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A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #2)
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A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane #2)

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  3,761 Ratings  ·  199 Reviews
While Lord Peter is abroad on a secret mission, Harriet Vane, now Lady Peter Wimsey, takes their children to safety in the country. But there's no escape from war: rumors of spies abound, glamorous RAF pilots and flirtatious land-girls scandalize the villagers, and the blackout makes rural lanes as sinister as London's alleys. And when a practice air-raid ends with a young ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by St. Martin's (first published 2002)
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Grace Tjan
"If anybody ever marries you, it will be for the pleasure of hearing you talk piffle."

Set in the early days of WW II, this book is an enjoyable, plausible continuation of the Wimsey-Vane marriage post Busman’s Honeymoon, Sayers’ last complete Lord Peter mystery. Walsh created reasonably faithful versions of both the central characters, but somehow was not entirely successful in recreating the spark between them, which for me has always been one of the most delightful aspects of the series since
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Hannah
Aug 04, 2012 Hannah added it
O, fie on you, Jill Paton Walsh! The ersatz Sayers on offer here is about as convincing as a cubic zirconia - for example, the way Walsh spells every damn thing out makes it clear that she doesn't trust her readers to be intelligent, where Sayers alludes to literature without attribution and makes the occasional important point in untranslated French or Latin (placet?). What's worse, reading Walsh's fake Sayers makes me more critical of the real Sayers, to the point of not enjoying it as much. O ...more
Bev
Aug 08, 2011 Bev rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Rendell wondered, "Will Paton Walsh do it again?" My answer? Unfortunately, yes. Paton Walsh does not have the classic background of a Sayers. One of the delights of reading Sayers' work is all the quotations she would sprinkle through the pages. Not just to say, "look what I know" but as a natural part of the characters of Peter and Harriet. Paton Walsh may write very good mysteries of her own...but she really doesn't do Lord Peter well. I've read the Wimsey papers that this story is based ...more
Jane Jago
Sep 12, 2016 Jane Jago rated it it was amazing
It was never going to be anything but five stars methinks.

Another tour de force from Jill Paton Walsh.

I finished this book feeling satisfactorily replete. I really, really like Harriet and Peter. The writing is spare and elegant. The evocation of time and place is spot on. And the storyline is just complex enough to make it interesting.
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 25, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who find Sayers' Lord Peter too perfect
The outbreak of Second World War finds Lord Peter Wimsey’s family — his wife Harriet Vane and their two toddler sons — and Lord Peter’s nieces and nephew moved from London to the relative security of the village of Paggleham in Hertfordshire.

Lord Peter has moonlighted as a pseudo-diplomat for Her Majesty’s Home Office in several of the novels, but, with the outbreak of the Second World War, he spends more time on the Continent than he does in England. So it is Harriet (now more often called Lad
...more
Renee Wolcott
Aug 23, 2010 Renee Wolcott rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, mystery
Alas! The Lord Peter Wimsey stories and novels are my favorite mysteries of all time, and Jill Paton Walsh did a beautiful job of completing Dorothy Sayers' unfinished novel, "Thrones, Dominations," after the writer's death. This novel is more completely from Walsh's imagination, and it shows. Its inspiration comes from several short articles and notes that Sayers published during World War II, describing the Wimsey family's challenges. However, its weak plot--Harriet and Peter working together ...more
Jane
Dec 29, 2013 Jane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Where I got the book: my bookshelf.

All in all, this is probably the weakest of the Paton Walsh Wimsey books. Paton Walsh does a reasonable facsimile of Sayers' high-life dialogue, but falls down when it comes to rendering the speech of ordinary people--and this novel puts the Wimseys among the villagers of Paggleham, where Harriet and the children are escaping from the London Blitz while Peter--who, by this time, must be getting a bit geriatric for intelligence work--goes off to Destinations Unk
...more
Rachel
Feb 12, 2008 Rachel rated it it was ok
A continuation of the Peter Wimsey/Harriot Vane family story. The author finished a manuscript which Dorthey Sayers was working on at the time of her death for the book 'Thrones, Dominions' so I guess she thought she could write another story all on her own. I believe there are elements of the story that she has says Sayers was working on so it isn't entirely her own work. However, she just isn't Dorthey Sayers and can't write as well.
Caroline
Mar 31, 2008 Caroline rated it did not like it
I hate to say it, but this book is barely worth the time. The murder plot is lame and overly complicated (think HAVE HIS CARCASE but without Sayers' wit to save the day). And what is up with Walsh messing up the kids' names? Surely a little research wasn't beyond her?
Gretchen
Feb 20, 2015 Gretchen rated it it was ok
Sigh. It's just not Sayers. It lacks the sparkle, the wit, the new and evolving facets of Peter and Harriet's characters that mark each book. This is imitative, and while proficient in certain respects, it is not original and so disappoints.
Brenda Clough
Mar 16, 2015 Brenda Clough rated it it was ok
I find it difficult to believe that these people really are Lord Peter and Harriett.
Angela Mitchell
Apr 13, 2015 Angela Mitchell rated it it was ok
I read somewhere that Jill Paton Walsh was such a fan of Harriet Vane's that Gaudy Night inspired her to attend Oxford. It's a wonderful little detail, and I love hearing stuff like that.

