Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey Series #11)by Dorothy L. Sayers
It took several near-death experiences for Lord Peter Wimsey to convince Harriet Vane to be his wife, but she has finally relented. When the dapper/b>/i>
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In this installment of the “literate and delightful” Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, Harriet Vane’s honeymoon with the dapper British detective is marred by murder (Chicago Tribune).
It took several near-death experiences for Lord Peter Wimsey to convince Harriet Vane to be his wife, but she has finally relented. When the dapper detective marries Britain’s most popular mystery author—just a few short years after rescuing her from the hangman’s noose—the press could not be more excited. But Lord Peter and his bride have no interest in spending their wedding night surrounded by reporters. They sneak out of their own reception to begin their honeymoon early, out of sight of the world. Unfortunately, for some couples, calamity is inescapable.
On their 1st morning together, the newlyweds discover the house’s caretaker bludgeoned to death in the manor’s basement. If they thought finding a few minutes alone was difficult, they’re up against even steeper odds. In a house full of suspects, identifying the killer won’t be easy.
Busman’s Honeymoon is the 13th book in the Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, but you may enjoy the series by reading the books in any order.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Dorothy L. Sayers including rare images from the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.
Read an Excerpt
A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery
By Dorothy L. Sayers
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1965 Anthony Fleming
All rights reserved.
I agree with Dryden, that "Marriage is a noble daring."
—SAMUEL JOHNSON, TABLE TALK
Mr. Mervyn Bunter, patiently seated in the Daimler on the far side of Regent's Park, reflected that time was getting on. Packed in eiderdowns in the back of the car was a case containing two and a half dozen of vintage port, and he was anxious about it. Great speed would render the wine undrinkable for a fortnight; excessive speed would render it undrinkable for six months. He was anxious about the arrangements—or the lack of them—at Talboys. He hoped everything would be found in good order when they arrived—otherwise, his lady and gentleman might get nothing to eat till goodness knew when. True, he had brought ample supplies from Fortnum's, but suppose there were no knives or forks or plates available. He wished he could have gone ahead, as originally instructed, to see to things. Not but what his lordship was always ready to put up with what couldn't be helped; but it was unsuitable that his lordship should be called on to put up with anything—besides, the lady was still, to some extent, an unknown factor. What his lordship had had to put up with from her during the past five or six years, only his lordship knew, but Mr. Bunter could guess. True, the lady seemed now to be in a very satisfactory way of amendment; but it was yet to be ascertained what her conduct would be under the strain of trivial inconvenience. Mr. Bunter was professionally accustomed to judge human beings by their behavior, not in great crises, but in the minor adjustments of daily life. He had seen one lady threatened with dismissal from his lordship's service (including all emoluments and the enjoyment of an appartement meublé, Ave. Kléber) for having, in his presence, unreasonably lost her temper with a lady's maid: but wives were not subject to peremptory dismissal. Mr. Bunter was anxious, also, about how things were going at the Dowager's; he did not really believe that anything could be suitably organized or carried out without his assistance.
He was unspeakably relieved to see the taxi arrive and to assure himself that there was no newspaper man perched on the spare wheel, or lurking in a following vehicle.
"Here we are, Bunter. All serene? Good man. I'll drive. Sure you won't be cold, Harriet?"
Mr. Bunter tucked a rug about the bride's knees.
"Your lordship will bear in mind that we are conveying the port?"
"I will go as gingerly as if it were a baby in arms. What's the matter with the rug?"
"A few grains of cereal, my lord. I have taken the liberty of removing approximately a pound and three-quarters from among the hand-luggage, together with a quantity of assorted footgear."
"That must have been Lord Saint-George," said Harriet.
"Presumably so, my lady."
"My lady"—she had never really thought it possible that Bunter would accept the situation. Everybody else, perhaps, but not Bunter. Yet apparently he did. And that being so, the incredible must have happened. She must be actually married to Peter Wimsey. She sat looking at Peter, as the car twisted smoothly in and out of the traffic. The high, beaked profile, and the long hands laid on the wheel had been familiar to her for a long time now; but they were suddenly the face and hands of a stranger. (Peter's hands, holding the keys of hell and heaven ... that was the novelist's habit, of thinking of everything in terms of literary allusions.)
"I was just wondering whether I should recognize your voice—your face seems to have got rather remote, somehow."
She saw the corner of his long mouth twitch.
"Not quite the same person?"
"Don't worry," he said, imperturbably, "it'll be all right on the night."
Too much experience to be surprised, and too much honesty to pretend not to understand. She remembered what had happened four days earlier. He had brought her home after the theater, and they were standing before the fire, when she had said something—quite casually, laughing at him. He had turned and said, suddenly and huskily:
Language and voice together had been like a lightning-flash, showing up past and future in a single crack of fire that hurt your eyes and was followed by a darkness like thick, black velvet.... When his lips had reluctantly freed themselves, he had said:
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake the whole zoo. But I'm glad, my God! to know it's there—and no shabby tigers either."
