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Andrea K Höst

Australian writer of science fiction and fantasy.
Have His Carcase - Dorothy L. Sayers The Peter Wimsey novels are one of the better known golden age mystery series, and the one which gets probably the most literary approval, as well as being known as one of THE great love stories in mysteries.And yet, while it falls well into re-read territory for me (because I like Peter) and I enjoy aspects of the romance (because Peter and Harriet are obviously so well suited to each other), I also at times thoroughly dislike the stories (because Peter is so ridiculously smothered in abilities, and sometimes the technical detail is over-the-top dull) and really dislike the romance.At this point in the Harriet/Wimsey progress, it's a year and a half after Wimsey proved Harriet's innocence. The very beginning of the book makes clear that she's been in recovery mode, burying herself in work to allow herself to move past her bruised and battered emotional state. She was "over" her lover by the time of the trial, having fallen abruptly out of love with him once she realised that he had lied about being opposed to marriage, and had simply put her in a situation where she had to prove her love to him most abjectly. He succeeded in getting her to live in sin by badgering her constantly, until she was finally so worn down by it she went against her own principles.So what has Wimsey been doing for the last year and half? Making as many opportunities as possible to socialise with her, and on every single occasion (it seems) asking her to marry him. Over and over and over again.Indeed, he asked her to marry him at their first meeting, in prison, while she was on trial. Harriet's position at that point was that he seemed a likeable enough person, and she had nothing against him, but, seriously, no. By the end of the trial she was also powerfully aware of two other factors: the big difference in their social status (he upper upper class and she educated and possessing of good taste, but not close to his strata) and the immense obligation to him she was now weighted down by - not to mention that she's technically no longer possible marriage material at all because of having had a lover (something she appears to feel acutely while it doesn't matter to Wimsey).In this context, even though there's clear authorial approval (because so well suited), it's impossible for me to not read this book without reading Wimsey as a COMPLETE INCONSIDERATE PRAT. [In modern terms we'd call him a Nice Guy.] But that authorial approval means the characters don't take Wimsey in that light. Indeed, when he gets far enough into the case to start forgetting to ask her to marry him, Harriet is piqued at the absence of the proposal. There's also an earlier exchange:Harriet was silent. She suddenly saw Wimsey in a new light. She knew him to be intelligent, clean, courteous, wealthy, well-read, amusing and enamored, but he had not so far produced in her that crushing sense of utter inferiority which leads to prostration and hero-worship. But she now realised that there was, after all, something god-like about him. He could control a horse.She goes on to picture him and her, well-dressed and admired on their horses, and then laughs at the snobbishness of it. It's written as a moment of romantic progress, but suggests a definition of love which is completely off-putting to me.On top of this is the detective 'team' of Wimsey and Vane. Putting aside the protective reasons Wimsey comes galloping down to investigate, what we have here is a potential couple investigating a crime. They both have a crime background, and both go about interviewing witnesses, searching for evidence, and brain-storming the possibilities together.Although Harriet does some respectable evidence-collection, every single deduction, useful analysis, intuition and revelation belongs to Wimsey. At least two of the bits of analysis/revelation are things Harriet says she should/does know as a mystery writer, but simply hasn't managed to apply to the current situation. The imbalance just gets increasingly marked as the story wears on.I much prefer the stories where we've gotten past this stage of "no I won't marry you but I will be disgruntled if you stop asking me to marry you - you who have pressed your suit so consistently despite being well aware of my need to not have romance just now".