Conundrums for the long weekend: Dorothy L. Sayers

Finally, there is the fact of Dorothy L. Sayers's genius as a craftsman with language. Members of the contemporary smart set treasured the Wimsey stories in large part because they were so literate. At Oxford, Sayers received an unparalleled education in language and never betrayed its dictums. She loved to play with language and to experiment with idiom, with point of view, and with the problem of revealing a character's thoughts in contrast to his or her expressed words. Although the conventions of popular crime fiction limited her ability to tinker with modes of writing, she searched continually for ways to better involve the reader in all the levels of her story: the mystery plot, the lives of her characters, their struggles to cope with life's struggle, and the essentially simple humanness underlying all the machinations inherent to crime and its solution.

— Robert Kuhn McGregor with Ethan Lewis, Conundrums for the Long Week-end: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey

"I have been afraid of this," said Wimsey.

"Then why did you come?"

"So that you might not have to send for me."


There was a strained pause, while Wimsey painfully recalled the terms of the message that had originally reached him from Salcombe Hardy of the Morning Star—Hardy, a little drunk and wholly derisory, announcing over the telephone, "I say, Wimsey, that Vane woman of yours has got herself mixed up in another queer story." Then his own furious and terrified irruption into Fleet Street, and the violent bullying of a repentant and sentimental Hardy, till the Morning Star report was hammered into a form that set the tone for the comments of the press. Then the return home to find that the Wilvercombe police were already besieging him, in the politest and most restrained manner, for information as to Miss Harriet Vane's recent movements and behavior. And finally, the certainty that the best way out of a bad situation was to brazen it out—Harriet's words—even if it meant making a public exhibition of his feelings, and the annihilation of all the delicate structure of confidence which he had been so cautiously toiling to build up between this scathed and embittered woman and himself.

He said nothing, but watched the wreck of his fortune in Harriet's stormy eyes.

Harriet, meanwhile, having worked herself up into committing an act of what she obscurely felt to be injustice, was seized by an unreasonable hatred against the injured party. The fact that, until five minutes earlier, she had felt perfectly happy and at ease with this man, before she had placed both him and herself in an intolerable position, she felt somehow as one more added to the list of his offenses. She looked round for something really savage to do to him.

— Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase