No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer

I’m delighted to be welcoming The Classics Circuit once more.

And I’m particularly pleased to welcome such a popular and readable author – Georgette Heyer.

I’ve read, and enjoyed, a few of her Regency romances over the years, but I’d never tried her crime fiction. I thought that I was bound to be disappointed. That she would suffer in comparison with her illustrious contemporaries – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh – all authors I love. But a quote on one of the covers caught my eye and made me pick out a few books to take home.

I picked up No Wind of Blame first, and I loved it.

Now back to that quote. It was from Dorothy L Sayers.

“Miss Heyer’s characters and dialogue are an abiding delight to me…I have seldom met people to whom I have taken so violent a fancy from the word ‘Go”.”

Now I’ve read the book I have to agree with her. So, let me introduce you to those characters.

First there’s Ermyntrude Carter. Ermyntrude was on the stage as a young woman and inherited the a country estate and a fortune from her first,  husband. She’s little more loud, a little more brash than the norm, but she is a warm and hospitable lady. Her second husband, Wally Carter, sadly was not a good catch. He wastes his wife’s money on wine, women and song,  his business dealings seem dubious to see the least, and he is not well-regarded by local society. Poor Ermyntrude! But she has her daughter’s support.Vicky, shares her mother’s love of theatrics, casting herself as a variety of different characters as he drifts through life. She’s lovely and infuriating in equal measures. And then there’s Mary, Wally’s quiet and sensible ward, who is saddened by his behaviour and supportive of his wife and step-daughter.

That’s the household, and it’s a highly entertaining one, but there are more people to meet. There’s Prince Varasashvili, an exiled Russian prince and admirer of Ermyntrude who is coming to stay. Of course Ermyntrude is having a house party to show off her unusual guest. The neighbours are intrigued. The Derings, on the neighbouring estate, wouldn’t usually accept such an invitation, but curiosity gets the better of them.

Just a few more introductions before we get to the house party and the mystery. Wally’s cousin, Gilbert White, lives with his son and daughter in the lodge, and seems to have some sort of hold over Wally. Bob Steel is a local farmer, as down to earth as they come, and he holds Ermyntrude in the highest regard, And an uninvited guest, accusing Wally of impropriety with his sister.

It’s quite a cast. A few stereotypes maybe, but they are so engaging, their exchanges are so delightful, and so you really can’t help loving them, and turning the pages.

The house party is a riot – and then somebody shoots Wally as he walks across the estate.

Of course there are plenty of suspects, red herrings galore, twists and turns galore, and just a touch of fun and romance along the way before things are tied up nicely in just the right conclusion.

The style is quite different from those contemporaries of Georgette Heyer. It’s slower, much more driven by the characters, their interactions, and their dialogue. And the detective, Inspector Hemingway is both wise and witty, but he’s low-key and plays second fiddle to the house party of suspects.

Those differences stopped me making the comparisons I feared, but now I have finished reading I realise that, even if I had, this book would have stood up well. It’s a cleverly constructed mystery and a fine entertainment. And I’m very glad that I didn’t just bring home the one!

26 responses

  1. I hope to read some of Heyer’s mysteries soon. Everytime I read a review I am convinced that I would enjoy this author.

    I loved looking at all the different book covers. It is interesting to see how they change over the years.

    • On the basis of thisbook I think you would like Georgette Heyer’s mysteries Molly. The cover on my copy is notso good, so I had a little huntfor something nicer, but I couldn’t pick just one.

  2. This sounds quite fun. Like you, I’ve read Heyer’s Regency novels but, before the Classic Circuit, had no interest in her mysteries (perfering to stick to my Sayers et al). However, having seen so many positive reviews of the mysteries, I think it’s time to branch out and try them!

    • Claire, if you like the Regency novels and other golden age crime, yes, Heyer’s crime novels are definitely worth a try.

  3. Yay! I haven’t read No Wind of Blame, but I have it waiting patiently on my shelf. I read Penhallow for the circuit and didn’t much enjoy it at all- it was very difficult for me to get through. I have trouble with Heyer’s mysteries sometimes because most of the characters are so unlikable. But she’s so caustically witty in them!

    • I looked at Penhallow in the library, because the title sounded Cornish, but it didn’t grab me. In this one I liked Ermyntrude, Vicky and Mary, and it did help having that to hold on to. That and the sheer entertainment value.

  4. Don’t you just wish you could step into the life of English country houses (without the murder, of course)
    I wonder why Heyer chose not to make her investigators more central characters. Are the mysteries less important than the rest of the story?
    Nice review.

    • I do like having a slightly different angle on things – after all it’s the angle we’d get if we could step into that country house!

    • Why Shoot the Butler? is one of the others I bought home as I liked the concept. This one is certainly worth picking up when the you’re in the mood for gently paced golden age crime.

  5. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this one. I on the other hand did not care for it. But I wouldn’t count out reading another of her mysteries. I just felt this one was too wordy, too descriptive and I became easily bored with it. I loved your thoughts on it!!!!

    • It was longer than most whodunnits, but I was in the mmod for a slow book. A few of the others on my TBR are a good bit shorter, so maybe there are other Heyer mysteries you’d like more.

  6. I’m so glad the mysteries are good. Heyer is an author I haven’t read yet. I picked up a copy of one of her romances because some review said the mysteries were disappointing. But I’m so glad you liked it. I’m sure now that I will too.

    • I’ve read mixed reports too Margot, so I think you need to pick carefully, but you would like the right Heyer mystery.

  7. Pingback: Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester – A Review « Austenprose

  8. I love her mysteries – and actually all her books. I like the slow pace and characters in the detective novels. I was in’The Works’ this afternoon and they had a goodish selection of heyer mysteries for £1.99 a throw or 3 for £5…

    • My small Heyer mystery collection came from “The Works” last week end. I upgraded a couple of Barbara Pyms to the new VMC editions too.

  9. If Dorothy L. Sayers had good things to say about Heyer’s mysteries, that makes me think I definitely should try one of her mysteries next. I was disappointed in the Heyer book I attempted to read (historical fiction, though).

    • I haven’t read much Heyer, but I do get the impression that her quality is quite variable and you have to be careful picking.

      I read a very kind quote from Dorothy L Sayers about Agatha Christie a while ago too. I don’t know too much about her, but I have the impression that she must have been a person with great generosity of spirit.

  10. I have yet to read any of her mysteries. I love her Regencies, but I think there are just so many of those I’ve not yet had a chance to pick any of the other books up. I’m glad to hear they are just as enjoyable, though. I’m sorry to have missed this classics circuit author-I do love her work though and am enjoying reading reviews!

    • Georgette Heyer’s mysteries do seem to be a little on the slow side, but I do think you might enjoy spending time with her characters in their English country houses. I didn’t mention that this one had a few dogs, and I do believe one of them was a spaniel.

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