"Did you think mine would be a shabby tiger?"
"I thought it might, perhaps, be a little daunted."
"Well, it isn't. It seems to be an entirely new tiger. I never had one before—only kindness to animals."
"My lady gave me a tiger,
A sleek and splendid tiger,
A striped and shining tiger,
All under the leaves of life."
Nobody else, thought Harriet, had apparently suspected the tiger—except of course, old Paul Delagardie, whose ironic eyes saw everything.
Peter's final comment had been:
"I have now completely given myself away. No English vocabulary. No other Englishwoman. And that is the most I can say for myself."
Gradually, they were shaking off the clustering lights of London. The car gathered speed. Peter looked back over his shoulder.
"Not waking the baby, are we, Bunter?"
"The vibration is at present negligible, my lord."
That led memory farther back.
"This question of children, Harriet. Do you feel strongly about it?"
"Well, I'm not quite sure. I'm not marrying you for the sake of having them, if that's what you mean."
"Thank Heaven! He does not wish to regard himself, nor yet to be regarded, in that agricultural light.... You don't particularly care about children?"
"Not children, in the lump. But I think it's just possible that I might some day come to want—"
"Oh!" he had said, unexpectedly disconcerted. "I see. That's rather—Have you ever considered what kind of a father I should make?"
"I know quite well. Casual, apologetic, reluctant and adorable."
"If I was reluctant, Harriet, it would only be because I have a profound distrust of myself. Our family's been going a pretty long time. There's Saint-George, who has no character, and his sister, with no vitality—to say nothing of the next heir after Saint-George and myself, who is a third cousin and completely gaga. And if you think about my own compound of what Uncle Paul calls nerves and nose—"
"I am reminded of what Clare Clairemont said to Byron: 'I shall always remember the gentleness of your manners and the wild originality of your countenance.'"
"No, Harriet—I mean that."
"Your brother married his own cousin. Your sister married a commoner and her children are all right. You wouldn't be doing it all yourself, you know—I'm common enough. What's wrong with me?"
"Nothing, Harriet. That's true. By God, that's true. The fact is, I'm a coward about responsibility and always have been. My dear—if you want it and are ready to take the risk—"
"I don't believe it's such a risk as all that."
"Very well. I leave it to you. If you will and when you will. When I asked you, I rather expected you to say, No."
"But you had a horrible fear I might say, 'Yes, of course'!"
"Well, perhaps. I didn't expect what you did say. It's embarrassing to be taken seriously—as a person."
"But, Peter, putting aside my own feelings and your morbid visions of twin gorgons or nine-headed hydras or whatever it is you look forward to—would you like children?"
She had been amused by the conflict in his self-conscious face.
"Egotistical idiot that I am," he had said finally, "yes. Yes. I should. Heaven knows why. Why does one? To prove one can do it? For the fun of boasting about 'my boy at Eton'? or because—?"
"Peter! When Mr. Murbles drew up that monstrous great long will for you, after we were engaged—"
"How did you leave your property? I mean, the real estate?"
"All right," he said with a groan, "the murder's out. Entailed.—I admit it. But Murbles expects that every man—damn it, don't laugh like that, I couldn't argue the point with Murbles—and every contingency was provided for."
A town, with a wide stone bridge, and lights reflected in the river—taking memory no further back than that morning. The Dowager's closed car, with the Dowager discreetly seated beside the chauffeur; herself in cloth of gold and a soft fur cloak, and Peter, absurdly upright in morning dress, with a gardenia in his lapel, balancing a silk hat on his knee.
"Well, Harriet, we've passed the Rubicon. Any qualms?"
"No more than when we went up the Cherwell that night and moored on the far bank, and you asked the same question."
"Thank God! Stick to it, sweetheart. Only one more river."
"And that's the river of Jordan."
"If I kiss you now I shall lose my head and something irreparable will happen to this accursed hat. Let us be very strange and well bred—as if we were not married at all."
One more river.
"Are we getting anywhere near?"
"Yes—this is Great Pagford, where we used to live. Look! that's our old house with the three steps up to the door—there's a doctor there still, you can see the surgery lamp.... After two miles you take the right hand turn for Pagford Parva, and then it's another three miles to Paggleham, and sharp left by a big barn and straight on up the lane."
When she was quite small, Dr. Vane had had a dog-cart—just like doctors in old-fashioned books. She had gone along this road, ever so many times, sitting beside him, sometimes allowed to pretend to hold the reins. Later on, it had been a car—a small and noisy one, very unlike this smooth, long-bonneted monster. The doctor had had to start on his rounds in good time, so as to leave a margin for break-downs. The second car had been more reliable—a pre-war Ford. She had learned to drive that one. If her father had lived, he would be getting on for seventy—his strange new son-in-law would have been calling him "sir." An odd way, this, to be coming home, and not home. This was Paggleham, where the old woman lived who had such terrible rheumatism in her hands—old Mrs., Mrs., Mrs. Warner, that was it—she must have gone long ago.
