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Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey #12)

4.26  ·  Rating Details ·  14,665 Ratings  ·  1,070 Reviews
When Harriet Vane attends her Oxford reunion, known as the "Gaudy," the prim academic setting is haunted by a rash of bizarre pranks: scrawled obsentities, 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 s ...more
Paperback, 383 pages
Published 1977 by Avon Books (first published 1935)
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robyn I don't know if I WOULD read this one first. It's my favorite, but it's very dense, and it's the wind-up of the main character's relationship with…moreI don't know if I WOULD read this one first. It's my favorite, but it's very dense, and it's the wind-up of the main character's relationship with someone he met a few books back.

If you want to try Sayers on for size, you might try an earlier one like Murder Must Advertise or The Nine Tailors, both of which are excellent.

It's not that you'd regret reading Gaudy Night, it's the first one I ever read as well, and I went on to read everything in the series. But I had watched the Mystery! adaption, so I was familiar with the characters' interactions prior to that particular story.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 11, 2009 Sparrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: smart women
Recommended to Sparrow by: Shelley Harvey
A couple of years ago I thought (as a gesture to God saying something like, “Hey, we don’t disagree about everything and anyway what do I know about life?”) that I would start going to a certain church where the pastor was an ex-football star. When I say it now it doesn’t sound like a very good idea, but I did a lot of things at that time that sound stupid now. Sometimes it’s better to go with what you know, even if it’s very little. I say all of this because the ultimate falling-out I had with ...more
I hesitate to call this ‘a Lord Peter book.’ Peter is here, certainly, though in lesser proportion than you might expect, considering he changes in quiet but extraordinary ways. But this book is rightly and greatly Harriet Vane’s, as she returns to the Oxford college of her education to do some academic work, write her next novel, and investigate some nasty disturbances around the college.

Oh. For Oxford alone, which I love, I could love this book. Luckily, however, there are any number of other
This year I finally decided to read all of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. I have read the first few many times, but, for whatever reason, I never continued the series. I have always heard that “Gaudy Night” was her best novel and so I was really intrigued to read this book and was interested to see how the character of Harriet Vane would develop. Indeed, Harriet is the central character in this novel, which sees her returning to Oxford, to attend the Shrewsbury Gaudy, after being invited by a fri ...more
May 27, 2010 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is the deal with lady detective fiction writers? Why create a brilliant, memorable central female protagonist, totally capable of bringing teh awesome, only to undermine her by having her mope around after some overbred aristocratic prat? Case in point: that whole Havers-Linley dynamic would be infinitely healthier had detective Havers given pompous-assed golden boy Linley a good kick in the yarbles the very first time he tried to pull the whole tired aristo-boy superiority trick to put her ...more
Gaudy Night is easily my favorite of Dorothy L. Sayers's beloved series of Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. It's one of the last in the series and thus hard to talk about without spoiling earlier books, as it deals with the resolution of the relationship between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane, the mystery writer first introduced in Strong Poison and seen again in Have His Carcase. (If you've read no Sayers, please read at least those two books before reading Gaudy Night, as otherwise you'll be missing ...more
Jan 01, 2013 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where I got the book: my bookshelf. This is a 1940 Gollancz edition I picked up somewhere and I absolutely love it because no matter where you are in the story, the book lays flat and keeps its place. I get so impatient with books that won't stay open.

The story: five years after being erroneously accused--and then, thanks to Lord Peter Wimsey, acquitted--of murdering her lover, Harriet Vane is getting on with her life as a writer and puzzling over what she's going to do about Lord Peter: push hi
Sep 12, 2013 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over a year ago now, Lord Peter pretty much saved my life. I was hysterical and still half under anaesthesia; the nurses were unsympathetic; I have an anxiety disorder as it is, let alone when I'm in a great deal of pain with insufficient morphine. My blood oxygen levels were catastrophic, even with pure oxygen. My mother forced her way onto the ward and held my hand. When they made her go, my blood oxygenation was up a little, but not much; she didn't let them send her away until she'd put her ...more
Sarah Funke Donovan
Aug 07, 2007 Sarah Funke Donovan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like mystery, intrigue, and a jolly good show of wit
Shelves: classics
Are you in love with dashing, fastidious, brilliant, Bach-performing, manuscript-collecting, sonnet-writing, puzzle-solving, Dickens-quoting, cricket-playing, fabulously wealthy, well-traveled, aristocratic detectives? Then this is the book for you...

