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Lord Peter Wimsey #2

Clouds of Witness

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Rustic old Riddlesdale Lodge was a Wimsey family retreat filled with country pleasures and the thrill of the hunt -- until the game turned up human and quite dead. He lay among the chrysanthemums, wore slippers and a dinner jacket and was Lord Peter's brother-in-law-to-be. His accused murderer was Wimsey's own brother, and if murder set all in the family wasn't enough to boggle the unflappable Lord Wimsey, perhaps a few twists of fate would be -- a mysterious vanishing midnight letter from Egypt...a grieving fiancee with suitcase in hand...and a bullet destined for one very special Wimsey.

288 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1926

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About the author

Dorothy L. Sayers

636 books2,534 followers
Detective stories of known British writer Dorothy Leigh Sayers usually feature the amateur investigator Peter Wimsey, lord; she also well translated Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.

This renowned author, and Christian humanist studied classical and modern languages.

Her best known mysteries, a series of short novels, set between World War I and World War II, feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth. Sayers, however, considered her work. People also know her plays and essays.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,529 reviews
Profile Image for Anne.
4,060 reviews69.5k followers
May 24, 2023
Definitely more engaging than the first book.
Thank you to all of the people who encouraged me to keep going with Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series.


So this time around Lord Peter's brother is on trial for murder.
What-what? <--you say
Here's a bit of backstory:
While Pete is on a trek to the wilds of...somewhere (I forget, sorry) his brother and sister are hosting an upper-crust hunting party in Yorkshire.
Oh! So. much. fun.
Until things go tits up in a big way.
Lady Mary, the Wimsey brothers' little sister was engaged to marry Captain Denis Cathcart until his untimely death by gunshot at 3 am on the night in question, when she finds her oldest brother leaning over his dead body. <--after a heated argument heard by several people in the house wherein he tells Cathcart to stay away from his sister! All this after the duke receives a letter from a friend that Cathcart is a known cheater at cards (which was apparently a big fucking deal back in the day).


Gerald Wimsey, the Duke of Denver, says he didn't do it, but for reasons of his own refuses to tell Scotland Yard where he was on the night in question.
Gerry is a bit of the pompous sort and doesn't for a moment think he will actually swing for it. Peter isn't so sure.
He knows in his heart that Gerald has an airtight alibi somewhere but he can't convince him to cough it up. But now that he's back from...wherever (again, sorry!) he's on the case and ready to do whatever it takes to save his family.


A fun side story is that Lord Peter's close friend, Inspector Charles Parker, seems to be falling for his sister Mary. <--that looks promising!

While still not an ah-mazing story, it did have a nice twist at the end.

And this time around the story and characters seemed to have a bit more juice. Pizzaz. Something! Whatever it is, it made me want to keep going with the series.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,647 followers
August 30, 2017
Published in 1926, this is a terrific murder mystery by Dorothy L. Sayers. At a hunting house party, Denis Cathcart is discovered dead – shot through the chest and apparently dragged from some bushes some distance away to a spot near the conservatory door. Lord Wimsey (Gerald, or Jerry) left the house late at night and trips over the body on his way back to the house around 3:00 a.m. His sister, Lady Mary, also sees him and claims in the inquest that she heard a shot fired around 3:00 a.m. The groundskeeper said he heard a shot at 10 minutes before midnight, but nothing later.

Lord Wimsey had been heard quarrelling loudly with the deceased late that same night. Since Denis Cathcart was engaged to Lord Wimsey’s sister, Lady Mary, Lord Wimsey confronted him regarding some discrediting information which resulted in Denis Cathcart abruptly leaving the house. To make matters worse, the gun was Lord Wimsey’s own – kept in a drawer with the key in the lock. At the inquest, Lord Wimsey refuses to state an alibi for himself, and the mounting evidence indicates he is guilty of murder.

There is a Grand Jury hearing, and the case proceeds. It must now go to The House of Lords for Lord Wimsey to be tried before a jury of his peers. Meantime, Lord Peter (Wimsey’s brother) and his friend from Scotland Yard (Charlie Parker) are chasing down clues and leads in England, in France, and ultimately even in the United States.

