Georgette Heyer, Queen of the Cosy

I know, I know, there’s Sayers and Christie and Tey, and Marsh, and my fave, Allingham, all of whom were better known as Golden Age goddesses of wrongful death, but Georgette Heyer will always hold a special place in my heart.  She and Dorothy Parker were my muses when I started writing; I wanted to be the next Them.  And she wrote marvelous (for the most part) mysteries about clever young people before and after WWII, good solid plots full of characters who you either fell in love with or wanted to strangle yourself.  

Herewith her mystery list to glom:

1932: Footsteps in the Dark
Her first mystery that wasn’t primarily a romance.  It’s not good.  There’s a haunted house and a villain who sneers.  

1933: Why Shoot A Butler?:
Heyer was evidently bitten by a spider named Wimsey because her detective is a supercilious upper class barrister and her damsel in distress is, well, a damsel in distress, sullen and rude and yet inexplicably drawn to our hero .  And the cast is kind of boring.

1934: The Unfinished Clue 
A house party murder with the head of the family bumped off and nobody really missing him much (he was a real bastard which nicely does away with the whole mourning thing).  The family is where the fun is since they’re Heyer’s usual bag of colorful personalities any one of which could have picked up that paper knife.   Pretty much classic Golden Age Mystery.

1935: Death in the Stocks 
This is one of Heyer’s murderous romps where the hero is the only truly sane person in whole story, but the characters are so much fun you don’t care.  And with the exception of putting the body in the stocks, the murders are actually very believable.  First appearance of Superintendent Hannasyde, a very smart cop.

1936: Behold, Here’s Poison
This is Krissie’s fave because she adores the hero, who’s described as an amiable snake.  If they’d made a movie, they’d have cast Robert Downey, Jr.  Heroine’s a little weak, but it’s a damn good plot and another cast of characters not to be missed.  Also more Hannasyde. Highly recommended.

1937: They Found Him Dead
Another “the family gathers and the head of the family dies” plot, this one including a teen-age boy dubbed the Terrible Timothy by Inspector Hannasyde’s Sergeant, Hemingway,  The murderer sticks out a mile, but once again it’s worth it just to watch the cast bounce off each other.

1938: A Blunt Instrument
This may be the best of the bunch as far as mysteries go: Heyer plays fair all the way through but I did not see the murderer coming.  Another amiable, rotten RDJ hero but this time with a heroine who can go toe to toe with him, assorted colorful characters and Hannasyde and Hemingway at their best.  Highly recommended.

1939: No Wind of Blame
The plotting in this one isn’t great, but the characters are so fantastic: an ex-chorus girl in middle-age, a poor-ish relation/secretary with backbone, a  beautiful, brainless young blonde who’s not that brainless (she is, however, nuts), a cheerfully adept hero, a bounder of a husband, a Russian prince, a would-be lover silently glowering in the background (not a stalker), impossible neighbors, shady business associates, and Sergeant Hemingway who has gotten a promotion to Inspector so it’s all his case.,   It has a terrific romance subplot trapped in a fairly unbelievable mystery plot that’s so crowded with wonderful Heyer characters that you just don’t care.  Highly recommended.  

1941: Envious Casca
Considered a Golden Age classic.  Quarreling but entertaining family arrives for holiday dinner with irritants such as a beautiful, brainless fiancee (this time really brainless) for the heir and an aspiring playwright who wants to cast the hero’s sister as a prostitute in his next play, plus an old friend of the hero’s who is not beautiful but who is nevertheless intelligent and active, plus the rest of a Heyer supporting cast of crazies including our old pal Insp. Hemingway.  Naturally, the head of the family is murdered.  I did not figure out who the murderer was because I could not figure out how it had been done (excellent locked room mystery).  Fortunately Hemingway does.  Highly recommended.

1942: Penhallow
I’ve never read this one and it’s not available in digital format.  The rumor is that it’s a book she wrote to get out of a contract and it’s extremely unsatisfying.  No Hemingway in this one, so maybe she didn’t want to waste him.

