Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer

This book was first published in 1953 which is one of my favourite eras for vintage crime but I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I’ve enjoyed some of Heyer’s other crime novels. It was the last of her mysteries/thrillers to be published.

The setting is the up-market village of Thornden and it’s the sort place which has prominent inhabitants vying to be the most important people in the district. Nobody likes Sampson Warrenby, a newcomer who has only lived in the village for 15 years and has spent his time getting into positions of power in all the local clubs and committees.

When he is found dead at his desk the villagers aren’t exactly bereft, but it’s murder and Chief Inspector Hemingway has 10 suspects to work his way through. All the suspects spend their time pointing the finger of blame at each other and being otherwise disagreeable. Hemingway and his side-kick Harbottle are the best characters in the book and their banter with each other just managed to save it from being a book which I really didn’t care about at all, just because I didn’t like any of the villagers so would have been quite happy for any of them to have ‘swung’.

I have really enjoyed some of Heyer’s other crime novels but I think she was at her best when she had male and female characters which she gave a lot of snappy dialogue and humour, that wasn’t really a feature of this one.

I’m glad I read it though as I want to complete all of her mystery fiction, I think I only have two left to read now. On the other hand I’ve only read two or three of her Regency romances and I don’t know if I have the energy to plough my way through her long list.

12 thoughts on “Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer

  1. I agree this isn’t one of her best, but I finally got around to reading a couple of years ago so could cross her mysteries off my list. Which ones do you still have left? I really like Death in the Stocks and Behold, Here’s Poison.

    • Lisa,
      I enjoyed Death in the Stocks too. I wrote about it here. I don’t have Behold, Here’s Poison, Envious Cascia or Penhallow. I own but haven’t read Why Shoot a Butlet and Duplicate Death.

  2. I’ve only read two of Georgette Heyer’s books and only one Regency novel – Friday’s Child which I did enjoy -lighthearted and easy to read. But I thought it was all quite predictable and I didn’t like the farcical element – all that chaos and disaster with disguises and mistaken identities.

    The other book of hers that I’ve read is Detection Unlimited, which I preferred. I liked her presentation of a world gone by in a small village, with its characters. A spot of blackmail, and a number of twists and turns in the plot kept me interested to the end. But Warrenby was found dead under a tree in his garden, not at his desk.

    • Margaret,
      You’re absolutely right! That was part of the problem for me because for some reason I never believed in the original location, obviously thinking too far ahead.
      I’ve read Friday’s Child too, here’s what I thought of it. Radio 4 extra had a dramatised version of it recently too.

  3. To read one of her novels was something I challenged myself this year. I have not done it, and don’t think I will in 2012 but perhaps next year. I want to see what all the fuss was about with these novels, in particular the romance ones.

    • Jo,
      Some people do get quite addicted to her Regency romances, Jack’s Granny was a big fan. I think they’re comfort/ marshmallow books, a bit of escapism for the romantically minded but I don’t read a lot of romance.

  4. Really need to read one of these next year, for the Vintage Mystery Challenge. I have read some before years ago, but my take on them may be different now. I have found that with vintage authors.

    I have a friend who loves the Regency Romances but not the mysteries. And she reads lots of Fantasy, lots of modern stuff. An eclectic reader.

    • TracyK,
      Well I suppose eclectic is the best way to be well read. There is a lot of fantasy in romance though. I think the reason I’m not keen on modern romances is that I can’t stop myself from thinking ahead and it all seems very predictable, which is why I prefer crime amd mysteries as there’s more chance of a nice twist at the end.
      A friend of mine said that she read romances because she had never had any romance in her own life. I don’t know what her husband thought about that!

      • You are so right. Romance is fantasy mostly. I barely can read mysteries that are romantic suspense, for that reason. Much less something that is primarily romance.

        • TracyK,
          I find romance to be too predictable. I read a modern one this year I think it was by Rosie Thtornton and before I got to the bottom of the first page I said to Jack that it was going to be …. and I was correct, down to the exact last words of the book.

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