But unfortunately for me as a Lord Peter Wimsey fan, it seems that Walsh's identification with Harriet means that Lord Peter is being winnowed out of her version of Sayers's stories almost completely.

So once again, as with Walsh's Sayers continuation Thrones, Dominations, we have a solid, competently written bo
...more
Sequelguerrier
Jan 29, 2012 Sequelguerrier rated it really liked it
Shelves: who-dunnit
After finishing an unfinished Sayers draft in Thrones and Dominations, Paton Walsh bases herself on published Sayers articles to create this one and succeeds rather well. We are very much in the world of Busmans Honeymoon mixed with that last glimpse of Lord Peter and family that Sayers provided in the short story Talboys. We find Harriet and the kids, including Mary and Charles Parker's two evacuated from London to Talboys in the early days of WWII. The phony war is captured nicely and so are t ...more
Reds_reads
Another book with author credits for both Sayers and Paton Walsh, this is really Paton Walsh's but draws on Sayers's letters for the circumstances of Peter and Harriet's life at the start of WWII.

The story is set in the early days of the war, Harriet and the children are living in Talboys, Peter is away at the start on intelligence work. One night as the village practices the procedures for an air raid, a Land Girl is murdered. Harriet is asked by the police to help with the investigation.

It is
...more
LJ
A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH (Trad Mys-Harriet Vane-England-WWII) - Ex
Walsh, Jill Payton and Dorothy L. Sayers – Last in series (EMBRG Selection)
New English Library Ltd, 2003, US Paperback – ISBN: 978-0340820674

It’s WWII and Lord Peter is away on a mission. Harriet has moved the household to the country for safety. Emerging from shelter after an air-raid, the body of a land-girl is found in the street. It wasn’t bombs that killer her, but a quick lethal physical killing. The local police superintenden
...more
Kim
Mar 22, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
I've been on a Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane binge lately. Over the past few weeks I've read all of the Sayers novels involving them. That is, I've re-read the ones that Dorothy L Sayers wrote, and then started reading the Jill Paton Walsh continuations. I quite liked Thrones, Dominations, althougth I didn't think it was entirely successful. This one I liked much more. I enjoyed the evocation of the early WWII years and felt that Paton Walsh portrayed Peter and Harriet in a way which was true to ...more
Brittany
Jul 13, 2011 Brittany rated it really liked it
Normally I am dead-set against authors continuing the efforts of another author. However, there are always exceptions, and Jillian Walsh is one of them.

A Presumption of Death is a very fast, satisfying read. I do enjoy Harriet Vane, and Walsh does an almost-seamless job picking up where Sayers left off. The part of the book I thought felt least Sayers-like, the letters (I thought they came off too forced) turns out to be the only part entirely written by Sayers, so that goes to show how much I
...more
Ellen
Dec 18, 2009 Ellen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: homefront, mystery
With Thrones and Dominations and Presumption of Death, Jill Paton Walsh manages to accomplish two demi-miracles--to provide worthy successors to the memorable novels of Dorothy L. Sayers and to write a passionate account of a marriage between two intellectual equals. I particularly enjoyed the second novel, set in a village in wartime England. Lord Peter is off on a secret mission and Harriet is not only keeping the home fires burning, but investigating a murder of a land girl whose unsolved dea ...more
Tricia
This might be a case where I would have preferred the print book over audiobook. The story starts with a couple of letters, and I almost abandoned the book based on the way they were read! But then it turned to a more traditional form and I stuck it out. I also didn't like that there was a male reader, since so much of the book is Harriet (with Peter being out of country). Finally, there was a fair amount of complex ideas and language that I would have liked to re-read or linger over, and that i ...more
Lyle
Aug 30, 2015 Lyle rated it liked it
I have a lot of thoughts about the Jill Paton Walsh-authored Wimsey books. I'm not sure whether 'authored' is quite the right word, especially when applied to 'Thrones, Dominations', because my understanding is that Sayers had at least started a draft of that, but for 'A Presumption of Death', my understanding is that Paton Walsh is basing it off the Wimsey Papers and a few notes Sayers had made, so probably can be considered its author. I don't want to be all, 'Someone else took over and now it ...more
Bill Rogers
Feb 26, 2015 Bill Rogers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lord Peter is away on a secret mission. Lady Peter, also known as the mystery writer Harriet Vane, has moved to their farmhouse with various children because London is under the guns- or more properly, the bombers- of Germany, and knowing that bombs will fall soon the British Government is encouraging people to evacuate.