Although this is really the third book in the Harriet Vane/Lord Peter Wimsey series (after Strong Poison and Have His Carcase), it is my favorite. Anyone who has been to Oxford will appreciate the detailed descriptions. Anyone who has ever been a wo
As I've said numerous times before, I love Lord Peter Wimsey. He's funny, a brilliant detective, and he peppers his speech with Shakespearan quotations the way I pepper mine with Simpsons quotes. He can always amuse and amaze me, but up until this point, that was extent of my fascination. Before I read Gaudy Night, I had always thought of Lord Peter mainly as an amusing, almost caricature detective. I had thought of him, simply, as a character. After Gaudy Night, however, I can't think of him th ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nandakishore Varma
Lord Peter Wimsey is not the quintessential sleuth. He has a beginning, middle and presumably an end – by which I mean he develops as a character throughout the novels, unlike Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot who resolutely stay as their eccentric selves from their first story to the last. Of course, there is a chronological progression of events; and Poirot actually dies; however as characters they are static. In contrast, we see Wimsey age and mature from a frivolous youth to an idiosyncrati ...more
Ana Lopes
Aug 09, 2011 Ana Lopes rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Oh, my GOD, Dorothy L. Sayers is quite the snob! 2011 has been Mystery Year, it being when I started officially working as an attorney and having to read just to be entertained and this piece of crap made me want to swear off British whodunits forever. Luckily, Dame Agatha and Ngaio Marsh still deliver.

The truth is, I like my mysteries to be about murders and this fricking bore was a crappy who sent those ghastly, tastleless anonymous letters affair. No murders about, and by page 20 I was ready
I first read this book as a junior or senior in high school, shortly after I'd been introduced to Sayers' writing and was making my way through all of the Wimsey mysteries. I remember being vaguely annoyed at the time that the whodunnit aspect of the book seemed so downplayed and that I couldn't seem to keep all the characters straight, though I found the romance between Harriet and Peter fascinating and encouraging given that I was a bookish teenager wondering if there were guys who liked smart ...more
Like I said in a status update, this is a great book that I'm going to have to re-read to fully appreciate. So this probably won't be a very in depth review.

Of course, (view spoiler)

Also, (view spoiler)

The ending was great and I AM SO EXCITED FOR THE NEXT
I hereby dub this review: "In need of a good stupping".

This is the second mystery that Harriet and Peter investigate 'together' – and by together I mean that Harriet spends quite a time collecting facts, and Peter does all the analysis and deduction. Indeed, he spots the culprit almost immediate on reading the evidence, quickly takes steps to verify it, and does what he can to obtain what little proof is possible.

The primary question of the book is women – intellectual women particularly – and t
Jun 15, 2008 Dfordoom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
Oxford has provided the background to many detective stories, and it’s a great setting for a crime novel. What interesting about Gaudy Night is that Sayers doesn’t just use it as background - the human and professional dramas afflicting the women of Shrewsbury College are the real meat of the book. You could argue that the detective story in this case is merely the background detail! Sayers is attempting something quite ambitious for 1936 - this is a detective story, a love story, and a serious ...more
I love this novel. The mystery is well-done, but other issues take precedence. The relationship between Peter and Harriet, the role of women, the conflict between the intellectual and the emotional life are all explored with skill and passion. I have read Gaudy Night a number of times over the years and I have appreciated it more with each reading. This is the book (along with Jude the Obscure!!) which first made me want to visit Oxford and which never fails to make me wish that I had attended u ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Andree rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
So after a period of absence of three years or so, I'm finally getting back to Lord Peter (and Harriet) (Also, I recognize that this was a ridiculous place to vaguely drift away from this series for whatever reason. I know no one stops right before Gaudy Night). The thing is, I really enjoyed this book a lot, but I don't know how to review it. I almost thing I'd need to read it again to really get it, or rather for it to really sink under my skin. It's a book for rereading, I think. And I can se ...more
Genia Lukin
After wading through what seemed like heaps of dubiously feminist Victoriana literature it was refreshing and liberating to find a book that tackled some issues of women's equality directly.

At its root, of course, Gaudy Night is a mystery novel; but somehow the mystery manages to shuffle off, first taking second stage, then third, to other, more pertinent, issues. Initially, it is overshadowed by the discussion of women's rights for education, their belonging in the world of academia, their rele
Reading Gaudy Night felt a bit like driving on a crowded snail-speed bus, with all these fancy looking cars with number plates as Howl's Moving Castle, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Shadow of the Wind passing me by. I could not resist asking for rides, only to reluctantly hop back onto the bus at the next intersection.
Yet in theory there is so much to like about this book. Starting with the fact that it was highly recommended by someone who mentioned that Waking the Moon (a persona
Althea Ann
Only the second I've read in this series (the other was 'Strong Poison') and it's a very, very different book. Where 'Strong Poison' is a pretty standard, classic mystery, 'Gaudy Night' is (it seems) almost an autobiographical novel, with a mystery shoehorned in.