Lord Peter may cast an appearance that is frivolous and shallow at times, but no-one can fault him as a brother. Even Lady Mary comes under suspicion when new evidence shows up that showed she lied about certain things in the inquest. Lord Peter does everything he can to get his brother freed from prison and to ensure his sister doesn’t take his place. This includes some frightening moments – being stuck in a bog and nearly losing his life there, not to mention his return flight from the United States when the plane is brought down due to bad weather – fortunately before it can crash into the ocean.

There were several times – at least three or four – where I thought I knew for sure who the killer was. Even when reading books and I do know who dunnit, it is half the fun to figure out how it all happened. This time I was wrong – oh, so very wrong. And that was fun, too!

I enjoyed this book immensely – even the stuffy atmosphere of the trial in the House of Lords was interesting, long concluding speeches and all! I am amazed at the quality of writing in this series and look forward to reading the third one.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,254 followers
April 22, 2013
dashing peter wimsey dashes into some more dashing adventures. he's one of literature's greatest detectives. but just as enjoyable is his faithful manservant bunter. peter runs around figuring things out with his clever, clever mind but it is bunter who often gets his hands dirty with rather agreeable tasks like chatting up all the maidservants and various other domestics. tasks he clearly relishes but approaches with suave professionalism. various witnesses never fail to succumb to bunter's charms. he's the man!

the novel was fun. i was never bored, so there's that. but still... well, no need to get into it. maybe i'm just spoiled because whenever i open up another Sayers i'm always expecting a Gaudy Night type experience. alas!
Profile Image for Susan.
2,695 reviews594 followers
January 26, 2016
This delightful mystery is the second featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. When his brother, the Duke of Denver, is accused of murder then it is Lord Peter’s job to clear his name. The Duke is found standing over the body of his sister’s fiancé, who he has recently argued with about claims that the victim, Captain Denis Cathcart, was a card sharp. However, when questioned, he refuses to give a reasonable account of why he was wandering around outside, in the middle of the night. Why is he being so secretive and what is their sister, Mary, hiding?

This is a wonderful, Golden Age mystery, with Lord Peter Wimsey and Charles Parker truly collaborating. There are some great, atmospheric scenes, most notably when Wimsey and Bunter are lost on the moors. The scenes in the House of Lords, where the Duke of Denver is tried, are also very interesting. Much of the fun in these books is in Wimsey himself and his light-hearted banter and eccentric behaviour. He is one of the greatest fictional amateur detectives and this is one of his best cases.
Profile Image for Adrian.
570 reviews209 followers
June 6, 2022
Buddy Read of May 2022
This is a buddy read for the English Mysteries Group in which we are reading all the DLS Lord Peter Wimsey novels, commencing April 2022.

Read of May 2016
I remember many moons ago as a child, my mother used to read these books and i think in my very early teens I read some (about the same time as I started reading Agatha Christie, the question is why have I not read any since as it was really enjoyable. I liked the quintessential Englishness of it, and the era in which they were set. I also remember seeing the programmes on TV (again back in the pre-historic past, starring Ian Carmichael).

Anyway it has certainly made me want to read more, problem is when and how to fit it all in ??
Profile Image for Julie.
2,012 reviews38 followers
October 4, 2020
I loved the descriptive language, clever dialogue and the intriguing twists and turns of the story. I was engaged by the thoughtful social commentary and felt that the author encouraged me to think beyond the obvious.

One of my favorite descriptions is the scene at the Soviet Club, which Lord Peter Wimsey describes as reming him of "mission teas." He reasons that it may be because "all the members looked as though they cherished a purpose in life, and that the staff seemed rather sketchily trained and strongly in evidence." Then, he muses that it is a democratic establishment and the staff cannot be expected to put on the airs and graces of a club in the posh West End of London, which added another layer of complexity and opportunity for thinking about the class system.

As Wimsey moves to the dining room he observes that "the resemblance to a mission tea was increased by the exceedingly heated atmosphere, the babel of conversation, and the curious inequalities of the cutlery."

