Welcome back to my blog! Today I have Kate Parker talking about two great mystery writers. Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.
In the interests of honesty, I have to admit to reading Agatha Christie’s novels from the time I graduated from Dick and Jane. Dorothy Sayers’ works took me years longer to absorb, but now I can say I’ve read, and watched thanks to PBS, almost everything either woman wrote. I’ve even read Jill Paton Walsh’s work from unfinished stories by Sayers, Anne Hart’s biography of Miss Jane Marple, and Max Allan Collins work staring Agatha Christie, sleuth.
It took the book, Bluestockings, The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education, by Jane Robinson, to help me see why these two popular mystery writers of the 1920s thru the 1950s differed so widely in their plots and motives.
University education, now almost a rite of passage for women, was still a novelty when Christie and Sayers came of age. Christie, who was from a wealthy family, never attended college. In fact, she never attended school until she was twelve, being educated at home. Then she attended school in Torquay and Paris, coming home from finishing school at age twenty to begin her hunt for a husband. She married at the beginning of World War I, becoming a mother after the war ended. She never held a job outside the home except during the war years.
Sayers, the only child of a minister, won a scholarship to Oxford at nineteen and finished her courses with firsts although women were not awarded degrees at that time. She returned to gain an MA after women began receiving degrees. She was a career woman in the advertising industry, creating a well-known advertising campaign for Guinness in use long after her death.
Christie’s works were domestic. They frequently involved a village or a country house. She used exotic locales because her second husband was a noted archaeologist and she traveled with him, but most of her works were set in southern England. Her mysteries revolved around jealousy and greed, around families and close neighbors who were comfortable with their role in society.
Sayers’ works frequently presented causes. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club featured PTSD in soldiers after World War I, Murder must Advertize looked at the unfortunate truth behind advertising, and Gaudy Night championed women’s education.
Christie wrote 66 mysteries, 6 romances, and several plays. She employed several different sleuths, the most famous of which are Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. She was still producing novels into her eighties. The last two published, killing off Poirot and Marple, were written decades before during World War II in case she was killed in the blitz.
Sayers wrote only a handful of mysteries, all featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. She quit writing mysteries during World War II and turned to “serious subjects” such as penning religious articles and translating Dante’s Inferno. She died at age 64.
How much of the serious tone of Sayers’ mysteries came from the expectation that once gained, a woman with a university-education should be involved in politics and business? Could this have led her to drop writing mysteries and turn to non-fiction works as more intellectually stimulating and acceptable for the highly-educated?
Although not university educated, Christie was obviously a smart woman. Mystery writing was an outlet for a creative woman that was acceptable at that time. Miss Jane Marple was the antithesis of the university educated woman, but she became one of the best known sleuths in English literature as she solved murders for the police.
Kate Parker sets her historical mysteries a generation before Christie and Sayers. The Vanishing Thief, the first of the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries, will arrive today at your favorite on-line or physical book store.
About The Vanishing Thief:
At 30, Victorian bookshop owner Georgia Fenchurch knows she’s considered a middle-class old maid. That’s all right with her. She has the bookshop she inherited when her parents were murdered before her eyes, providing her with a living and something to keep her busy during the day. At night, she has another occupation. Driven by her need to see people rescued and justice done, she works with the Archivist Society.
In the foggy London of coal fires and carriages, glittering balls and Sherlock Holmes, the Archivist Society digs through musty records searching for the truth. They also don disguises and assume identities as they hunt for missing people, stolen treasures, and cunning murderers. Between her efforts for the Archivist Society and her management of the bookshop, Georgia doesn’t have time to be lonely.
When a respectable middle-class woman comes into her bookshop complaining that a duke has abducted her next door neighbor, Georgia thinks the investigation will be a short one. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in theft, blackmail, lies, secret marriages, and murder. The man Georgia is asked to find may be royalty, may be dead, and is definitely missing. The woman who hired her won’t reveal the truth. The accused duke may be a victim or a killer, but he certainly is involved in the hunt for the missing man. And every aristocrat who knew the missing man seems to be hiding their own dangerous lie.
As Georgia crosses London searching for the missing man, she finds herself staring into the face of the one person she has wanted to capture for a dozen years. The one who got away. The man who killed her parents.
Cindy here again!
Thanks for being here, Kate! This sounds like a really interesting book. I must pop over and check it out.
Until next time…