This was the first time I've really loved Lord Peter Wimsy and Harriet Vane.
Harriet is persuaded to come to her alma mater, where she has not visited since she left ten years prior. Harriet is simultaneously annoyed and glad she returned: She reconnects with an old friend and several members of the faculty, but feels weirdly out of place amongst most of her old friends because (1) unlike herself, many of them have married and given up their careers, and (2) she was accused and then acquitted of murdering her live-in lover. NBD. However, on the whole, Harriet is reminded why she loved Oxford, so it doesn't take much for the Dean to persuade her to come back and investigate when a series of vandalisms and poison pen notes surface at Shrewsbury.
The book isn't to be read for the mystery -- Lord Peter mentions someone's name in the course of his investigations and I figured it out immediately. Instead, the book is wonderful for its examination of the role of women, which must have been notable for its time. The story takes place amidst a college of women, who are part of a larger university community. The women constantly debate what one's responsibilities and duties are as a professional, intelligent woman in a world that views smart women skeptically (and sometimes harshly). There is an enormous diversity of viewpoints presented: Some of the women are affirmed spinsters who are antagonistic of men, others are engaged to be married or are widowed with children, and one has found a rare parity with her husband that allows them to work together on equal footing. Harriet wrestles internally with all these questions, particularly in light of her growing affection for the lovely Peter.
In sum, I loved this for all its intelligence and Deep Thoughts and serious considerations of womyn's issues that are still very relevant today.