Then, there is the delicious description of the dining arrangements. Wimsey and his guest sit at "a rather crumbly table near the serving-hatch" where Wimsey is shoe horned into a tight spot "next to a very large, curly-haired man in a velvet coat, who was earnestly conversing with a thin, eager young woman in a Russian blouse, Venetian beads, a Hungarian shawl, and a Spanish comb, looking like a personification of the United Front of the 'Internationale.'"

One example of clever dialogue is Wimsey's interview with the surly farmer, Mr. Grindthorpe where Wimsey displays and exhausts his considerable wits and communication skills.

Then, one of the most entertaining passages is when Wimsey's mother, described as a "wily old bird" sweeps in, takes charge, accuses her ailing daughter of "naughtiness and hysterics," sorts everything out and gives them all a dressing down for lacking common sense.

When Wimsey tries to give his mother credit for her detective skills, she replies tartly, "My dear child you can give it a long name you like but I am an old-fashioned woman and I call it 'mother wit' and it is so rare for a man to have, that you write a book about it & call it Sherlock Holmes."

Finally, just when Wimsey is feeling powerful at possessing some exclusive knowledge, the author brings him down a peg or two. At an opportune time, he shares this bad news with malicious delight only to discover that his audience was already fully aware and he is not going to get the reaction he wanted. He muses, "Few things are more irritating than to discover after you have been at great pains to spare a person some painful intelligence that he has known it all along and is not so much affected by it as he probably should be."

I truly enjoyed the dramatic narration by Ian Carmichael who played the part of Lord Peter Wimsey in the television dramatizations of the 1970s.
Profile Image for Anne.
445 reviews79 followers
January 10, 2022
“But to Lord Peter the world presented itself as an entertaining labyrinth of side-issues”

Clouds of Witness is a Golden Age mystery, book 2 in the Lord Peter Wimsey Series.

With guests at his country estate for hunting, Peter’s brother, the Duke of Denver, finds the corpse of his sister’s fiancé and is accused of the murder. Of course, Peter swoops in to lead the investigation only to find a tangle of falsehoods that must be sorted before the situation can be resolved.

After reading negative reviews for this book, I wasn’t sure how I would like it. And I wanted to read the series in sequence, so I did not miss Peter’s arc. So, I went with the audio format. The narration by Ian Carmichael was excellent. It was a great way to experience the book.

While the mystery was layered and I did not guess the outcome early, portions of the book were tedious to endure. In chapter one, for instance, most of it was a play-by-play inquiry of the facts presented by witnesses. I was nearly asleep before the story narrative resumed. And a couple of times later had the same feel. It was like having the story interrupted by commercials.

As I said, the mystery wasn’t easy to guess, and I thought it was clever. But the red herrings were a bit excessive. When Lord Peter mentioned the “labyrinth of side-issues,” it must have been a backhanded comment to Sayers for the dead ends she wove in the story.

I had a couple more minor quirks. There were many words in French that were not explained, but that wouldn’t matter to readers who know the language. The audio did a wonderful job with the accent though. I missed the humor. It was so prevalent in the first book that I had expected the same jovial tone here. This one was just neutral.

Overall, it was an okay mystery. Not bad. Not as great as book one. Although I enjoyed the dynamic of Peter and Bunter, I had hoped for more character arc about Peter. I’ve read that the books get better further into the series. I sure hope it happens starting with Unnatural Death.
Profile Image for Melindam.
665 reviews294 followers
August 20, 2020
Jolly confounded story, old bean, what?

Oh My, but was this book tedious, melodramatic and disappointing, not a patch on a pleasantly entertaining Book #1.

If it wasn't for Ian Carmichael's excellent reading, I probably would not have finished at all.

The concept of the the crime was interesting, but it was very badly done. It might have worked as a short novella, but was just too thin for a complete novel.
All the red herrings thrown in and eventually leading nowhere just screamed *FILLER* and I found them utterly pointless and boring.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,256 followers
December 2, 2016
Amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey's family is neck-deep in the soup...the murder soup! (Most delicious!)

The police aren't much help, so with the help of his friend, Chief Inspector Detective Guy Man And Other Words Charles Parker, Wimsey attempts to solve a devilishly difficult case involving his brother, sister and sundry others related and not.

This is all very hoity–toity, upper English society stuff where a spot of murder is nothing next to the accusation of cheating at cards. Bunch of silly asses, if you ask me, but there you have it!

