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I am glad to find so many favorable reviews of this, Dorothy L Sayers' final detective fiction novel, on the internet. It failed to find much favor with the public or the critics when it was written in the late 1930s. In actual need of the income that her earlier works in this genre had generated (she had to support not only herself but also a non-productive husband and an illegitimate son), she negotiated with her publisher to "once again try my hand at detective fiction" after he had pointed out that the market seemed to have become saturated.
Just as a busman's holiday is a vacation where the busman is likely to be as involved with driving as he is throughout the rest of the year, a busman's honeymoon (a phrase which she coined) is one where the busman (in this case Lord Peter Wimsey) is likely to spend his honeymoon checking alibis, interviewing murder suspects, observing rigor mortis, and all the other tiresome activities of an amateur detective.
Lord Peter and Harriet Vane are the honeymooners. After their wedding (reported in a series of letters that begin the novel), they travel to "Talboys", a country house chosen by Harriet. Their reception is not as predicted. Eventually Lord Peter's butler, Bunter, discovers a corpse in the cellar.
The novel began life as a play, as you may infer from the many static scenes involving a large ensemble of characters entering and exiting. The prose is as rich in wit, classical illusions and sophistication as you will ever encounter in detective fiction. Dorothy L. Sayers was an honours graduate and capable of writing as well as George Eliot.
Don't expect the kind of fast food satisfaction that Agatha Christie provided so successfully. You will find instead the full silver service dining and wining experience here.
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on 5 April 2002
Dorothy L Sayers is always a cut above your average crime novelist, especially in the Harriet Vane novels (Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon). Busman's Honeymoon can't quite decide if it is a love story or a detective story ... but that really doesn't matter, it's a great example of both, with characters that really live. Read it ... but you'll enjoy it all the more if you start with Strong Poison and work your way up to it.
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on 20 December 2000
This has to be my favourite Dorothy L. Sayers mystery! Lord Peter Wimsey has finally persuaded his beloved Harriet Vane to become his wife but married life does not run smoothly for them. Their honeymoon is marred by the discovery of a body in the cellar, and naturally they feel duty-bound to investigate. As with all Sayers' novels, the plot is both gripping and original. In addition the atmosphere of Britain in the 1930s is captured brilliantly, adding an extra dimension to the book. If you enjoy reading Agatha Christie you will love Dorothy L. Sayers (who in my opinion is a far better writer).
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on 26 February 2015
even though this is Harriet's book in many ways. As such we are party to Harriet's thoughts and her view of her relationship with Peter and how it has changed over the six years since she was on trial for murder. And at the same time we get an insight into the working on female academia in Oxford, and the debate about women and higher education..
The first time that I read this many years ago I remember being bemused by the workings of Oxford University, what with 'The House', subfusc, the etiquette of punting and scholars and commoners etc. Fortunately you can google these things now! Like Harriet, I have looked for Cardinal Wolsey's carp in Mercury and listened to the choir in the cathedral.
This book is the one that moves Harriet and Peter on from sparring partners to....? It is very much about relationships, and the unpleasantness, and eventually crimes, that the two of them 'sleuth' are also about a form of love, but of a more destructive nature. No murders this time, but plenty of interesting characterisation, including female dons and Peter's nephew, Jerry. If you like intelligent period crime writing, this is for you.
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This novel comes as a complete contrast to its predecessor in the Peter Wimsey series, 'Gaudy Night'. It is much shorter ('Gaudy Night' being a very long book) with a less complex plot and an atmosphere of joy and relief which is unsurprising in view of the extremely long period that Lord Peter had to wait before Harriet finally accepted him. Its greater simplicity and narrow geographic boundaries are because the book was originally written as a stage play.
A 'busman's holiday' is an old-fashioned phrase for a holiday where someone does exactly the same thing as he or she does for a living, like a bus driver going on a bus tour.
