Georgette Heyer (1902 – 1974)

georgette-heyerGeorgette Heyer, born on August 16, 1902, was the oldest of the three children of George Heyer and Sylvia Watkins. Like the heroine of Helen (1928), one of her early novels, Heyer had a close relationship with her father, after whom she was also named. She received her education at various day schools and later attended The Study, a girls’ school in Wimbledon. She did not attend a university. In her teens, she became close friends with Joanna Cannan, the daughter of a member of the Oxford University Press, and Carola Oman, the daughter of Sir Charles Oman, a historian. All three women became novelists and published their works under their maiden names.

[Heyer’s first published work, inspired by Baroness Orczy, was The Black Moth (1921), and was written while she was seventeen to amuse her convalescent brother].

In 1920, she met George Ronald Rougier while their families were spending Christmas at the Bushey Park Hotel. Rougier had wanted to become a barrister, but family pressure prompted him to attend the Royal School of Mines and become an engineer. Heyer became engaged to Rougier in April of 1925, and they were married two months after her father’s death on August 18, 1925. After their marriage, Rougier went prospecting in the Caucasus while Heyer remained in London. She accompanied her husband on his next assignments to Tanganyika and Macedonia. In 1926, Heyer’s first popular success occurred with the publication of These Old Shades, which sold 190,000 copies without the assistance of advertising or reviews. In 1932, at the time that Footsteps in the Dark appeared, her son Richard George Rougier was born.

During the Depression, Ronald opened a sports shop, but with his wife’s encouragement he also studied to become a barrister. The income from Heyer’s books contributed to the support for the family, and she began to write a detective story and a historical romance every year. Rougier, the first reader of her books, also assisted Heyer in plotting her detective stories. Although Heyer’s books were consistently popular, at the time of her death, on July 4, 1974, she had not yet received the critical appreciation that her work merits. (Source: “Georgette Heyer – Biography” Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition Ed. Carl Rollyson., Inc. 2008 16 Mar, 2020

Read more at Mike Grost on Georgette Heyer

Detective Stories by Georgette Heyer: Footsteps in the Dark (1932); Why Shoot the Butler? (1933); The Unfinished Clue (1934); Death in the Stocks aka Merely Murder (1935); The Talisman Ring (1936); Behold, Here’s Poison! (1936); They Found Him Dead (1937); A Blunt Instrument (1938); No Wind of Blame (1939); Envious Casca aka A Christmas Party (1941); Penhallow (1942); Duplicate Death (1951); Detection Unlimited (1953).


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Hodder & Stoughton (UK), 1941)

Book Description: It is no ordinary Christmas at Lexham Manor. And the mood is anything but festive. Six holiday guests find themselves the suspects in a murder inquiry when the old Scrooge, Nathaniel Herriard, who owns the substantial estate, is found stabbed in the back. Whilst the delicate matter of inheritance could be the key to this crime, the real conundrum is how any of the suspects could have entered the locked room to commit this atrocity. For Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard, the investigation is complicated by the fact that every guest is hiding something – throwing all of their testimonies into question and casting suspicion far and wide…

Regardless of these minor trivialities, I genuinely enjoyed Envious Casca as a whole. It’s an extremely conventional mystery novel with a conservative plot-and cast of characters, which can hardly be labeled original, but the story moves around gracefully within the confines of the conventional manor house mystery. Like a swan elegantly paddling around in a fountain. (TomCat at Beneath the Stains of Time)

I enjoyed Envious Casca. I liked the way the characters developed from the stereotypical country-house-mystery types into very different individuals. I enjoyed the locked room murder, which, as I say, was well- and fairly-clued. And I very much liked the humor. Envious Casca remains available in both print and electronic editions. ( Les Blatt at Classic Mysteries)