Busman’s Honeymoon

By Dorothy L. Sayers

If there’s one book I reread and reread, it’s Busman’s honeymoon.  Ostensibly a murder mystery, but in fact a love story with detective interruptions, I first encountered it when I was courting Irina. This is significant, because I feel that I’ve learnt a lot about the metier d’époux from the Wimsey-Vane marriage tribulations. And whenever I feel a certain book is not soothing enough, I do not fall back to the Looking Glass, but to Busman’s Honeymoon.

  • Author: Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Title: Busman’s Honeymoon
  • Pages: 379
  • Published: 1964 (1937)
  • Publisher: Penguin Crime

It is also a book I have owned four copies of: one copy of the original play, one Italian edition (but of the English text), and a New English Library paperback and this dingy green Penguin. The NEL paperback now resides with Mary Kuhner.

Busman’s Honeymoon is one of the books I can quote ad-lib from; which is a fine irony, since Dorothy L. Sayers has evidently let herself completely be overtaken by the novelist’s habit of quotation. Not just the conversation between Lord Peter, Harriet Vane and Inspector Kirk, which conciously plays with quotations, but the rest of text is riddled with them. So I can never be sure whether I am a quoting DLS or some literary lion DLS quoted for me…

This re-re-re-reading brought me some fresh insights: it’s apparent from a slip of the tongue of inspector Kirk that miss Twitterton is actually Noakes’ daughter. Subtle shades of meaning in sentence fragments made me wonder a bit. (I should note down those impressions when reading, because by now I’ve forgotten them, of course. Grumbl.

Anyway, if you haven’t read this — read it. If you haven’t read any Sayers, though, start with Strong Poison, because otherwise nothing will make sense to you. I know it didn’t make sense to me when I tried to read the book in an awful, cruelly abridged Dutch translation when I was about twelve years old, and hadn’t any inkling of the backstory.

Oh? A plot synopsis? Well, H.V. and P.W. get married. They’re dogged by press hounds, so decide to escape to the quaint Elizabethan cottage they’ve bought in a small village. The morning after the bridal night, the corpse of the previous owner is found in the cellar. When P.W. and H.V. work on the case, they learn that possessiveness is a horrible thing in a marriage.