1951: Duplicate Death
Perfectly good mystery and it brings back Terrible Timothy from They Found Him Dead, now all grown up–having survived the war as a commando, no less–and in love with a damsel in distress who has a lot of pluck and (my fave) anger.  Hemingway is delighted to see him and of course solves the murder.  Good mystery, just not as much fun as her earlier work, possibly because there was a major war after she wrote the last one, or possibly because it had been twenty years since she wrote her first one.  . The underlying themes are darker, the brainless blonde is not funny, and our heroine has been dealt a grim deal.  Of course she does get Timothy, so there’s that..  

1953: Detection Unlimited
Her last mystery, very well plotted but again I miss the nutso characters of her earlier books, something definitely took the bounce out of her bungee..  I just read this over the weekend and I can’t remember who the hero and heroine are (well, they’re supporting characters as Hemingway solves the mystery), so obviously it didn’t create an impression in my romance-hungry heart.   And again, the themes are darker. Well, it was 1953.

Still, with the exception of the first two (hey, my first book is a complete stinker, I sympathize), and the lost Penhallow, these are all good Golden Age mysteries.  Don’t get me started on her romances, we’ll be here for days.

Anybody here read Heyer mysteries?  

78 thoughts on “Georgette Heyer, Queen of the Cosy

  1. I love them (except for Footsteps, which I have bogged down trying to re-read several times) but I wouldn’t call them cozies. They’re too British Country House for that. Even the London ones.
    I’m failing to recall Penhallow, which I own, and like. I know it, too has a despotic head of family, and the usual cast at each other’s throats.
    For me, Duplicate Death’s problem is Too Much Bridge. She explains it all well enough for non-cardplayers to understand, but it’s like a teaspoon on the head.
    Yes, I’d better go re-read them now.

    1. I thought country house murders were cozies.

      The bridge is in there for alibis, I think. She’s got over forty people in that house but only six suspects because everybody was in the middle of bridge games when the murder took place, and they’d have noticed of somebody left the game. Plus the whole “Duplicate Death” thing.

      1. The thing I loved about Duplicate Death on the re-read (besides Terrible Timothy & it opens with the couple from They Found Him Dead being very domestic in a way only Georgette Heyer could do) was the gay characters were treated reasonably sympathetically for the time

        My favorite is probably They Found Him Dead because of Terrible Timothy’s mother. She is a world explorer who has raced home to run for Parliment and is more than a little annoyed that the murder is taking up any of her time. She’s also a little surprised that the police expect her to care more about her sons being possible suspects when she needs to get her trophies stuffed, her book written and run for the seat. Then there’s the victim’s mother who is fierce in her old age.

        Jenny, you said the murderer stood out a mile. Which murderer? Because I’m pretty sure there were two murderers, only the second one took care of the first one.

        1. In They Found Him Dead? The second one. By that time, the clues were piling up. The first one could have been anybody.

          I think I had trouble with Duplicate Death because of what the Bad People were doing. In the others, as I remember, all the deaths were for money and most of the people who died were cruel to their families so not that much missed. The victims in Duplicate Death were predators, so they deserved what they got, but they left such destruction behind them.

          And of course, I’m a hypocrite because a similar situation (not similar plot) didn’t bother me in Murder Must Advertise. Maybe it was just because I’d binged on her pre-war stories that were so lively and full of fun, but the two from the fifties were just darker with fewer bubbles.

      2. Penhallow is available in digital format at Amazon. It’s not my favorite but Heyer’s not-so-great is still better than most.

        1. I’d looked but the listing I found didn’t have digital. Probably clicked on the wrong edition. Thanks!

        2. Penhallow opens, disagreeably, with Jimmy the Bastard and ends with, as I recall, a “phew, that’s over.” Disagreeable bunch of characters, I have it for completeness but no interest in re-reading.

  2. Thank you for this! I just read Footsteps in the Dark, the only Heyer mystery I’ve ever read, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it in a “campy” sort of way. It made me think of over-the-top, melodramatic, black and white movies, and it also reminded me of Scooby-Doo. I found it to be a bit fun and silly, and I liked that the author played fair, and let me figure out the mystery. I’ll try some of the others.

  3. I reread them all except ‘Penhallow’ about a year ago, on my Kindle. An extra thing I enjoy about them is the social history – details such as a suburban house having its own waste disposal system. (It’s true: I’m nerd.) They’ve got style – just as her historicals have, of course.

  4. I’ve been visiting this blog for years (I love reading the posts and everyone’s comments) and have never commented myself, but had to for this.

    I’ve always loved Georgette Heyer’s books, and have a shelf of them in my bookcase that I turn to for a comfort read.

    The first romance novel I ever read was a Heyer (traded on the school bus), and I have a really vivid memory of my friends and I visiting an op shop while on school camp to search for her books (by that stage I’d already bought all her books that were in the op shops in and around our neighborhood)

    Her mysteries were always harder to find so I haven’t read as many of them, and hadn’t really thought about them in years. But this post has been a great reminder to add them to my digital ‘to read’ pile.

      1. The Convenient Marriage, then The Talisman Ring, then The Grand Sophy. (A friend’s mother had them all in English editions.)

        Hooked and landed.

  5. Amazon appears to have a Kindle version of Penhallow.

    (Sorry, can’t get a link to post from my phone.)

  6. I’ve recently read Penhallow and liked it better this time. But it’s not actually a Heyer type mystery. It’s Heyer’s take on a Hardy type novel.

    I think this describes the type of book she was aiming for better. I like it better than this writer did but it’s very close to the type of book Stella Gibbons was mocking in Cold Comfort Farm as well.

    As for Randall in Behold Here’s Poison – I always wanted to see the young Anthony Andrews do him.

    1. Oh, really, Hardy? Definitely not going to read it, then.

      It has to be somebody who can be rude and still be charming because he’s funny.

      1. Anthony Andrews is the British actor who played Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited in the early 1980s. Rude & charming he can do.

  7. I envy all of you having more Georgettes to read and enjoy – I LOVE the romances, but the mysteries just don’t grab me. A few years ago I though perhaps I had been too harsh, and tried again, but just no. The Great Roxy didn’t do it for me either. (sigh) Having vicarious pleasure anyway from this post, and may have to go re-read Venetia which is one of my favorite books of all time.

  8. Penhallow is a really depressing story. I’ll never reread that one.

    Allingham is my favorite, too. I’m going through all her mysteries in order… They’re great comfort reads.

    1. I love The Fear Sign even though it’s ridiculously dramatic–well, it’s Golden Age–not in the least because that’s when Amanda shows up. And The Fashion in Shrouds. The Tiger in the Smoke is probably her best, but I pretty much love them all.

      My favorite Allingham story is that she met Sayers on the train to London one day, and Sayers confided that she had no idea how to bring Peter and Harriet together, and Allingham told her that she’d hit Albert on the head and given him amnesia so that he’d realize what an idiot he was being and propose.

      1. LOL. I’m reading Traitor’s Purse right now. The first time I read it, I thought Albert was idiotic not to tell Amanda that he had amnesia, but now I understand his angst better. The Tiger in the Smoke is brilliant, but The Beckoning Lady is the first book that I reread immediately after finishing it for the first time. I’m going to reread it again soon and see if I remember why.

        1. Must try Allingham again. I read many of them as a teenager – thought ‘Traitor’s Purse’ was brilliant – but when I went back to her last year, I started with her first (‘Mystery Mile’), which left me cold, then couldn’t decide whether to carry on chronologically, or jump a few to wherever it was that she got good. Campion wasn’t himself in the beginning.

          1. I think Campion is just less mature at the beginning. He grows into himself in the course of the series. This is more noticeable when you read them in order. He does quite a bit of soul-searching in Traitor’s Purse, and it makes sense when you’ve just read all the previous books.

      2. I think my favorite Allingham is “The Estate of the Beckoning Lady” because I love books with great parties in them, and that’ s one of the best parties ever.

  9. Love her romances, have memory problems with her mysteries, I read them, enjoyed the characters , but later don’t recall any of the titles.

