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.