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Mystery, Murder, a Woman Author and a Dandy Aristocrat

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Monday, Jan 17, 2011

A Dorothy L.Sayers Mystery

Gaudy Night
Cast: Edward Petherbrige, Harriet Walter, Richard Morant

(BBC)

Usually, Kuala Lumpur is predictably sweltering and humid with the occasional rainstorm to break the monotony. Over Christmas and New Year, however, we had grey skies, rain, and a strange new chill in the air brought on by a slight dip in temperatures. It seemed only prudent to hunker down to some hard work and the ‘80s-era TV adaptations of Dorothy L. Sayers’ mystery novels available on YouTube. Particularly, Gaudy Night, which I enjoyed in book-form and also in its visual adaptation. Edward Petherbridge hits all the right notes as the impossibly fair-haired and monocled Lord Peter Wimsey, prone to yes, whimsy and English excess, and capable of being endearing, compelling, and annoying all at once. Harriet Walters also plays Harriet Vane just as I imagined Harriet Vane to be: intelligent, also mildly annoying, and seething with an undercurrent of anger and proper English passion.


The cloistered all-female colleges of Oxford provide opportunities for plenty of scholarly women to wax lyrical over Socrates, morality, and human nature. There are stereotypical assumptions on female intelligence and sexuality, as well as the unpleasant whiff of distinct class snobbery – the latter being a common trait in Sayers’ novels and British mysteries of the particular era. However, the performances of the actors manage to inject nuance into what is “just” a mystery story (albeit a very compelling one). Furthermore, in the midst of 21st century bad weather and general disenchantment with the new year, the utterly inexplicable and anachronistic yet very apt romance between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane allow our jaded but still quietly-romantic hearts to keep on beating in hope for our real-life infatuations.



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