Dorothy Sayers (no relation to Gale, that I know of) was a P.G. Wodehouse fan and her mysteries are very Wodehousian. It's sort of like reading a book in which Bertie and Jeeves solve a murder, so this is right up my alley!

Highly recommended for Agatha Christie fans looking for slightly better developed characters and more of a sense of fun.

Profile Image for Mara.
1,637 reviews3,889 followers
February 5, 2021
Somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars - I did 100% like this one better than the first book in the series. I found the writing quite beautiful in places and I felt less like it was novel that should have been a short story. I still just don't know about this as a mystery and I like the characters more in concept than in actuality. It just isn't hitting the spot for me the way I hoped it might. I will keep going in the series for now, but sadly... this may just not be fore me
Profile Image for Tracey.
1,080 reviews252 followers
March 24, 2022
This isn't my favorite of the Lord Peter novels – but as I'm sure I've said somewhere, that's like being my least favorite chocolate or my least favorite Beatle. And this does have some of my favorite Peter-Bunter scenes, and gave me the name for one of my blogs (Bompstable Cat, for the record).

This isn’t so much a review as gathered musings on a book, a cast of characters, and an author near and dear to my heart.

Peter is thirty-three in this book. At the very beginning it mentions "he had followed Sir Julian Freke's advice and taken a holiday":

From Whose Body?:
"Ah! Your nerves are not all they should be. ...Nothing to be alarmed about, but you must exercise care while undergoing this strain, and afterwards you should take a complete rest. How about a voyage in the Mediterranean or the South Seas or somewhere?"

The man may have been a murderer, and probably a psychopath, but he knew his field. Dorothy L. Sayers wasn’t afraid to make her murderer someone you didn’t really want to see in that role; I don’t remember my first reading of this, but I think there is, for a while, a genuine concern on the reader’s part along with Peter’s that Gerald might actually have dunnit.

Among other things, Lord Peter Wimsey is known for blather. For nonsense. For, as Harriet Vane said, piffle.

"Yes, old, thing?" said Peter affably, returning.
"Happen he'll set dog on tha."
"You don't say so?" said Peter. "The faithful hound welcomes the return of the prodigal. Scene of family rejoicing. 'My own long lost boy!' Sobs and speeches, beer all around for the delighted tenantry. Glees by the fireside, till the rafters ring and all the smoked hams tumble down to join in the revelry. Good night, sweet Prince, until the cows come home and dogs eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel when the hounds of spring are on winter's traces. I suppose," he added to himself, "they will have finished tea."

In the seventy-six words of the above piffle (not counting the sensible first and last sentences), there are hits on the Bible (the prodigal son, and Jezebel; interesting she should come into the picture right here), and Shakespeare (Hamlet, "Good night, sweet Prince"), though the cows are a separate entity, inspired, one imagines, by the setting, and possibly a poem called “Edessa” ('My own long lost boy!'), and “The hounds of spring are on winter’s traces” is from the poem Atalanta in Calydon (1865)". I believe the hams are from Peter's own head, riffing off something, I have no doubt.

It's nonsense – goodness knows what all jumbled together in a stream of consciousness irruption. From another character, another author, something like this might cause my back to go up and/or my eyes to roll, or other physical manifestations of annoyance. Peter is, the reader is told shortly, "a respectable scholar in five or six languages, a musician of small skill and more understanding, something of an expert in toxicology, a collector of rare editions, an entertaining man-about-town, and a common sensationalist". He has had an upper-class turn-of-the-century classical education, and is well able to process reams upon reams of poetry and prose in Latin, Greek, French, English, and I'm not sure what other languages – from nursery rhymes and music hall tunes to Plato and Voltaire – and in other hands than DLS’s I don't but doubt I might inform such a character or author where they might insert their classical education, and then I'd go hang out with Harry Dresden. (My version of a modern Lord Peter would produce piffle largely based off yes, Shakespeare, but also Doctor Who. And would without doubt say at some point "I swear by my pretty floral bonnet".) But Peter's piffle isn't meant to intimidate or put down a reader, or Peter's interlocutor, I don't believe. It's just Peter. It's Peter's Rube Goldberg mind that takes a warning about a farmer setting the dog on him: dominos fall, and a marble rolls down a channel, and a pulley slips down a string, and a bucket fills and tips and sends a little toy monkey waddling mechanically forward clapping cymbals which hit a switch, and at the end a flag goes up. Or something. But in a way it's the same kind of thought process, the same kind of association game that might be found in the head of anyone who has packed his brain for a long and rich lifetime journey. Only Peter vocalizes.

