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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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This is the eighth book featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. We first meet Harriet Vane, crime writer and previously on trial for murder, in, “Strong Poison.” She then vanished in the next novel, “Five Red Herrings,” which I struggled with, and so I was pleased to become re-acquainted with her in this story.

The book opens with Harriet Vane on a walking tour, when she finds the body of a man on a beach. His throat has been cut and, with the tide coming in, Harriet attempts to contact the police – but this involves such a long journey that the body has vanished by the time she manages to alert anyone. The next morning the police and press are all gathered at the seaside watering place where Harriet is staying, and then Lord Peter Wimsey arrives.

The victim turns out to be a Russian professional dancer who, not only was paid to dance with the elderly ladies who visit the hotel, but had actually proposed marriage to one of them – a very wealthy, and seemingly heartbroken lady, named Mrs Weldon. As the investigation unfolds though, nothing seems to be clear cut – there are disappearing witnesses, letters in ciphers and even tales of Bolsheviks…

I enjoyed this far more than the previous, “Five Red Herrings.” Harriet Vane was more involved in this plot, but she did not take over and Lord Peter Wimsey had a large part in the investigation. Dorothy L.Sayers did not only create a fantastic sleuth in Wimsey, but gave him a good array of friends and family to flesh out the books; so we have the intrepid Bunter tailing a suspect and a mention of his new brother in law, Parker, as well as lots of local police input. Overall, an enjoyable addition to the series and I look forward to reading on.
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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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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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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 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 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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on 18 May 2016
This detective story describes Harriet Vane's interrupted walking holiday after her acquittal from the charge of murdering her lover, with the help of Lord Peter Wimsey. He was convinced of her innocence, and she asked for his help when she discovered a dead man early in her holiday. As usual in Wimsey mysteries, there is much more to the story than a simple murder to be solved. I have read and enjoyed many of these Wimsey novels, which have plenty of content to 'get your teeth into'. I recommend this as a 'good read' which will keep you turning the pages.
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on 13 June 2016
Bought to replace my original (30yr old) copy which went missing in a house move. But like all of Dorothy L Sayers stories it's an interesting mystery - and this one has the addition boost of the Wimsey/Vane love story as integral. Great read
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on 7 January 2013
This is part of a series of sstories beginning with Strong Poison. The story conitnues in Have his carcase and then goes on into Gaudy Night. I rather gather that this particular romance comes to its conclusion in Busman's Honeymoon - though I have not got so far yet. I like Dorothy L. Sayer's style and am thoroughly enjoying reading this series of her stories.
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