"That's the barn, Peter."
"Right you are. Is that the house?"
The house where the Batesons had lived—a dear old couple, a pleasantly tottering, Darby and Joan pair, always ready to welcome little Miss Vane and give her strawberries and seedy-cake. Yes—the house—a huddle of black gables, with two piled chimney-stacks, blotting out the stars. One would open the door and step straight in, through the sanded entry into the big kitchen with its wooden settles and its great oak rafters, hung with home-cured hams. Only, Darby and Joan were dead by now, and Noakes (she vaguely remembered him—a hard-faced, grasping man who hired out bicycles) would be waiting to receive them. But—there was no light in any of the windows at Talboys.
"We're a bit late," said Harriet, nervously; "he may have given us up."
"Then we shall firmly hand ourselves back to him," said Peter, cheerfully. "People like you and me are not so easily got rid of. I told him, any time after eight o'clock. This looks like the gate."
Bunter climbed out and approached the gate in eloquent silence. He had known it; he had felt it in his bones; the arrangements had fallen through. At whatever cost, even if he had had to strangle pressmen with his bare hands, he ought to have come ahead to see to things. In the glare of the headlights a patch of white paper showed clearly on the top bar of the gate; he looked suspiciously at it, removed, with careful fingers, the tintack that secured it to the wood and brought it, still without a word, to his master.
"NO BREAD AND MILK" (it said) "TILL FURTHER NOTISE."
"H'm!" said Peter. "The occupier, I gather, has already taken his departure. This has been up for several days, by the look of it."
"He's got to be there to let us in," said Harriet.
"He's probably deputed somebody else. He didn't write this himself—he can spell 'notice' in his letter to us. The 'somebody' is a little lacking in thought not to realize that we might want bread and milk. However, we can remedy the matter."
He reversed the paper, wrote in pencil on the back "BREAD AND MILK, PLEASE," and restored it to Bunter, who tin-tacked it back and gloomily opened the gate. The car moved slowly past him, up a short and muddy approach, on either side of which were flower-beds, carefully tended and filled with chrysanthemums and dahlias, while behind them rose the dark outlines of some sheltering bushes.
"A load of gravel would have done them no harm," observed Bunter to himself, as he picked a disdainful way through the mud. When he reached the door—massive and uncompromising, within an oaken porch having seats on either side—his lordship was already performing a brisk fantasia upon the horn. There was no reply; nothing stirred in the house; no candle darted its beams; no casement was thrown open; no shrill voice demanded to know their business; only, in the near distance, a dog barked irritably.
Mr. Bunter, gloomily self-restrained, grasped the heavy knocker and let its summons thunder through the night. The dog barked again. He tried the handle, but the door was fast.
"Oh, dear!" said Harriet.
This, she felt, was her fault. Her idea in the first place. Her house. Her honeymoon. Her—and this was the incalculable factor in the thing—her husband. (A repressive word, that, when you came to think of it, compounded of a grumble and a thump.) The man in possession. The man with rights—including the right not to be made a fool of by his belongings. The dashboard light was switched off, and she could not see his face; but she felt his body turn and his left arm move along the back of the seat as he leaned to call across her:
"Try the back!"—and something in his assured tone reminded her that he had been brought up in the country and knew well enough that farm houses were more readily assailable in the rear. "If you can't find anybody there, make for the place where the dog is."
He tootled on the horn again, the dog responded with a volley of yelps, and the shadowy bulk that was Bunter moved round the side of the building.
"That," continued Peter, with satisfaction, and throwing his hat into the back of the car, "will keep him busy for quite a bit. We shall now give one another that attention which, for the last thirty-six hours, has been squandered on trivialities.... Da mihi basia mille, deinde centum.... Do you realize, woman, that I've done it? ... that I've got you? ... that you can't get rid of me now, short of death or divorce? ... Et tot millia millies quot sunt sidera clo.... Forget Bunter. I don't care a rap whether he goes for the dog or the dog goes for him."
"Yes, poor devil! No wedding bells for Bunter.... Not fair, is it? All the kicks for him and all the kisses for me.... Stick to it, old son! Wake Duncan with thy knocking. But there's no hurry for the next few minutes."
The fusillade of knocks had begun again, and the dog was growing hysterical.
"Somebody must come sometime," said Harriet, still with a sense of guilt that no embraces could stifle, "because, if not—"
"If not ... Last night you slept in a goosefeather bed, and all that. But the goosefeather bed and the new-wedded lord are inseparable only in ballads. Would you rather wed with the feathers or bed with the goose—I mean the gander? Or would you make shift with the lord in the cold open field?"
