just as well, because it is washed away before she can tell the police.
She sends for Lord Peter (keeping him on a string while claiming to do the opposite) and he and Harriet investigate. Paul Alexis, a Russian working at a local hotel as a dancer, is missing. He has a fiancée, a much older but rich widow. The couple unearth weird secrets involving both the Russian aristocracy, it seems, and foolish Mrs Weldon, the fiancée. The story is complex and ingenious, though (of course) very much of its time. It just is a really good, intelligent book on a number of levels, and one of those is the detective story. Brilliant!
An introduction by Elizabeth George is worth reading too, as anyone will know who has read her books and her 'how to' book about writing mystery novels. She is no mean writer herself!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Harriet Vane is on a walking tour when she discovers the body of Paul Alexis on a beach just along the coast from the seaside town of Wilvercombe. By the time Harriet is able to call the police the body has been washed into the sea and does not reappear for several days. The discovery of the body brings amateur sleuth, Peter Wimsey to the scene. What follows is a complicated story involving cipher letters, disguises and the seedy world of the professional dancers employed by seaside hotels to dance with their clients.

I have read this book many times and even knowing the outcome it is still worth reading as you can watch how the clues build up to the unexpected conclusion. Dorothy L Sayers is one of the few writers I've come across who can write pages of dialogue with very few attributions which does not leave the reader trying to guess who is speaking. I love her writing style and the always believable characters.

This book comes between `Strong Poison' and `Gaudy Night' in terms of the relationship between Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey. It is one of my favourites for its dense plotting and the fact that at the beginning almost anyone could have committed the murder - that's always assuming it wasn't suicide which the police are inclined to think.
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on 6 July 2015
Why are cd's of the Dorothy L. Sayers books and radio shows featuring Ian Carmichael so difficult to find? Either new or used, the cd's are often very expensive. I have failed to purchase other copies of this program and soon regretted my decision. This copy was offered at what I considered a high price, but was actually a bargain compared to other prices I have seen. And it proved to be a very good bargain. The cd's were still factory wrapped and the seal never broken. The package was delivered to goodly time, considering it had to cross a wide ocean to reach me. The program itself was well presented and the actress who portrayed Harriet Vane did a wonder job of preforming with Ian Carmichael. The radio program format would have allowed for only a limited offering of the story and the plot to Have His Carcase is quite complicated so certain elements of the story would have to be trimmed. Sadly, the writers chose to trim Bunter's role in the story and Bunter plays one of his largest roles of the series in this story. I kept waiting for his appearance and realized about half way through the program that he was not going to appear at all. The story progressed to the end without the helping hand of Bunter and the crime was solved in Lord Peter's best style. A delightful program. I'm glad I did not pass up this offer to purchase the cd's of Have His Carcase
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