I loved, loved, loved every detail of what it was like to be a female student at Oxford back in the day (Sayers attended from 1912-1915). It's a vivid, realistic, and very human depiction of the academics and their day-to-day lifestyle,
Feb 23, 2012 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime, audio
I was looking forward to getting to this radioplay. It wasn't one of my favourite books when reading it, I don't think, but I'm already very attached to Peter and Harriet, while listening to the radioplays, and I knew that this would be a crux of both characters' development. I believe this was recorded a long time after the others: certainly, Ian Carmichael remains wonderful but you can hear age and tiredness in his voice. He's not quite so jolly and smooth as he used to be. Not enough bounce t ...more
Jul 26, 2015 Catherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This may be Sayers’ best detective novel and it certainly covers huge themes she struggled with in her own life—misogyny, our culture’s distrust of intelligent, educated women, what marriage does to the self, if it’s possible to balance the life of mind and the body, and the value of a scholarly life.
Harriet Vane wrestles with these topics as she searches for a vindictive poison pen at her alma matter Shrewsbury, an all-women’s college at Oxford. Lord Peter Wimsey, amateur sleuth, is called in
Adrienne Furness
"You may say you won't interfere with another person's soul, but you do--merely by existing. The snag about it is the practical difficulty, so to speak, of not existing. I mean, here we all are, you know, and what are we to do about it?"

Loved this one. It was a decent mystery, but it was an even better story about human beings and our crazy ways.
Sep 18, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first of Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books that I've read. Although Peter is the series' main character, it takes him a while to appear in this book - the main character is Harriet Vane, a friend of his who has been involved in some of his previous cases, who is called back to her (fictional) old Oxford college, Shrewsbury, to investigate a series of unusual occurrences, including anonymous letters sent to residents of the college and other unsavoury happenings.

I enjoyed the m
Harry Connolly
Sep 03, 2014 Harry Connolly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading these books all out of order.

Harriet Vane is my favorite Mary Sue in all of literature, largely because she's so complicated and difficult, for herself and for everyone around her. Lord Peter Whimsey (and I don't care what anyone says, but that's the best/worst character name ever) is brilliant, super-rich, heroic, funny, well-educated, and completely in love with her. She loves him back but won't marry him because he saved her from the gallows the first time they met, and she hates
Sep 11, 2007 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the 2nd Dorothy Sayers book I have read and I must say I am completely in love with her writing. On top of the intriguing plot which is fun to follow, you are treated to witty dialogue, some fascinating relationships between all kinds of people, and best of all, in this book, some of the most bitingly real observations about the value of work and marriage, and about academia vs the 'real world'. I can't gush enough about this author, and I am guessing this will be my favorite book becaus ...more
Feb 19, 2016 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime
There is an awful lot about this book that I thought I would hate.

Specifically a lot of the 502 pages are given over to the conflicted feelings the heroine has for the hero. I have never been partial to romance in books. Of all the types of romance, the most annoying are those where both parties through a bloody minded insistence on being selfless and noble prevent the sickly unfolding of true love. Just get your s..t together already.

In Gaudy Night, as the series of spiteful pranks inflicted o
Jul 30, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: battle-of-wits
Fantastic, fantastic novel. It’s worth reading the entire Wimsey series just to get to this book. Harriet Vane returns to Oxford for a class reunion, only to be caught up in the deranged anger of an ever-escalating vandal. The mystery itself is not terribly mysterious—most people will have the criminal figured out by a third through the book—but the way in which the characters deal with the mystery is refreshingly believable. A chance encounter brings Wimsey to Vane’s aid, and their five-year co ...more
Ben Loory
very strange book. it's a 500 page mystery but the main character never does any detecting, she just kinda sits around waiting for the criminal to strike again... and again... and again... and again... and again... and then in the end her detective boyfriend shows up and says who did it and then the evildoer makes a speech. which is actually a really good speech! by far the best part of the book. and then there's some kissin' and it's over. not really sure why this one's so famous, though i can ...more
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Around the Year i...: Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers 2 12 Jul 22, 2016 07:34AM  
  • A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #2)
  • To Love and Be Wise (Inspector Alan Grant, #4)
  • The Shortest Way to Hades (Hilary Tamar, #2)
  • More Work for the Undertaker (Albert Campion Mystery, #13)
  • The Devil in Music (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #4)
  • The Moving Toyshop (Gervase Fen, #3)
  • Artists in Crime (Roderick Alleyn, #6)
Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a renowned British author, translator, student of classical and modern languages, and Christian humanist.

Dorothy L. Sayers is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between World War I and World War II that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. However, Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante's Divina Co
More about Dorothy L. Sayers...

Other Books in the Series

Lord Peter Wimsey (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #1)
  • Clouds of Witness (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #2)
  • Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #3)
  • Lord Peter Views the Body (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #4)
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Lord Peter Wimsey, #5)
  • Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #6)
  • Five Red Herrings (Lord Peter Wimsey, #7)
  • Have His Carcase  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #8)
  • Hangman's Holiday: A Collection of Short Mysteries (Lord Peter Wimsey, #9)
  • Murder Must Advertise  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #10)

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“Wherever you find a great man, you will find a great mother or a great wife standing behind him -- or so they used to say. It would be interesting to know how many great women have had great fathers and husbands behind them.” 889 likes
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