    That said I would love A Blunt Instrument for the end scene between Neville and Sally alone

    1. My favorite in all of the mysteries is when the hero’s mother sees him arguing with the heroine in the street and has to go sit down because of the realization that just hit her. Or any of the scenes as he gradually catches on that the heroine always has a plan and is never boring even if she is nuts. I love that romance. He’s so steady and practical and just delighted by how crazy she is. She needs an audience and he’s delighted to be one. Or there’s that scene where she’s doing really good work with the prince, and the hero and the detective just stand there watching her, realizing what she’s doing and not getting in her way. I know the murder method in that book is ridiculous, but I love those people. Her mama is the best, even though she’s nuts, too.

      1. I now have to re-read them, to find all the stuff you just said. Heyer was so good with characters, the mystery was almost secondary for me.

        Like Lilian Jackson Braun who wrote the Cat Who series, to this day I can’t tell you who died and who killed them in any of her books. I just liked the town her cat’s owner lived in and the people who lived there, that was the cosy part for me.

      2. And, when the first romantic interest of the hero realizes that he is NOT the one for her because he likes crazy and she likes sane and steady. Oh, and the scene where the heroine’s car won’t start, so she has to be driven by the chauffeur. I love Heyer mysteries so much.

        1. I love everything about that romance, including the way he offers to play the game with her at the end.

  10. This column is particularly timely for me because for some reason I’m reading a lot of Golden Age mysteries–mostly Christie, but some others, such as MALICE AFORETHOUGHT, that I’ve heard about. To date I enjoy Christie best, and I’m having fun binging after having read them all several decades ago. I’m also getting a kick out of introducing them to my sixteen-year-old grandson. We had a great discussion about the ending of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. (BTW, there’s a fascinating non-fiction by Christie available in digital format, titled TELL ME HOW YOU LIVE, that’s about going on an archaeological dig with her beloved Max.) Anyway, I’ve read BEHOLD, HERE’S POISON several times–originally because Krissie nagged me into trying it –but I’m not sure I’ve read any other Heyer mysteries. I’ll have to look them for them. Thanks for the recommendations!

    1. If you want another classic, look up Green For Danger by Christiana Brand (not completely sure on that first name). It’s set during the blitz and it’s one of those that shows up on classic British mystery lists all the time, along with Smallbone Deceased, by Michael Gilbert (I think I already raved about him on here once before). And then there’s Edward Crispin’s Gervase Fen.

      Actually, I might binge Fen next. I fell in love with him when he looked in the mirror, described himself, and then thought, “at this rate, he felt, he might even live to see the day when novelists described their characters by some other device than that of manoeuvring them into examining themselves in the mirror.” He doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as he puts dents in it.

    2. So fun you’re getting to share the Christie books with your grandson, Lynda. About a year ago I was at a Christie museum exhibit in Montreal and was so amazed at the appeal she has for all generations. The exhibition itself was so fascinating and well-curated, and it was a real treat to see her actual typewriters and personal things from her writing rooms. But it was also fab to learn so much about her life and how it fed her stories. My fave real-life bit was how she once, in a time of upset, disappeared for over a week and checked into a hotel under another name–one taken from her husband’s (at the time) mistress. Such an interesting & clever lady & such an interesting life.

    3. I’ve been reading all of Ngaio Marsh (my favorites are the ones where Alleyn meets and gets together with Troy–can’t help wanting some romance). Also some by Edmund Crispin, which are pretty wacky but can be fun. I get a monthly email from a publisher in England that is putting out a lot of these Crime Classics — some great deals, freebies and $1 mysteries.

  11. I read “Why Shoot The Butler” and did not enjoy it as I do her romances. All the characters were cold and unappealing. About midway through the book, I found that I did not really care who shot him or even why. That’s sad!

  12. Behold, Here’s Poison and Envious Casca are probably my favourites, but I haven’t read them all yet. My mum has copies, though, so I’ll have to go back and read them all in order now.

    Also, I’d love to see Randall played by Tom Hiddleston.

    1. Tom Hiddleston would make a great Randall! Actually he would be pretty great as anyone.

  13. I’ve read and enjoyed several Heyer romances, but the only mystery I read was Envious Casca. Cold, nasty characters, all of them. Well, except for one plucky girl, who had a healthy dose of cynicism, but was still someone I could cheer for. It was extremely well done — I recognize that. And I didn’t see the ending coming, although there was one huge glaring hint that should have told me (only realized it after I read the book).

