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Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery with Harriet Vane Paperback – October 16, 2012

317 customer reviews
Book 12 of 15 in the Lord Peter Wimsey Series

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Editorial Reviews


Gaudy Night stands out even among Miss Sayers’s novels. And Miss Sayers has long stood in a class by herself.” (Times Literary Supplement (London))

“Very skillfull writing. Miss Sayers has done a real tour de force, and done it with ease and grace.” (Saturday Review)

“A royal performance.” (The Spectator)

From the Back Cover

When Harriet Vane attends her Oxford reunion, known as the Gaudy, the prim academic setting is haunted by a rash of bizarre pranks: scrawled obscenities, burnt effigies, and poison-pen letters, including one that says, "Ask your boyfriend with the title if he likes arsenic in his soup." Some of the notes threaten murder; all are perfectly ghastly; yet in spite of their scurrilous nature, all are perfectly worded. And Harriet finds herself ensnared in a nightmare of romance and terror, with only the tiniest shreds of clues to challenge her powers of detection, and those of her paramour, Lord Peter Wimsey.


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Product Details

  • Series: Lord Peter Wimsey
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reissue edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062196537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062196538
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (317 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) was a playwright, scholar, and acclaimed author of mysteries, best known for her books starring the gentleman sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.

Born in Oxford, England, Sayers, whose father was a reverend, grew up in the Bluntisham rectory and won a scholarship to Oxford University where she studied modern languages and worked at the publishing house Blackwell's, which published her first book of poetry in 1916.

Years later, working as an advertising copywriter, Sayers began work on Whose Body?, a mystery novel featuring dapper detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Over the next two decades, Sayers published ten more Wimsey novels and several short stories, crafting a character whose complexity was unusual for the mystery novels of the time.

In 1936, Sayers brought Lord Peter Wimsey to the stage in a production of Busman's Honeymoon, a story which she would publish as a novel the following year. The play was so successful that she gave up mystery writing to focus on the stage, producing a series of religious works culminating in The Man Born to Be King (1941) a radio drama about the life of Jesus.

She also wrote theological essays and criticism during and after World War II, and in 1949 published the first volume of a translation of Dante's Divine Comedy (which she considered to be her best work).

Dorothy Sayers died of a heart attack in 1957.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 8, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
'Gaudy Night,' Dorothy Sayers' penultimate novel in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, was originally intended to be the last. Unlike the rest of the series, it is Harriet Vane's tale, first and last. Lord Peter does not appear in person until the last third of the story, when he takes his place as romantic lead and solver of all things mysterious. Sayer's takes this opportunity to both reveal unexpected depths to Miss Vane's character and create a remarkable elegy of her own memories of Oxford, where she took highest honors in a world made by and meant for the male sex.
Harriet returns to Shrewsbury College to take part in the annual Gaudy night, something a bit like our own college reunions, not quite sure what to expect. While renewing her friendship with both her old classmates and instructors, she brushes against the start of a mystery when she finds some very unpleasant notes expressed a vitriolic hatred for the denizens of the college. Brushing it aside as an isolated occurrence, she returns to the festivities without realizing that she has seen is only the tip of the iceberg.
Several months later, Harriet finds herself called back to Shrewsbury by the Dean. The few isolated occurrences had become an onslaught and the school desperately needed help in resolving the problem without any adverse publicity. Miss Vane, a successful mystery writer, a survivor of a murder charge, and a friend of the esteemed Lord Peter Wimsey, seemed the ideal person to come to the aid of the Senior Common Room. The idea of a woman's college was still newfangled to Oxford and a scandal could become a major setback. What Harriet found was a steadily escalating attack on the sanity and safety of the college on apparent waged by a devious and hate filled mind.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 15, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've never said this before and I don't think I'll say it about any other book: This book is perfection. The telling is beautiful, seamless and touches every emotion, the way a good book should. Lord Peter Wimsey is such a well-developed character: he has Holmes's wit, combined with charisma, charm, sensitivity, tenderness and intelligence. Earlier in the series, he hadn't figured out who he was or what he wanted to be, but now he knows: to marry Harriet.
Miss Harriet Vane is an even better character than his lordship. She's believable, independent, a writer, tender inside, witty, polite and has intelligence to match Lord Peter's. The moments of affection - I hesitate to call them 'love scenes' - were breathtaking, without either party removing any clothes. Some writers today could learn from that.
The suspense is high, the love is brewing and the plot is seamless and unlabored, as if it really did happen. I recommend this to EVERYONE. I may only be a kid, but I know perfection when I see it.
On another note: I don't like the DVDs of the Dorothy Sayers books. They are perfect in all their literary glory; why try to improve perfection? Another thing, Lord Peter Wimsey is his best on paper, not impersonated by some silly person trying to act like an English lord, who will never come close to Sayers's Peter's immortal charm, intellect and tenderness.
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Texas Alexandra on January 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
(Original review read: This Kindle version is not worth the money, folks. It has many, many typos, some obviously errors in scanning. Surely whoever prepares the Kindle versions could do better. I could have bought the actual book and been able to read without tripping over misspellings all the way through.) UPDATE: it appears the file has been updated. Yay for electronic media!
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 29, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Dorothy Sayers has frequently used autobiographical experiences as a starting point for her writing - as an example, "Murder Must Advertise" was set in an advertising agency and based on Sayers' own experiences in the field. Here again, Sayers goes back to her past days as an Oxford student at Somerville College and this makes "Gaudy Night" a unique entry in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. Harriet Vane, an Oxford alum, attends the Gaudy, which is a reunion of past students and is asked by her old professors to turn her talents as a detective writer to practical use. Someone is terrorizing the faculty and students of the college by sending vicious anonymous letters. The college is terrified of this leaking out to the press and giving education for women a bad name, therefore discretion is vital. Rather relectantly, Harriet accepts and comes down to Oxford to stay for a term. She discovers that the perpetrator is not now satisfied by just sending letters and is moving on to more serious offences like trying to burn the books in the college library, destroy the works of the faculty and eventually attacking certain faculty members. Harriet struggles with the realization that the perpetrator may be a professor as well as with the realization of her growing feelings for Lord Peter Wimsey. The actual unraveling of the mystery is fascinating by itself, but I was particularly intriuged by Sayers taking the opportunity to discuss issues such as society's view towards University education for women, and the need to maintain one's own identity, even in a serious relationship.Read more ›
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