The book, of course, is about the Wimseys' honeymoon in a country cottage, accompanied and waited upon by the faithful Bunter. The couple spend their wedding night joyously making love (as Sayers tells us) while the dead body lies in the cellar. Finding the corpse next morning does not exactly enhance their honeymoon, but their fundamental happiness is unquenched. The mystery is solved in a satisfactory manner, though the whodunnit is rather secondary to the love story. I read the book first when I was very young. I loved it then and I love it now, though really it isn't such a good novel as its predecessor. It is simply lovely, witty, joyous entertainment with a glimpse of upper-crust country life in the 1930s with a good mystery in it and a few classical references which add texture to the whole mix. At the end, the relationship with Harriet is shown to have begun to heal some of the emotional wounds which the erudite and apparently light-hearted Lord Peter has hidden from the world since he experienced shell-shock during the first world war. Yet the mental anguish Wimsey suffers leaves in doubt whether he will ever engage in detective work again. Thus Dorothy Sayers ends her series of Wimsey novels.
It is said that Dorothy Sayers fell in love with one of her tutors when she was at Oxford and that Lord Peter is an idealised version of him. Not very beautiful and clever enough to frighten many men off, Sayers married fairly late in life for the time (32) and, though happy at first, the marriage is said to have deteriorated into toleration. It is tempting to wonder whether this story is the expression of all her dreams about her ideal man. She herself said that Wimsey was a cross between Fred Astair and Bertie Wooster, but there is much more depth to him than that. In fact, he is good at so many things that he really does seem like an impossible dream man. He's a fascinating character, though, and this is a lovely book on many levels. A great way to round off the series!
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on 1 January 2013
I do enjoy the Peter Wimsey stories. Ian Carmichael portrays Lord Peter flawlessly. Some of these radio serials as is this one, when transferred to CD are presented in gigantic chunks with no introduction and no ending credits. I realise that this stuff is on the jewel case but when the tapes were released it was altogether nicer as the individual episodes were preserved just as broadcast with introductory music and credits.

Two CDs with no proper break makes for less than pleasant listening.
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on 21 December 2013
At last Harriet Vane is married to Peter Wimsey, and we accompany them on their honeymoon and their discovery of each other's strengths and weaknesses as the body of the seller of their new property is discovered in the basement on the first morning. We have come to know Harriet in Gaudy Night, and we now become more intimately acquainted with what makes her tick. There are some lovely philosophies on marriage and two people of strong intellect, values and will, adapting to each other. These develop with each turn of the mystery and are gems. While the mystery itself is a neat one, this is a book for people who like their English language served in the traditional way. It is also a romance that has nothing to do with Mills and Boon .....and more powerful than cheap romantic fiction could ever be.
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on 8 December 2013
Well up to Sayers' usual standard. Typically, she won't allow a conventional happy-ever-after sequel, and so we must follow the subtle difficulties of adjusting to married life for two mature and able people with such complex backgrounds. This all makes the story more believable and ultimately satisfying. When I first read it a long time ago, it still left me with a feeling of incompleteness, but since then I have read Thrones, Dominations, the further sequel by Jill Paton Walsh, and can strongly recommend it to any Sayers fans who are yet to discover it.
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on 16 April 2014
Dorothy L Sayers is a masterful writer and as a fan of Lord Peter Wimsey this is a delightful interlude and a satisfying insight to the romantic conclusion of marriage to Harriet Vane As ever, Sayers evocative portrayal of life in 1930's England is fascinating and down to earth. I have read all of her books over and over and found new delights in every reading.
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on 25 August 2011
This was one of the first ever books of Dorothy L Sayers that I read, in paper back of course and so I decided to revisit. The Peter Wimsey Mysteries have always delighted me. Some times it is such a wonderful indulgence to go back to a time of better manners and refined behaviour. I love Peter Wimsey and of course to see him happy at last with the love of his life gives one a warm glow, dead bodies and murderers notwithstanding.
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