    If anyone is feeling bah-humbug during Christmas, Envious Casca is definitely the book to read to wallow in that feeling. I wonder how it reads in June? Hmmmm.

    I’ll have to try a few of the others! Blunt Instrument sounds particularly tempting.

  14. Well, I guess I should move Footsteps in the Dark to the bottom of my Heyer TBR stack. I bought it used some time ago but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I also have Penhallow because it was at Half Price Books with some of her others; this was before the reprints were so readily available. I had heard it wasn’t her best so I put off reading it. I think I’ll try to go in chronological order for the ones I have left, which at this point is lots. I keep getting sidetracked by new releases.

    Envious Casca was fun for me, especially since I couldn’t figure out the murder method. I also liked They Found Him Dead and Duplicate Death, and I want to re-read them back to back at some point just for Timothy.

    Most of the ones I’ve read seem to be Hemingway, and I really enjoy him. His relationship with whatever sergeant is with him never fails to make me laugh, and he’s just so very, very smart.

    1. After reading what Katie said about Hemingway, I suspect that part of my problem with Envious Casca is that I don’t know the series. I barely remember the police, but if they are part of a series, the series-reader would know them, and be delighted to see their return.

      Heyer is a bit like that for me. I thought the first romance I read was pretty stupid. But after I read three or four, I got the hang of how her “universe” works, and when I re-read #1 after about a dozen Heyers, I liked it quite a bit. She quite subtly sets up rules for her universe, and when you “grok” them, you wind up liking the whole series quite a bit.

      The mysteries have slightly different rules — or at least Envious Casca is playing by some different rules from the Regencies.

      1. Envious Casca is a classic locked room murder mystery.
        The rules for mystery are completely different from the rules for romance (I know, duh).
        A romance rests on the underlying principle that the universe is emotionally just.
        A mystery rests on the underlying principle that the universe is morally just.
        That is, good people will be rewarded (with love, not going to prison) and bad people will be punished (no love, going to prison).
        Obviously that’s vastly reductive, but for the purposes of this argument, it means that the focus of a romance is two people emotionally bonded at the finish and the focus of the mystery is evil unmasked and punished at the finish.
        You can see why they work well when mashed up together, but it can be frustrating for fans of one genre to have to deal with the demands of the other genre: too much clue-hunting-and-explanation for the romance reader and too much talking-about-the-relationship-and-kissing for the mystery reader.
        I like both so I’m good, but Heyer’s mysteries are short on the romance angles because they’re mysteries. The romances in them are always rushed, but the plot can’t take too much time to evolve because there’s a murderer on the loose.
        Which is probably more than you wanted to hear from me. Argh.

        1. (-: I always love to hear what you have to say about writing.

          I’m not so sure about locked-room-mysteries, but I enjoyed the Agatha Christies I read more than E.C. I really did enjoy Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise, which was very clever and smart, even though the people weren’t warm and fuzzy. But then again, I don’t expect bubbly from Sayers. MMA is actually a little closer to bubbly than some of her other works, to tell the truth. (So set in its time, though. A couple of ugly slurs for those who need trigger warnings.)

          I have a feeling I’d have to re-read the ACs and then Envious Casca again to fully analyze why that was so.

          But there may be second genre interference going on here. (Like second-language interference — where you get momentarily confused about what language you are speaking because there are two expectations in your head, and you choose the wrong one.)

          I knew Heyer from her romances, which generally has . . . not warm and fuzzy characters, but I like them very, very much. Well, they have to be, because it’s romance and it’s miserable watching two undeserving characters fall into love throes and fritter away their time kvetching and being mean.

          Christie is cold. And I think mystery does need some coldness, because we’re talking about murder. Fizziness and murder is a weird combination. But I expect Christie to be all semi-boiled and murdery. Maybe that’s why I’m OK with Christie, and a little put off by Heyer. (-: Well, reading some more should help me work through this. I’m encouraged to try!

