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Have His Carcase

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Country  United Kingdom
Series  Lord Peter Wimsey
Originally published  1932
Preceded by  The Five Red Herrings
Genre  Mystery
4.1/5 Goodreads

Language  English
Publication date  1932
Author  Dorothy L. Sayers
Followed by  Hangman's Holiday
Publisher  Victor Gollancz
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Media type  Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Similar  Dorothy L Sayers books, Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries books, Mystery books

Have His Carcase is a 1932 novel by Dorothy L. Sayers, her seventh featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and her second novel in which Harriet Vane appears. The title is taken from William Cowper's translation of Book II of Homer's Iliad: "The vulture's maw / Shall have his carcase, and the dogs his bones."

Contents

Plot

During a hiking holiday to Wilvercombe, a seaside resort in Devon, after her acquittal on a murder charge in Strong Poison, Harriet Vane discovers the body of a man, with his throat cut and the blood still liquid, on an isolated rock on the shore. There are no footprints in the sand other than the man's and Harriet's. She takes photos and preserves some evidence, but the corpse is washed away before she can fetch help.

Alerted by a reporter friend about Harriet's discovery of the body, Lord Peter arrives shortly afterwards to offer his help, and he and Harriet make investigations alongside the police. The dead man is quickly identified as Paul Alexis, a young professional dancing partner at a local hotel, who was of Russian extraction and engaged to a rather foolish rich widow in her fifties, Mrs. Weldon. The death, staged to look like suicide, as if Alexis had cut his own throat, is gradually revealed by Wimsey and Harriet to be the result of an ingenious and complex murder plot. The romantic Alexis, an avid reader of Ruritanian romances, had believed himself a descendant of Russian royalty, and the widow's son, Henry Weldon (himself ten years older than his mother's would-be lover), appalled at the prospect of his mother's remarriage to a gigolo and the loss of his inheritance, conspired with a friend and his wife in a cunning plot that would play upon Alexis' fantasies. Convinced that he was being called to return to Russia in triumph as the rightful Tsar, Alexis was lured to the rock and murdered by Henry, who rode a horse along the beach through the incoming tide to avoid leaving tracks, whilst his co-conspirators supplied his alibi.

After the death of Alexis is reported, Henry returns to Wilvercombe to monitor the investigation while he is ostensibly comforting his mother after her loss. He is by all appearances a simple, brutish and loutish man, but Wimsey and Harriet both eventually realise that Weldon is not a fool but a dangerous and cunning criminal who has been living under two different identities. Wimsey and Harriet ultimately break the case when they realise that Alexis had suffered from haemophilia, explaining the still-liquid and unclotted blood when Harriet had discovered the body even if is hours after the death is eventually pinpointed to have taken place. The time of death and explanation for the state of the blood, which had originally misled the entire investigation into confusion over the time of death. eventually helps to unmask Henry and the conspirators, who are undone by their attempts to reshuffle their alibis to match the shifting assumptions about the time of death.

Even as Harriet and Peter solve the case and lead the police to the conspirators, it is implied that Mrs. Weldon has already moved on to another gigolo at the hotel, a sympathetic French dancer named Antoine. That strongly implying that the pattern of life in Wilvercombe will continue to move along the same vaguely pitiable patterns as before.

Characters

  • Lord Peter Wimsey - protagonist, an aristocratic amateur detective
  • Miss Harriet Vane - protagonist, a novelist with whom Wimsey is in love, having saved her from the gallows
  • Paul Alexis (deceased) - a professional dancing partner at a hotel
  • Mrs Weldon - an elderly wealthy widow, engaged to the much younger Alexis
  • Henry Weldon - a farmer with money troubles, the only son of Mrs Weldon
  • Haviland Martin - a suspicious camper who proves hard to trace
  • Bright - an itinerant hairdresser with a cloudy past, who gives evidence to suggest that Alexis's death was suicide
  • Inspector Umpelty - the local policeman in charge of the investigation
  • Criticism

    "A great achievement, despite some critics' carping. The people, the motive, the cipher, and the detection are all topnotch. Here, too, is the first (and definitive) use of hemophilia as a misleading fact. And surely the son, the mother, and her self-deluded gigolo are definitive types."

    All the chapter heads feature quotes from the works of dramatist and poet Thomas Lovell Beddoes.

    Adaptations

    It was adapted for radio in 1981 for BBC Radio 4 by Alistair Beaton, starring Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter and Maria Aitken as Harriet Vane.

    It was adapted for television in 1987, as part of a series starring Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter and Harriet Walter as Harriet Vane.

    References

    Have His Carcase Wikipedia


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