The War goes badly. British troops on the Continent are being forced back. With personnel short everywhere, it is slightly less improbable than most mystery stories when the loc
...more
George
Jun 27, 2014 George rated it really liked it
#2 in the Jill Walsh Patton adaption of Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey and wife Harriet Vane mysteries seriesbased upon some original Sayers information. Story takes place from November, 1939 to June, 1940. Peter is away on a secret mission for the war ministry and his status is unknown. Harriet has moved to their country home, Talboys, to be out of London at the start of W.W. II with her 2 children and the 2 children of her sister-in-law. Amain focus of the story is their adjustment to wartim ...more
Marci
Feb 17, 2014 Marci rated it liked it
This is the second full novel that Jill Paton Walsh developed for the characters Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, created by Dorothy Sayers, but she has used notes and letters Sayers wrote that were full of little details about the Wimsey family.

The setting is 1940, and the war is heating up for Britain, with the Battle of Britain and Hitler's attempted invasion looming just ahead with intensity that is very well depicted without being heavy-handed. I could feel the threat of the times these
...more
Janieb
May 17, 2010 Janieb rated it it was amazing
Jill Paton Walsh has done an amazing job in bringing the characters in this story to life, after residing for such a long time in Dorothy Sayer's notebook.
A really well-developed plot, with great insights into the lives of the different classes of people living through the war in Britain. Well-strewn with red herrings, the ending was a complete surprise.
My only question was whether or not the morse code was deciphered - what messages had been sent?

Definitely worth reading this one!
Zeb Kantrowitz
May 25, 2014 Zeb Kantrowitz rated it really liked it
This is the first independent “Wimsy” novel by Jill Paton Walsh. The previous book was partially written by Dorothy L Sayers and ‘finished’ by Walsh. This duet though wasn’t blended very well and parts of that book (“Thrones, Domination”) read like it was written by a committee (which usually ends up with a Camel when trying to design a horse).

In 1939/1940 Sayers wrote a series of (what today would be op-ed) pieces for one of the major London papers. They were more “buck-up” pieces using her ‘W
...more
Lisa
Sep 29, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing
The second Wimsey/Vane book authored by Jill Paton Walsh as successor to Dorothy Sayers--and it's even better than the first (Thrones, Dominations). A great plot with an interesting mystery, a look at life on the "British home front" during WWII, and unforgettable scenes with Bunter and of Harriet decoding a message that could save Peter's life. Brava!
[G]
Sep 10, 2015 [G] rated it did not like it
Had read this book some years ago & was appalled at how bad it is. It's a mystery to me how Sayers' Trustees allowed Paton Walsh to publish "The Attenbury Emeralds" & "The Late Scholar". If I were a Trustee, I'd have booted her from the Sayers Production Line immediately.

In fact, I was wondering a few days ago (after abandoning "The Late Scholar") who could possibly write Wimsey novels with the same flair, erudition & readability as Sayers. The one & only possibility that came u
...more
Emily
Sep 17, 2012 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh, she's not Sayers by a long shot, but it's not too bad.

The characters aren't Sayers. They're random people with Sayers' character names. The plot is pretty thin, and all the wartime "historical" stuff didn't really add anything.

Pretty disappointing overall. I would not recommend this to a Sayers fan looking for more of the same.
Janet
Jul 25, 2008 Janet rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
Not bad as a continuation of Sayers' great series. Walsh does a great job bringing Lord Peter and Harriet to life, a so so job on other characters, and not such a great job on the mystery. I did enjoy the evocation of war time England, but it was overdone until it started feeling a bit like a lecture disguised as a novel.
Kathy
Sep 10, 2015 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe Jill Paton Walsh has done a good job in continuing Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series. Although this one didn't have quite as much of the original mystery, the work was extrememly enjoyable to read with a satisfying conclusion.

One of my personal interests is learning more about the English homefront during World War II. I find the courage of the English under extremely daunting circumstances to be so inspiring. The novel does a very good job of showing many of the physical change
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Jill Paton Walsh was born Gillian Bliss in London on April 29th, 1937. She was educated at St. Michael's Convent, North Finchley, and at St. Anne's College, Oxford. From 1959 to 1962 she taught English at Enfield Girls' Grammar School.

Jill Paton Walsh has won the Book World Festival Award, 1970, for Fireweed; the Whitbread Prize, 1974 (for a Children's novel) for The Emperor's Winding Sheet; The
...more
More about Jill Paton Walsh...

Other Books in the Series

Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane (4 books)
  • Thrones, Dominations (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane #1)
  • The Attenbury Emeralds (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #3)
  • The Late Scholar (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #4)

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