Pure histrionics: Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer, 1941

I have never read one of Heyers’s crime novels before, although my mother has several, they were never of interest to me when I was younger – I preferred the regency romances. I came across this one in the library I work in, and decided to see what it was like.

The title is from Julius Caesar

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on;
‘Twas on a summer’s evening, in his tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii:
Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:

From this we may deduce that the victim met their death through stabbing, and also that the murderer was a purported friend of the victim. Perhaps.

This is in many ways a typical whodunit of its period. It’s a country house whodunit – with the various members of a family assembled (mostly unwillingly) for Christmas. It takes rather longer than usual for the victim to meet his maker, and even longer yet for the police inspector to arrive, so that he is far less the hero than we might expect him to be. It was an enjoyable read – I did guess whodunit fairly early on, but that wasn’t because I had worked out who they were but more because I felt there would be no justice if it turned out this character didn’t do it. From the plotting, I could see the similarities with some of Heyer’s regency whodunit/romances such as The Quiet Gentleman, and I felt the character who most passes as a heroine was similar to the heroine in that novel, Miss Morville, if I remember correctly.

I liked this enough to be motivated to explore Heyer’s other detective novels, and I now have Penhallow in my to read pile.

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5 responses to “Pure histrionics: Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer, 1941

  1. I loved all Heyer’s detective novels, which I ploughed through as a teenager. I really appreciated the sensibility of her writing and the sense of being transported back to a gentler age than this.

  2. Georgette Heyer’s regency romances are like drugs to me! I’ve got a stash that I’ll only touch if I feel depressed. I haven’t read any of her detective books. I heard she’d had publication of them surpressed, but when I was in a bookshop the other day, I saw that they had all been republished with lovely new covers, in a similar way to her regency romances. I’ll have to read one of her detective books, your review has made me interested in them…!

  3. Helen, it’s true Heyer did have some novels suppressed, but they weren’t her detective ones, but general contemporary set novels. she wrote during the twenties.

  4. I am a massive fan of Georgette Heyer, I have read all of her books that I can get my hands on, unfortunately, living in Australia there are heaps missing, which is a huge pity.

  5. Mercedes S.

    My husband and I both love Georgette Heyer’s detective novels. We discovered them about a year ago, read all that were available, and now, laast week, discovered that two more were re-released, “Envious Casca” and “Duplicate Death”. In addition to the “envious Casca” from the poem above, there was also the Casca condemned to a life of endless martial wandering by the dying Messiah. Based on that Casca, Andrew K. Henry wrote “The Casca Chronology”.

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