A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane #2)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

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

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,605 ratings  ·  146 reviews

Sixty years after Dorothy L. Sayers began her unfinished Lord Peter Wimsey novel, Thrones Dominations, Booker Prize finalist Jill Paton Walsh took on the challenge of completing the manuscript---with extraordinary success. "The transition is seamless," said the San Francisco Chronicle; "you cannot tell where Sayers leaves off and Walsh begins."

"Will Paton Walsh do it again

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published (first published 2002)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,391)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Sandy 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...more
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
Renee Wolcott
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Bev Hankins
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
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
#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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
Joanne Gass
I loved all of the Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. This "completed" posthumous final one is not worth the time. Don't recomment it.
Not enough Wimsey in this one. Sounds like Walsh had much less of Sayers' writing to go on than with Thrones, Dominations and it shows all around.
Jill paton bring on more in the Sayers style!
Again I must admit to being impressed. With "Thrones, Dominations," I was impressed that Jill Patton Walsh was able to keep Dorothy Sayers' characters plausible, however Dorothy Sayers had a good number of notes for the plot of that book. Having read the author's note at the end of this book, I didn't find any indication that there was too much of a plot already in place for this book. Thus, I am impressed with Jill Patton Walsh's ability to continue writing about Peter and Harriet. The plot was...more
I loved this book. It had such an immediacy in its portrayal of wartime England, as well as finely detailed, interwoven stories that asked questions about the usual Lord Peter/Harriet Vane character dilemmas--love, death, class and family, and a pretty good mystery with a final twist to tie up the last loose end. And the humor of illegal pigs. Much of it must have come from Sayers' original source material, but there was certainly much research that Paton Walsh did into RAF flyers and the early...more
Teresa Carrigan
I finished this book about 3:30am this morning, after checking it out of the library less than 12 hours earlier. It's been a LONG time since a book has kept me up that late! It doesn't get the 5th star because it starts slowly, and if you aren't already at least vaguely familiar with Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey, it would be far too confusing.

Note that this book isn't really written by Dorothy Sayers. A handful of the pages were written by her, but the vast majority of the book was written...more
At Dorothy Sayers death, she left behind an unfinished Lord Peter Wimsey novel and notes on how the characters were coping with life during World War II. Sixty years later, Jill Paton Walsh finished the book and the result is a success. Set in 1940 at the beginning of the Blitz. Harriet Vane, Lord Peter Wimsey's wife, has moved with her two young sons to a small village to escape the dangers of the cities. During the village's first air-raid drill, no bombs were dropped, but a body was found lyi...more
Kathy Davie
Second in the Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane secondary historical mystery series that carries on from the original Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers.

My Take
There's a subtle difference between this story and Thrones, Dominations . And it could well be just my imagination not believing that Walsh could do as well as Sayers. It is a cleverly written story. Walsh has used a series of letters Sayers wrote for the Spectator as the bones for this story. And I'm most grateful.

I did thoroughly...more
Moira Fogarty
A wonderful read, cleverly written and well-paced with period detail scattered throughout, A Presumption of Death is perfectly in tune with the current passion for stories set in WWII.

The popularity of TV shows set in 1940s and post-war England (Downton Abbey, Bomb Girls, Land Girls, Wartime Farm, Call the Midwife, etc.) show our convenience-addicted society the roots of our modern, gender-equal world. Looking back on an economy of scarcity, on changes in women's roles, on lives lost and famili...more
Nancy McKibben
Feb 12, 2013 Nancy McKibben rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of English literary mysteries and Sayers in particular
A Presumption of Death
By Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy L. Sayers

This is one of those distressing books written by not the author, but by a presumptuous (forgive the pun) upstart trying to ride the original author’s coattails, the original author being long since dead. Or so I thought, indignantly, until I read it. The book is actually based on The Wimsey Papers, a loose epistolary collection by Lord Peter and various family members written during World War II. (These are all fictional character...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 79 80 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Thrones, Dominations
  • Light Thickens (Roderick Alleyn, #32)
  • The Unfinished Clue
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...
The Attenbury Emeralds Knowledge of Angels The Green Book A Parcel of Patterns A Desert in Bohemia

Share This Book