Harriet Vane returns reluctantly to her alma mater of Shrewsbury College, Oxford to attend the annual Gaudy dinner. Expecting hostility because of her notoriety (see Strong Poison), she is surprised to be welcomed warmly by the dons, and rediscovers her old love of the academic life.
Some time later the Dean of Shrewsbury College writes to ask for help as there has been an outbreak of anonymous letters, vandalism and threats, apparently from someone within the college, and a scandal is feared. Harriet, herself a victim of poison-pen letters ever since her trial, reluctantly agrees to help, and spends much of the next few months resident at the college, ostensibly to do research on Sheridan Le Fanu and assist a don with her book.
This is much more of an Harriet Vane novel than a Lord Peter Wimsey novel – it is not a murder mystery (unlike my personal favourite Dorothy L. Sayers’ novel Murder Must Advertise) but it does have a great deal of suspense interwoven with the love story between Peter & Harriet and an examination of women’s struggles to enlarge their roles within the social climate of 1930s England (especially within Universities – at Oxford women were not able to graduate until 1920),.
In a sense it is the last pure Lord Peter Wimsey novel as the next one (Busman’s Honeymoon) is adapted from a jointly written stage play.
Overall, it is an excellent novel to read even if you don’t like crime fiction as it is very well written and does engage you when reread.
I am taking part in the Golden Age Card of the Vintage Mystery Bingo in 2015 (Golden Age Vintage Mysteries must have been first published before 1960) and am treating this is my L5 entry (“Read One Academic Mystery).