"He wouldn't be stranded in a cold open field if I hadn't been so idiotic about St. George's, Hanover Square."
"No—and if I hadn't refused Helen's ten villas on the Riviera! ... Hurray! somebody's throttled the hound—that's a step in the right direction.... Cheer up! the night is yet young, and we may even find a goosefeather bed in the village pub—or in the last resort sleep under a haystack. I believe, if I'd had nothing but a haystack to offer you, you'd have married me years ago."
Excerpted from Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers. Copyright © 1965 Anthony Fleming. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957) was a British playwright, scholar, and acclaimed author of mysteries, best known for her books starring the gentleman sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. While working as an advertising copywriter, Sayers began writing Whose Body? (1923), the 1st Wimsey mystery, followed by 10 sequels and several short stories. Sayers set the Wimsey novels between the World Wars, giving them a realistic tone by incorporating details from contemporary issues such as advertising, women’s education, and veterans’ health. Sayers also wrote theological essays and criticism during and after World War II, and in 1949 published the 1st volume of a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Although she considered this translation to be her best work, it is for her elegantly constructed detective fiction that Sayers remains best remembered.
Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957) was a British playwright, scholar, and acclaimed author of mysteries, best known for her books starring the gentleman sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. While working as an advertising copywriter, Sayers began writing Whose Body? (1923), the first Wimsey mystery, followed by ten sequels and several short stories. Sayers set the Wimsey novels between the two World Wars, giving them a realistic tone by incorporating details from contemporary issues such as advertising, women’s education, and veterans’ health. Sayers also wrote theological essays and criticism during and after World War II, and in 1949 published the first volume of a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Although she considered this translation to be her best work, it is for her elegantly constructed detective fiction that Sayers remains best remembered.
- Date of Birth:
- June 13, 1893
- Date of Death:
- December 17, 1957
- Place of Birth:
- Oxford, England
- B.A., Oxford University, 1915; M.A., B.C.L., 1920
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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From the opening, presented as letters and journal entries, through the murder mystery and beyond this is an excellent book. What holds it all together and makes it so much richer than most detective mystery novels is the love story of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. He is the sleuth that solves mysteries, she is a murder mystery novelist. Just married, they discover a body while on their honeymoon. This is the fourth Lord Peter mystery that includes Harriet Vane, and these are my favorites of the series. And Busman's Honeymoon is the best of all.
I had read mysteries for easily 20 years beginning at the age of, I don't know, 12, and began tapering off in my 30s as I noticed that most of them were not worth re-reading (the sure sign of a really well-written book). This book is my all-time favorite mystery. The writing is well-above the ordinary genre level. It's more like literature with its finely drawn characters yet it is a mystery, and a great one, at that! Finally, it concludes a love story that began in Gaudy Night (well, actually in Strong Poison but finally reciprocated in Gaudy Night). Read all of the Dorothy Sayers, while you're at it!
I was very happy to find Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane mysteries on Nook. I had not able to find them in print after I became a fan while watching the series from public television. I also enjoyed the Jill Paton Walsh continuation of the series.
Most enjoyable reading as Peter and Harriet are finally wed ... but the honeymoon starts off a little bumpy. I can only wish that Sayers had survived longer to offer more titles.
Busman's Honeymoon and Gaudy Night are the best Lord Peter stories. Must reads if you enjoy Lord Peter and Harriet Vane together as sleuths and mates.
Another successful D. Sayers mystery, but the author was too cute. Instead of moving the story forward, she allowed herself to get bogged down in the romance. Pages of letters in French, pages of nattering dialogue, and action that clouded the narrative. Definitely worth a read if you're a Peter Wimsey fan, but skip over the nonsense.
I am a Sayers fan, and in my opinion this is the best of all the Lord Peter stories. Characters are fully developed, and having great fun. Its a classic "how in the world did the bad guy do it" situation while the characters have a low key, high brow good time, and take you along with them. Leaves you wanting more. Unfortunately it is the last Lord Peter story, except for the stories continued by another author. Those are ok, but leave you wanting for some slight touch that only Sayers could give us. I like this story so much I am trying to buy it again. I have a Nook and want this story in my elibrary even though I have a perfectly good paperback copy on my shelf. Enjoy!
I actually am listening to Busman's Honeymoon on audio tape. I have read Sayers and I find her books, for my taste, a great read. She was a wonderful writer and we were lucky she shared her talents with us as a mystery writer. If you like listening to books on tape I really recommend this one - the actor, Ian Carmichael, who reads the story brings the characters to life - the comedy that Sayers intended is acted out beautifully. This story has been a great companion as I travel the roads to work each day.
Night! Love you!
G'night, Griff! I love you!