He uses well-aimed piffle to confuse the hell out of people, and to make himself look harmless, and to make himself to look like an idiot – and just because. Maybe this example falls into the category of "making himself look harmless"; the farmhand is perhaps less likely to set the dogs on Peter after his exclamations, making him appear too effete and insubstantial to even worry about.

I thought it interesting that both Peter and Parker think to buy their sisters (well, Peter's sister-in-law) crêpe de Chine scanties. It's perfect: Charles wanted to please his spinster sister with something pretty and rare which she would probably never buy for herself, which she could take sensual delight in wearing under her sensible clothing and no one else would ever know about it. (There's such a pathos to that "no one else".) Meanwhile, Peter wanted to shock his prudish sister-in-law by announcing in front of her guests that he planned to buy her something pretty and rare which she would probably never buy for herself, which she would disdain as frivolous and bohemian and for women of another, need I say lower, class altogether and wants to make sure everyone knows she would never wear such a thing. She irks him so thoroughly, and all he wants to do is blowtorch a hole in that frigidity. Scoring a hit in front of others would be perfect.

I love that Parker is well able to conduct inquiries in France on his own. His French is not perfect – he is uncertain about his accent, and intimidated about the lingerie shop (though he goes for it anyway, bless him). And he flatters himself, pleased, that his accent is improving. I can just imagine a salesgirl taking him under her wing and thinking him totes adorbs. (Wait, that’s not French, is it?) I love Charles Parker.

Though not as much as I love Bunter, and especially Peter. Their relationship is wonderful in this book.

For one thing, there is this line:

"Lord Peter stretched out his hand impulsively, but Mr. Bunter was too well trained to see it."

It's easy to go in all sorts of directions with that line, and – to me – the obvious direction (shipping) is astoundingly stupid. This occurs right after Bunter reveals a bit about himself that Peter never knew – and realizes he has never looked into: Bunter's family. In all the years they've known each other, and Bunter has served him, Peter never inquired about his past. "Your mother, Bunter? I didn't know you had one. I always imagined you were turned out ready-made so to speak." That is – as per usual – flippant, but I think a moment later Peter's conscience smites him and he feels a need for Bunter's forgiveness. Friends don't neglect to ask after friends' mothers; friends don't fail to ascertain whether friends' mothers are in fact living or dead. Friends know how many siblings friends have. And these two are friends, despite the class divide and the fact that one is in the other's employ – they have been through the proverbial thick and the metaphorical thin together, and saved each other's skins, and owe each other a great deal. And Peter didn't know Bunter's mother was "seventy-five, my lord, and an extremely active woman for her years". I have to say I'm a little surprised at this; I would have said it's not like him. Perhaps it's simply that Bunter is so much a part of his life, a part of him, that he honestly never thought about his existence before the War. Bunter did arrive fully formed into his life, has never been so gauche as to intimate he has any other existence, and is always there. For the most difficult part of Peter’s life – most, in fact, of his adult life – Bunter has always been there, and as such a fixture in Peter's landscape has no separate reality: there was no Bunter before there was a Bunter-and-Peter. He's not the type, Mervyn Bunter, to chatter, and with six other siblings has no need to take time away from a job he loves to go and tend to his mother. Bunter's former home life has never been thrust into Peter's range of vision before.

Also, I came across an really excellent online conversation which, in this, concentrates on that word "was": "I was one of seven." [ETA: What a pity - my link goes to a Livejournal blog which has been deleted and purged. That sounds pretty final.] They posit that the use of the past tense indicates that at least some of the siblings have died – of influenza, or in the War. I'm not sure about that – it could simply be "I was one of seven at home" or "I was one of seven children she bore" without the more sober connotation. It's a very good theory – I like mine better, though: Peter puts out his hand in supplication, wanting to apologize for his ignorance about something he should have known. And Bunter, whatever was in his head, refrained from officially noticing; whether that means all is forgiven, or Peter didn't have to ask, or all is not forgiven… well, that's another set of speculations. When he leaves the room Peter is in high spirits, at least, so perhaps it can be inferred that whatever Bunter's mien and posture was as he ignored the outstretched hand, it was not a rebuff.

