So apparently? Dorothy Sayers did not write her Harriet Vane books all in a row. Murder Must Advertise happens after Peter has already met Harriet, but Harriet doesn’t feature in it at all. In between wooing Harriet and solving mysteries with her (and getting woefully rejected), Peter still finds time to gallivant around infiltrating advertising agencies to sort out other problems. I didn’t know this. I thought that the books with Harriet just came one after another in direct sequence.
This makes me feel better about Peter and Harriet. You know how the Doctor asks Donna to come traveling with him in “The Runaway Bride”, and then in the very next episode he asks Martha (mad Martha, blind Martha, charity Martha)? And if you assume that these episodes happened within a fairly short time of each other, it makes the Doctor seem a tiny bit – just the tiniest bit – desperate. (I can’t believe I have even written that adjective to refer to David Tennant’s Doctor.) Whereas if you assume that a good deal of time has passed between the end of “The Runaway Bride” and the start of “Smith and Jones”, it is not so much of a problem. I feel the same way about Peter and Harriet – I’m glad that while she’s taking vacations and writing novels and going to college reunions, he’s solving staircase mysteries like an undercover copywriting Nancy Drew. He goes to dinner with her, but between times he solves a mystery and plays cricket!
In Murder Must Advertise, Peter Wimsey comes to Pym Advertising Agency masquerading as a copywriter, in order to discover all he can about the recent death of the copywriter he’s replacing. The man in question went tumbling down an iron staircase, broke his neck, and cracked his head on the knob at the bottom of the staircase. Certain parties are not satisfied that it was an accident.
Spoilers ahead in this paragraph: The ad agency had just slightly too many people at it for me to keep track of. And I never do feel very happy about mysteries in which drugs are introduced. That seems messy to me, and I like things to be nice and tidy. Nice little murders committed for personal reasons. Why add a drug ring into the question at all? But as drug ring mysteries go, this one was fairly neat, so I didn’t object to it too terribly much. Peter let the perpetrator commit suicide, rather than be exposed to all as a murderer and a drug dealer, to the disgrace of his loving wife and child. Whatever, Peter. BRING HIM TO JUSTICE I SAY. And then do not you cry about it afterwards, you silly ass.
But never mind. I like Dorothy Sayers, and I enjoyed Murder Must Advertise. It was nice to see more of Chief-Inspector and Mary Parker, never enough of the family scene in Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night. Peter working for a living was an amusing sight to behold, and I enjoyed the bits about life in an advertising agency. I always like knowing what people in jobs that are not my job are thinking, and what they are all doing from day to day. Besides which, I like mysteries where there are dozens of suspects and no alibis – this wasn’t quite as good as one of those country house type mysteries (like “The Unicorn and the Wasp”, hullo to my second Doctor Who reference in a single post, good heavens) or The Mousetrap – but nearly.