August 2, 2019 Galit Gottlieb

Georgette Heyer: Mysteries

One of my literary heros is Georgette Heyer (London 1902 – 1974), who never appeared in public or gave an interview. She was a bestselling author for over fifty years without spending a single minute building a social media presence when she could have been writing. Maybe if I’m jealous, I should just sit down and write excellent books, at least one every year, that people will continue to read a half century after I’m gone.

She wrote her first book at seventeen, and it is still selling, but she was known to be extremely private.  When someone would ask about herself, Heyer would refer the person to her books, and most of what is known about her comes from her correspondence ( I skimmed through her bio). She was known for her romances and is considered by some to be the inventor of the Regency Romance genre (which inspired Jane Austen, among others).

There was a period of many years during which she wrote one romance and one thriller every year, but I am particularly interested in her Country House, Inspector Hemingway, and Inspector Hannasyde mysteries (12 in all).  They are terribly droll and describe period dress, behavior and standards in great detail. The first three (I look forward to reading through the rest) take place in 30’s London and evoke a bygone age of wealth and prestige. The nuances of visiting a manor house, dress, comportment, dining, and after-dinner entertainment are delightfully precise. Readers can almost see the characters coming to life in all their 30’s finery. In terms of Juicy Must-Read Mysteries, Georgette Heyer is pretty high on the list:

Neville opened his eyes, and looked at her in undisguised horror. “Oh, my God, the girl thinks I did it!”

“No, I don’t. I’ve got an open mind on the subject,” said Sally bluntly. “If you did it, you must have had a darned good reason, and you have my vote.”

“Have I?” Neville said, awed. “And what about my second victim?”

“As I see it,” replied Sally, “the second victim — we won’t call him yours just yet — knew too much about the first murder, and had to be disposed of. Unfortunate, of course, but, given the first murder, I quite see it was inevitable.”  A Blunt Instrument, Georgette Heyer