          1. Christie’s coldness may be what put me off classic British mysteries for a few years. I read a lot of her stuff in junior high, but after too much exposure to Poirot (and insufficient exposure to Marple) I gravitated toward hard boiled stuff like Hammett and contemporary thrillers and romantic suspense in high school. Of course, once I read enough Marple and a couple of Sayers, I started hunting for more like that.

            The Marple books I’ve read just seem to have stronger characterization. Apart from Death on the Nile, my first Christie, I can live without Poirot. It’s something of a challenge to feel any kind of investment in him as a character, and no matter how engaging the puzzle might be, that makes it a tough read for me. That seems to be less of an issue with her stand alone novels. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? is great, and I quite liked The Pale Horse. I have Murder Is Easy, which I haven’t read yet, but it seems promising.

            My backlog of used book British mysteries is quite large, and I really need to just pile them up and dive in. As soon as I return my current crop of library books I’ll pull out a few and go for it. I really need to try Margery Allingham.

          2. Christie’s work is about a puzzle. The characters she cares most about in them are the detectives & their sidekicks. (Poiret & Hastings, Miss Marple and her maids, Poiret and the lady author.) I remember more from them about how people were killed, what the motive was, how they figured it out.

            Heyer’s work is more about the world of people around the murder, not just the main characters like Stephen & Matilda in Envious Casca but people like Terrible Timothy and Rosemary in They Found Him Dead, Maud & Valerie in Envious Casca, secondary characters who are not the love interest but still of more interest than Christie’s who tend to be types.

            I like them both but I read them differently.

  15. The only thing I remember about her books are the sheets, flashlights, living in the library – i.e., using the flashlight to read under the sheet in the bed at night and wanting to move into the library until I read every book in the “mystery” section. I know I read every one but it’s been (*ahem*) a few years since I did. I was a teenager. I guess I need to revisit Ms. Heyer because I do remember I loved the books. I lived in a small town. It was all I had to do – read – consequently I loved all books, well written or not!

  16. I was going to describe Penhallow as depressing, but I found someone on Goodreads who gave a description that really nails what I felt.

    Gina Delfanzo said “I think “Penhallow” may be the most tragic mystery I’ve ever read. And the irony is that the murder victim is one of the least appealing, least sympathetic victims I’ve ever seen. Heyer spends a long, long time building him up as the object of our dislike (he doesn’t even die until something like two-thirds of the way through), but just when we’re tempted to feel that he deserved what he got, everything in the little world that he dominated starts falling apart. The book is really quite profound and thought-provoking, though never in a preachy way; it’s a safe bet that afterward, you’ll never be able to think, “I’d like to kill so-and-so,” even in the lightest way, without feeling conscience-stricken! A real tour-de-force.”

    1. This sounds much more promising than I expected from what I’ve read about it before. Just need to adjust my usual expectations of Heyer toward something grimmer. That’s fine, it’s just that I need to be prepared for it, so thanks for this.

  17. Oh, well, yes. Good timing. I was casting about for something to read next…now I’m on my way to the Heyer mysteries (bedroom, right side, third shelf from the bottom, thank God for alphabetization). Thanks for the guide, Jenny!

  18. I love Georgette Heyers’s book, that is most of them. There are a couple of the romances that I did not care for (Cousin Kate for one). I do like her mysteries for the most part and re-read them all occasionally, except for Penhallow, which I did not care for. The one thing that definitely irked me in her mysteries (and this is purely a personal thing, as you will see) is that in several of them, she has a nauseatingly boring secondary female character that makes the reader just want to puke and she is, almost without fail, named Janet…which happens to be my first name. GH must have known someone with that name that she detested.

    Like many of you, I enjoy reading mysteries by Marjorie Allingham, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Ngaio Marsh.

    1. You know, sometimes it’s just a nervous tic.
      I had a boss when I worked at the bookstore named Brad, and I went back to do a booksigning and he pointed out that three of my less admirable characters were named Bradley, something I had not noticed before. And now Nita has the Lemon Brothers, Brad and Thad. I think it must be just one of those names because all of the Brads I’ve known have been very nice people.

