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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 May 2014
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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VINE VOICEon 3 October 2001
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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VINE VOICEon 2 August 2013
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.

Strong Poison
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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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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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VINE VOICEon 23 July 2002
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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on 12 July 2015
Great story. My favourite of the four books covering the romance of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane - possibly because it has less of the tension of the first book. It takes a more gentle approach to the detection since there is no real jeopardy for the main characters. I read it every few years and decided to put it on my Kindle so that I can read it the more easily.
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on 8 December 2013
Sayers endows her heros and heroines with a rather snobbish level of scholastic achievements, and also with nobility, both of birth and of character....snobbish but we do so love it! And since they are neither slack-jawed nor chinlessly daft, we enjoy their clever analyses and solving of crimes. Her English being faultless Queen's English is, for me, an enjoyable factor. I am as caught up in the sensitivities and intellectual difficulties of the Wimsey/Vane relationship as I am with the murder mystery. This is a very good mystery, quite detailed and complex, and we see Wimsey finally able to form a different sort of bond with through their working together and meshing so well intellectually. Great novel.
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on 31 December 2014
One of my top three Dorothy L Sayers Wimsey series - along with Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night.
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on 12 August 2009
Not the best Wimsey, this is very much a story to read between Strong Poison and Gaudy Night, without being as good as either. The story serves to flesh out the character of Harriet, and explain her reticence to marry Peter. The plot, a dead man on a rock with his throat cut, is very much secondary. However, the other characters are well described, and the slightly claustrophobic feeling of English seaside and its clientele is beautifully captured. The codes and some of the description is a bit wordy and could have been cut down, but overall the book still worthy of a read.
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