Georgette Heyer Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Georgette Heyer’s twelve detective novels are variations of the English country-house mystery. Like her extremely popular historical romances set in the Regency period, her mysteries are witty comedies of manners. Her characters, whether they live in villages, suburban communities, or on London estates, are well-bred and affluent. Heyer has been compared to Jane Austen because, in the world she skillfully creates, manners are morals. Pretension of any kind is ruthlessly exposed. Young women who seek to marry well for mercenary reasons do not succeed in the matrimonial game, but attractive heroines always make a suitable alliance. Although the crimes are solved at the conclusion of her novels, the detection of the murderer is only slightly more important than the resolution of the romantic action, which nearly always results in marriage.

Her mysteries are painstakingly plotted, but suspense is less important than wit in a Heyer mystery. For this reason, her books can be read and reread without a loss of interest. Both violence and passion are suppressed. Maiden aunts and stately dowagers tend to be pleased when a murder occurs because it may give their young relatives something with which to amuse themselves other than tennis, as in Detection Unlimited (1953). Few writers are fortunate enough to have Heyer’s unerring ear for dialogue and sense of the ridiculous. In No Wind of Blame (1939), when an unscrupulous gigolo, whose unpronounceable name leads everyone to call him Prince, pursues his impressionable hostess, his romantic overtures are undercut by a dog who also answers to the name Prince. Many of Heyer’s mysteries are still in print. Like her romances, they are masterpieces of satire and good humor.

Georgette Heyer Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bargainnier, Earl K. “The Dozen Mysteries of Georgette Heyer.” Clues: A Journal of Detection 3 (Fall/Winter, 1982): 30-39. Brief but comprehensive overview of all twelve of Heyer’s mystery novels.

Boucher, Anthony. Introduction to A Blunt Instrument. Oxford, England: William Heinemann, 1966. Appreciation of Heyer’s novel written by a fellow author of crime fiction.

Byatt, A. S. “Miss Georgette Heyer.” The Times (London). July 6, 1974. Heyer’s obituary, written by the author of Possession.

Fahnestock-Thomas, Mary, ed. Georgette Heyer: A Critical Retrospective. Saraland, Ala.: PrinnyWorld Press, 2001. This hefty volume includes several of Heyer’s uncollected short stories and essays, as well as book reviews, criticism, and a bibliography of her works and film and theater reviews of their theatrical and cinematic adaptations.

Hodge, Jane Aiken. The Private World of Georgette Heyer. London: Bodley Head, 1984. Covers Heyer’s romantic and historical fiction, as well as her mystery stories.

Klein, Kathleen Gregory, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers: Classic to Contemporary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Contains an essay on Heyer’s life and works.

Kloester, Jennifer. Georgette Heyer’s Regency World. London: William Heinemann, 2005. While focused on Heyer’s historical fiction, this study provides many insights into the role and importance of setting in her work.