  19. Another Golden Age mystery writer is Patricia Wentworth, her Miss Silver mysteries were very popular and she wrote a lot of them. Another writer I like is Conyth Little, Rue Morgue Press (before it was closed down) reprinted under the name Constance Little, I really enjoy them light hearted mystery/romance. John Dickson Carr wrote a lot of locked room mysteries, and Dennis Wheatley was also good.

  20. Heyer didn’t create her own universe–she tried to replicate the historical universe. She had a huge library of original sources for slang and clothes and manners. (Note to writers of historicals–she did not use libation to mean drink and neither should you-it means liquid offering to a god. Ok, yes, that’s one of my pet peeves…)
    The library was sold and broken up after her death. The

    1. I want to agree completely that Heyer did an amazing job of research, Debbie. But I also think she created her universe. She curated what she wanted out of all the copious research, and her universe is consistent in a way that the real world really isn’t. Plus, I’ve heard rumors that she purposely introduced errors into her work so she could tell who was using original research, and who was using Heyer Universe (of course she didn’t call it that; I don’t know what she called it) as the basis for their own fictional universe.

      This whole universe thing is commonly used in SF and comic books to talk about story, and I think it applies very much to romance — especially series romance. Also mystery, now that we’re talking about it. For example, in the BBC Sherlock universe, Sherlock can tell someone’s sister is a drunk by the cellphone. Such a very clever and enjoyable scene! But every time I fumble (sober) with plugging in my cell phone, I think back to that scene, and how much Sherlock would peg me as a drunk. The rules work a little differently in BBC Sherlock-world — just as in Heyer Regency-world, things work just slightly differently, too.

      1. Micki is right, in my opinion. I think Georgette Heyer created a world that never really existed even though it was based on precise historical details. Micki’s comparison of Heyer’s worldbuilding to that of SF writers is on the mark. I love detailed worldbuilding and dislike stories that depend on other authors’ worlds (unless a piece is fanfiction). I think it’s a writer’s responsibility to place her reader in a complete situation in which the characters and action develop logically. At least I feel strongly about Heyer’s romances. On the other hand, because of this blog post on Georgette Heyer, Queen of the Cosy, I reread A Blunt Instrument. There was little worldbuilding in that because there didn’t need to be.

  21. Oh, gosh, if we’re going to mention Sayers, who was stunningly brilliant, then I guess I should note that GAUDY NIGHT is probably my all-time favorite book.

    1. I think Gaudy Night might be my favorite Sayers — everything comes together. (-: I wonder what it’s like as a first read? I think it was my third Sayers, and then I had to read everything I could get my hands on, and enjoy it again. Murder Must Advertise was unavailable to me (bad Google-fu?) for the longest time, but I finally read it this year.

  22. Penhallow opens, disagreeably, with Jimmy the Bastard and ends with, as I recall, a “phew, that’s over.” Disagreeable bunch of characters, I have it for completeness but no interest in re-reading.

    1. whoops, tablet glitch, sorry for the double post. …
      fwiw, some of Heyer’s historicals are also mysteries. The Reluctant Widow, for instance. Nicely snarky heroine, too.

  23. Chiming in late (busy Thursday, so now it’s a lovely Sunday on the deck)

    Yes yes yes. I enjoyed most (though not all) of Heyer’s mysteries, though have to say I found Footsteps in the Dark a real clunker. I recall when it was first (re?)-issued in modern times (1970s? 1980s?) it was after GH’s death, and had been, I believe, one of her suppressed books, because she knew it was dreck too.

    New mind that, though. I especially love three of them (same as Katie above): Envious Casca, They Found Him Dead and Duplicate Death. The latter 2 because Terrible Timothy, but all because of the narrative style, with dry throw-away observations about nearly everyone.

  24. My very favorite Heyer mystery is No Wind of Blame, because of the amusing characters but also because it was so visually interesting. I could vividly imagine the house, the grounds, the stream at the property’s edge, the woods, the town, the cars, the clothing — all of it in a bright English spring/summer landscape that was almost as appealing as the characters. I particularly loved the teenage ingenue, who was so very modern in her independence and clear-eyed theatricality. A wonderful book.


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