And can I just say that this is one of the reasons I love DLS so much. There just aren't so very many authors in my experience (especially those best known as mystery authors) whose books spark that much thought over one line of text, and for whom such speculation is so rewarding.

This Open Road text reads as a nice edition of the book, although peppered (as usual) with punctuation and transcription errors – but in checking text in another I find that it is sorely lacking in one thing: "This re-issue of CLOUDS OF WITNESS (which has received some corrections and amendments from MISS SAYERS) has for a Preface a short biography of Lord Peter Wimsey, brought up to date (May 1935) and communicated by his uncle PAUL AUSTIN DELAGARDIE." This edition has the brief bio and heraldic information, but not the essay from Uncle Paul. It's a crime that this is left out.

And of course I love the following so very much that I named a blog after it. In fact, let me go see if the name is available elsewhere … I’m not much of a cat person, but bompstable cats? Oh my yes.

But now he had really got the formula he wouldn't forget it again. The connection was just there - close, thick, richly coherent.
"The glass-blower's cat is bompstable," said Mr. Parker aloud and distinctly.
"I'm charmed to hear it," replied Lord Peter, with a friendly grin. "Had a good nap, old man?"
"I--what?" said Mr. Parker. "Hullo! Watcher mean, nap? I had got hold of the most important train of thought, and you've put it out of my head. What was it? Cat--cat--cat----" He groped wildly.
said 'The glass-blower's cat is bompstable,'" retorted Lord Peter. "It's a perfectly rippin' word, but I don't know what you mean by it."
"Bompstable?" said Mr. Parker, blushing slightly. "Bomp - oh, well, perhaps you're right - I may have dozed off. But, you know, I thought I'd just got the clue to the whole thing. I attached the greatest importance to that phrase. Even now - No, now I come to think of it, my train of thought doesn't seem quite to hold together. What a pity. I thought it was so lucid."

And, not to be repetitive, I love this:

Parker's eyes wandered to the photographs. "I don't believe it," he said obstinately. "I'm damned if I'm going to believe a word of it."
Woop – there goes Charles, I believe.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 11 books844 followers
April 2, 2012
Where I got the book: purchased on Kindle. A re-read.

One thing I always appreciate about the Wimsey stories is that each book has a distinct character. In Clouds of Witness the pace is fast and frenetic, with a wildly confusing murder mystery at the center, and yet Sayers does more to develop her characters here than in some of the other books. The mystery itself almost takes second place to the doings of Wimsey's family, placing Wimsey himself very firmly in a distinct social setting, his home turf where he seems more real than in many of the other books. He doesn't show off nearly as much when he's in the countryside, either; I can't help feeling that, titles aside, this is a depiction of the sort of society Sayers was raised in before she went off to London.

I also enjoy the sketch of Wimsey's sister Lady Mary Wimsey, who turns up in later novels but only as a cardboard cutout (his brother Gerald never gets his character developed, which is a great shame). Watching Parker go all chivalrous and defensive of her is always amusing, albeit out of character. Mary is real in this book: later on, the Wimsey family becomes more and more a caricature of a noble English household, and Mary becomes a boring housewife, alas.

Plenty happens to Wimsey in this book: he gets chased by dogs, shot, falls into a bog, and flies across the Atlantic (in the 1920s that was a noteworthy adventure). I have never seen a bullet wound heal with such great speed and thoroughness.

There is an absolutely priceless little cameo of two writers talking about the trends of the day, something Sayers is able to pick up in the later novels once she writes herself in as Wimsey's love interest when Harriet Vane comes along.

I absolutely zipped through this novel (which was supposed to be strictly a post-workout cool down read but ended up as a Main Book) despite having read it several times before. And that really defines the enduring success of the Wimsey novels; they're downright entertaining, and despite (or because of?) being set so firmly in a lost era, never seem to age.

