Thursday, July 7, 2022

Detectives on vacation

At CrimeReads, "The Detective at Leisure," in which the writer comments on a favorite fictional detective, Lord Peter:
.... My introduction was through the novels of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Christie loved to use the set-up of a group of holiday-makers at a bucolic resort and Sayers seemed particularly committed to ensuring that her professional detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, and his eventual wife, detective novelist Harriet Vane, never got to put their feet up and enjoy the feeling of being off duty. In 1931’s Five Red Herrings, Lord Peter is on a fishing holiday when he’s called to the scene of a murder. 1932’s Have His Carcase revisits the same dynamic. Harriet is on a hiking holiday when she discovers the body of the murder victim and has to team up with Lord Peter to solve the case. Rereading Have His Carcase recently, I encountered this favorite line of mine, as Harriet is at the shore and about to discover the body: “There is something about virgin sand which arouses all the worst instincts of the detective-story writer.”

And then, in 1937’s Busman’s Honeymoon, Sayers offered perhaps the ultimate interruption of a vacation for fans of the Wimsey/Vane partnership. At long last, Harriet and Peter are married. The first section of the novel details the arrangements and the event itself through letters and journal entries written by their family and friends. Peter, we learn, has purchased a house near Harriet’s childhood home in Hertfordshire. The house, called Talboys, is supposed to have been readied for their honeymoon.

They arrive, however, to find that the man who sold them the house and who had promised to arrange everything and be there to meet them with the key, is not there. Confusion ensues and Harriet feels immediately responsible. As they work to get Talboys ready for the night, Harriet wonders “Whether, all things considered, Peter would not have been happier in the Hotel Gigantic somewhere-or-other on the continent.” ....

They try to start fires, but the chimneys won’t draw. (I’d forgotten how many pages Sayers devotes to the Talboys chimneys...) Bunter, Peter’s long-suffering manservant, manages to make them comfortable. And finally, the wedding night proceeds apace. The next morning, we get a line sure to delight any Sayers devotee: “Lady Peter Wimsey propped herself cautiously on one elbow and contemplated her sleeping lord.”

But the honeymoon doesn’t last long, as the absent former owner of the house is found murdered and Peter must get back to work, playing detective to solve the mystery of his new house. ....
Sarah Stewart Taylor, "The Detective at Leisure: 8 Books In Which Characters Solve Crimes While On Vacation," CrimeReads, July 7, 2022.

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