Jack's Reviews > Clouds of Witness

Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers
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's review
Aug 01, 2007

really liked it
Read in June, 1989

A reread of one of my least-read Lord Peter Wimsey novels—least-read because it's only the second one in the series, and the earliest ones were much more straight-out 'tec yarns in the classic English tradition, before Sayers felt free to deviate from the formula.

So you get the usual Agatha Christie sort of setup: a bunch of aristocratic Brits staying at a country house, and one turns up dead, and everyone's got a shaky alibi, and of course there are three or four completely unrelated secret goings-on, er, going on, just to complicate matters. Wimsey's brother, the Duke of Denver, winds up charged with the murder, and Wimsey must unravel the mystery to save him from the gallows.

Even though this was such an early effort, hints of what Sayers would do so well later on pop up often enough to keep things interesting. There's some hilarious satire in the form of the Socialists' Club and its members, some just-subtle-enough foreshadowing of what will eventually come to pass between Chief Inspector Parker and Lady Mary, and of course the brilliant characterizations and dialogue that she couldn't suppress if she wanted to. As it's early years, yet, the dialogue is quite painfully upper-crust British and Lord Peter is spectacularly dotty, but amazingly it all rings true and resonates especially well in light of how Lord Peter changes as the years wear on.
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