Books: My First Murder

I've been reading a lot of books in the business/marketing/entrepreneurship vein lately (I just picked up two more today, reviews as I finish them), but in the interest of balance I've also been reading Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers.

I adore murder mysteries. I have since I was old enough to read something other than Beverly Cleary. What I can't remember is which came first, reading mysteries or watching them on television. Beginning in middle school, this was my favorite television show:

Curling up on the living room floor with a blanket to watch Mystery! was just as exciting as going to the movie theater. I wasn't allowed to watch scary movies, but PBS got a pass, along with the television edit of Rear Window—which I have memorized in its entirety, Sears kitchen remodeling commercials included.

While I can't remember the first detective novel I read, I can, with absolute certainty, tell you that the first murder I ever saw on television was the throat-cutting scene in the Mystery! presentation of Have His Carcase. I'm not sure how old I was, probably 10 or 11, but I'm certain I could trace it back through photographs. Shortly after watching the movie I developed an affinity for turtlenecks that lasted until midway through college.

I still can't sleep if my neck is exposed.

A few months ago I saw the copy of Have His Carcase sitting on top of the Rotary book drive stack at work. I knew I had to read it. I remembered only two things from the movie; that awful murder sequence and the key bit of information that allowed Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane to crack the case. What I didn't remember was whodunit. The identity of the murderer completely escaped me.

Knowing the key plot twist up front didn't make the slightest bit of difference. In fact, I'm sure it made it more enjoyable because I was able to watch Dorothy Sayers lay the groundwork for the twist, and the twist itself didn't identify the killer. I love reading fiction a second and third time through to collect the little clues the author drops early, to observe how the author develops a character.

All told, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The ending was quite satisfying in a very 30s detective novel sort of way. Sometimes it's nice to count on a tidy resolution.

My favorite contemporary mystery author is absolutely Elizabeth George. I'm halfway through In the Presence of the Enemy, but I'm so sad and anxious for Helen and Simon that I've had to put it down. Things will not end well for the missing little girl. Ms. George does not submit to the tidy-ending compulsions as did her predecessors.

Before I go, take a look at the cover of Have His Carcase. I snapped a couple of photos when I realized it was crumbling as I read it.


Isn't that swell? I wish I could wear a purple flapper dress, just like Harriet Vane. It fits perfectly with the Edward Gorey Mystery! credit sequence. I think I'm going to have to turn this into one of my next needlepoint projects.