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  • HK Novielli

Have His Carcase

Picture of the cover of the book on a Kindle reader

I just finished reading Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers. It’s a Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane romp and it’s fantastic. It’s one of the most convoluted mysteries I’ve ever read which made it frustrating, but also satisfying. There were a lot of names to keep track of, so be warned.

Harriet Vane finds a dead body on a walking tour. Peter Wimsey turns up, afraid that she may find herself in a bit of trouble again. They spend some time in this book bumping up against their expectations of themselves and each other in the context of a potential relationship. He proposes to her at least three times, if not more.

While reading, I figured a couple of things out, but not the entire mystery. I thought that it was going to turn out to be more of a Hercule Poirot’s Christmas type of murder, but it was not. (Frankly, I wasn’t sure how that would be managed either if that was the direction it went.)

Once I finished this very clever book, I was immediately reminded of S. S. Van Dine's "20 Rules for Writing Detective Stories" which I was introduced to on the Shedunnit podcast. I went back and forth for a while trying to decide if i thought the explanation at the end went against the rules or not. But, the clues as to what actually happened were in the book, dropped along like a trail of breadcrumbs that I didn’t follow because I was too engrossed in getting to the big reveal. And, frankly, I don't actually mind a broken rule here and there anyway.

As usual, Wimsey is funny, intelligent, and charmingly snobby. He is perhaps more confused that he’s ever been before, more certain and yet uncertain of what has transpired and who has done it. This confusion just makes him more determined. Bunter is outstanding and has a rather larger part than in previous books. One of my favorite things to find in these books are the tacked-on notes about clothing that Bunter adds to every missive he sends.

Overall, this was an entertaining and satisfying read. It didn’t quite come to an end the way I thought it would, but that didn’t leave me feeling disappointed. On the contrary, watching all the pieces play out in painstaking detail and having Harriet take such a large role in this one was quite a lot of fun.

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