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Old September 10th, 2004, 04:37 PM
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Busman's Honeymoon

Busman's Honeymoon

Is it you, Nick Fuller, who proposed this as one of the top
detective/locked-room mystery stories (I went searching for prior
posts but didn't find it here or on GAM)? Anyway, it, apart from
"Gaudy Night" was one of the only Sayers books I'd never read because
their descriptions turned my stomach. Now I'm doing it, because
somebody recommended it. I can see why now, only halfway through
"Busmans's Honeymoon" which chronicles, in tedious detail, the
marriage of Lord Peter with Harriet Vane, complete with 'my
turtledove, my dearest' at every opportunity. Yuch!

With that going on, even though Sayers explains it in her preface that
this is a love story with incidental detection of a mystery and
doesn't really apologize -- take it or leave it, she says to mystery
fans. I wish she would just have said 'they fucked their brains out'
rather than going on and on about nuptial beds and having to put up
with Lord Peter spouting off obscure things in Latin and French when
his butler Bunter can't get the cook to serve the breakfast eggs
boiled properly. This is an AWFUL book. The murder itself isn't
revealed until page 125 or so (although it is hinted at) after you
have waded through loads of crap. Very mawkish claptrap that almost
made me want to toss the book into the rubbish bin.

I will grant that there is some nice stuff that points out the mores
of the times, such as we now have never been privileged enough to
enjoy, as exemplified by Bunter telling the milkman to go back to the
village and get the latest edition of the Times for Lord Peter. Some
very funny bits, a la Wodehouse, involving a chimney-sweep who goes on
and on about 'corroded sut', a vicar who shoots a shotgun up the
cmimney to clear it out out (disastrously), and idiotic rustics of
various sorts including the police who just tug their forelocks and
say yes'm and no, m'lord.

A nice comedy of manners based on the times, but hardly a great
mystery novel. Read the book as a bit of Social History, even ignoring
the fact that that life-style was pretty much gone even in Sayers's
times. This is basically an updatd Regency Romance, and it really suck
sucks, if you will pardon my Englsh.

BTW, nobody has replied to my question why Peter Wimsey is called Lord
Peter, since he doesn't have a title. Also there is the protocol,
which was pointed out here, that Harriet Wimsey (nee Vane) should be
addressed as Lady Peter. How silly can this sort of thing be and still
be readable? A very dumb detective story, even if it has historical
and social interest. Wimsey in this story is worse of an ass than he
was in his first ("Whose Body?"), even though he is shown to have
'matured' about human passions, etc. and occasionally acts like a real
human being.

I have to say, that apart from slogging through the revoltingly
romantic bits*, that this book works very well as a 'Village Cosy'
that points out, as Sherlock Holmes remarked, and I'll put it rather
mildly based on what he actually said, that sin is not confined to the
City.

(* I will never now highly regard that nice song 'Auprès de ma
blonde', which Wimsey keeps warbling at every opportunity with all its
detailed and incomprehensible, to me, verses in French while
interspersing stuff in Latin and from obscure Elizabethan authors, all
of which are totally irrelevant even in the circumstances. What an
incredible twit he is, even worse in this later book than he was in
the earlier ones! His wife Harriet seems to have a lot more presence
of mind and sense of reality.)

The village stuff is actually quite good, as are the presentations of
the minor characters such as Supt. Kirk of the local police, who reads
Tennyson so as not to limit his mind just to cop stuff, and tries to
protect his foolish constable when he comes under suspicion and admits
to dereliction of duty. Well done presentation defining what your
local chief of police SHOULD be, rather than a Gestapo agent as you
get presented with in more 'realistic' mysteries in the modern
Procedurals. And the great scene where Wimsey's butler Bunter really
reveals himself, a classic comic moment that occurs when the pro-tem
housekeeper, Mrs Ruddle (who is one of those nasty people you'd like
to squash down like an insect), decides to clean up (shake and dust)
Lord Peter's bottles of Cockburn '96 port:

"Gawdstruth!" cried Bunter. The mask came off him all in one piece,
and nature, red in tooth and claw, leapt like a tiger from ambush.
"Gawdstruth, would you believe it? All his lordship's vintage port!"
He lifted shaking hands to heaven. "You lousy old nosey-parking bitch!
You ignorant, interfering old bizzom! Who told you to go poking your
long nose into my pantry?"

Also, the murderer is sympathetically and realistically presented, and
there is a hidden agenda opposing the death penalty in this book. God
knows, in modern times we consider the death penalty barbaric -- in
most cases (NOT ALL, especially terrorists) -- but GAD-era had to put
up with the fact that the sort of homicide that would now get somebody
10 years in prison then meant hanging them. But that's by the way, by
the 1930s they had at least abolished the hanging of forgers and kids
who pickpocketed a watch worth more than 30 shillings.

So I have to say that Sayers was a good mystery writer (even if this
book doesn't really involve any detection to speak of). Just get rid
of the nonsense about Lord Peter and his bride! The book is 400 pages
of which a good editor, or 'digest' expert, could easily cut out 150
or so of the yucky parts.


PS. I have to apologize for saying they'd have been better off
'fucking their brains out' instead of spouting quotations at each
other. But this is not a kiddy web site. Sometimes you have to be
vulgar to make a point. An opposite example of the same principle,
where being vulgar just wouldn't have worked, is when Shakespeare had
Macbeth say 'She should have died hereafter' on learning of the death
of his wife, when what he really means is 'I can't deal with this shit
right now'.
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