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.
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?