Since I'm not reading the short stories as stated in the GR series listing (they are interesting, but they're potboilers served up by Sayers to satisfy her public and I'll read the collected edition at the end of this exercise) the next one is The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.
Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,050 reviews2,105 followers
February 7, 2016
This is the best Sayers I have read to date!

I found the beginning a little tiresome, but as soon as Lord Peter started his investigation my interest was engaged.

Sayers writes with a dry wit that had me chuckling out loud in places, and reflecting on the social changes that have taken place in less than one hundred years. If anyone said "I wouldn't suggest such a thing to a woman, my lord. It goes to their heads, if I may say so." in these times, they would no doubt find themselves in court on harassment or sexual discrimination charges!....and "Ladyships don't boil water!"

And talk about keeping it all in the family! Lord Peter's sister's fiancée, Cathcart, is found dead outside the conservatory of Riddlesdale Lodge, the family retreat, in the early hours of the morning. His elder brother Gerald, stands accused of the murder. And Lord Peter has the feeling that his sister Mary knows more than she is letting on.

Aided by his friend in the police, Parker, and his irreplaceable valet Bunter, Lord Peter sets out to prove his brother's innocence and bring the true murderer to justice.

'But what was #10 blackmailing Cathcart about? Who hid a suitcase in the conservatory? And what was Gerald doing in the garden at 3am?'

This is a cracking good read in the best English Murder Mystery style.

My favourite quote (amongst many that I enjoyed) from this book : "Seems to me there's an extra allowance of fools in my family."
Profile Image for Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ .
816 reviews616 followers
February 20, 2016
Sayers may be the perfect mystery writer for me - she combines the plotting of Christie with the wit of Heyer & I get the wonderful Golden Age setting from all of them!

Everything is improved (other than Bunter, he was already wonderful!) from Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #1) by Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter while still insouciant is no longer Bertie Wooster playing at detectives. His is a well rounded character who lives a life filled with varied interests as well as his work as an amateur sleuth.

So many witty quotations - I've added a couple to the GR data base!

The detective story was very well done - I didn't guess the solution. My only criticisms are that a few things seem to be pulled out of thin air and that Gerald was such a bonehead!
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews512 followers
June 11, 2014

I've been a Dorothy L Sayers fan ever since I borrowed Strong Poison from the school library when I was about fifteen. Sayers was a woman ahead of her time and not a typical writer of crime fiction. In 1912 she won a scholarship to Oxford University, achieving first class honours in French in 1915. Women could not be awarded degrees at that time, but Sayers was in the first group of women to be finally awarded their degree in 1920. She was a published poet and had worked in a publishing house, as a teacher, a translator and an advertising copywriter by the time the first of her Peter Wimsey novels was published in 1923. Later, Sayers moved away from writing novels and forged a new career writing essays and liturgical drama. Later still she embarked on what she considered her life's work: a translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy".

Sayers brought fierce intelligence and uncompromising artistic integrity to all of her writing, including her crime fiction. She avoided the formulaic and consequently, even in the context of writing what turned out to be a series of novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, she didn't write the same novel twice. And unusually for a Golden Age British crime fiction writer, Sayers allowed her central character to develop over time.

In this novel, the second in the series, Lord Peter's investigation is focussed on exonerating his brother, who has been charged with murder. In its set-up, it's a typical manor house mystery, of a kind now seen as old-fashioned, although when Sayers wrote the book there was nothing that old-fashioned about it. There are the expected twists and turns and a satisfying resolution, conveyed in Sayers' intelligent and witty prose.

I re-read this novel with my friend Jemidar. I don't usually re-read mysteries, but such is my love for Sayers' writing so much that even knowing ow it turns out didn't lessen my enjoyment of the exercise.
Profile Image for Barbara K..
429 reviews85 followers
December 7, 2022
Dorothy Sayers is without a doubt my favorite Golden Age mystery author - after Dame Christie, of course. There is always that spark of intelligence behind Wimsey’s wit and that is sometimes missing in other authors of the era. And generally a bit of social conscience in this book.

As I read this I couldn’t help but be reminded of the 10 commandments of the Detection Club, most notably that the murderer had to be someone introduced fairly early in the book, and that the detective must not withhold anything he or she knows. All the more fun trying to figure out “who done it” when you know it’s not hidden too deeply.

Profile Image for ᴥ Irena ᴥ.
1,652 reviews216 followers
January 19, 2016
Clouds of Witness is wonderful. I was in the mood for a lovely mystery. This one seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

I've decided to read these in order they appear on Goodreads. I liked Lord Peter Wimsey in Whose Body? and I loved him here. Not much has changed in this book. His quirks work so well in his world.

In Clouds of Witness he is trying to save his brother (the Duke) who has been accused of murder. From their estate to Paris and back, from England to somewhere very far away, through the dangers of the moor and strange situations involving unexpectedly violent farmers, the Duke's side has their hands full. Lord Peter Wimsey, Bunter and Parker tirelessly work to find what exactly happened that night. The resolution is perfect.
I found Peter's sister annoying as hell, but I guess certain things can be forgiven under the circumstances.

Beside Lord Peter Wimsey, Bunter and Parker, one of my favourite characters ever is the Dowager Duchess.
'My dear child, you can give it a long name if you like, but I'm an old-fashioned woman and I call it mother-wit, and it's so rare for a man to have it that if he does you write a book about him and call him Sherlock Holmes.'
I'll avoid quoting half of the book, but its greatest strength is the humour. Some of it is profound, some ordinary, but it is never dull.
Profile Image for Karen ⊰✿.
1,414 reviews
March 27, 2018
"Wimsey would be one of the finest detectives in England if he wasn't lazy"

This should give you a feel for the kind of cozy mystery series that is Lord Peter Wimsey. It is more slap stick than Agatha Christie and more "pip pip, old boy, good-o" English than her too.
With the first book I kind of struggled a bit to get engaged, whereas this one I found myself more invested in the story early on. I didn't really enjoy how it all resolved, but it was still a fun ride through to the end ;)
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,923 reviews386 followers
June 13, 2017
Dorothy Sayers works seem to me to be perfect for anyone who enjoys the writing of Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse. Sayers imparts an acerbic edge that keeps things from getting too twee. She manages to make sharp observations on both the gentry and the socialists, sometimes at the same time. I’ve recently been cataloguing the works of H.G. Wells, who wrote a lot about socialism in the early 20th century, and I find Sayers’ insights on the complicated societal changes of this time period to be spot on.

She isn’t gentle with her fellow authors either. I loved the following exchange, heard by Lord Peter while dining at the Soviet Club:

The authoress was just saying impressively to her companion: '-ever know a sincere emotion to express itself in a subordinate clause?'
'Joyce has freed us from the superstition of syntax,' agreed the curly haired man.
'Scenes which make emotional history,' said Miss Heath-Warburton, 'should ideally be expressed in a series of animal squeals.'
'The D.H. Lawrence formula,' said the other.

Poor old Lawrence, maligned again for trying to express what he considered to be real emotions and realistic human behaviour in his novels.

For some reason, it made me think of Dilbert, when his pointy-haired boss decrees that, “starting today, all passwords must contain letters, numbers, doodles, sign language, and squirrel noises.”

Being unable to express my review in either animal squeals or squirrel noises, I must tell you in English that this series is worth trying.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,452 reviews473 followers
December 14, 2017
The plot is absurdly complicated, amusingly so. There are no end of intrigues in the country house where the murder takes place.

But that's not the joy of reading a Sayers' novel: the pleasure is all in the humor. Wimsey acting a fool, Bunter's magical ability to produce anything needed, Mary's good heart, and the Dowager's formidable control of everything. It's Downton Abbey written by Oscar Wilde.

Personal copy
February 3, 2019
I am an outlier, grading grande dame Dorothy Sayers with two stars. I am stunned this is a favourite for some folks and imagine fandom comes into it. I have specific points of criticism. However, I have collected the works. I found the beginning boring, a transcript of Gerald’s sentencing and Peter’s drunk ending was arbitrary. However I warmed up to him, his family, and friends and began to enjoy myself in the middle.

I loved their lawyer’s humour and impeccable vocabulary, which always delights me. I got Peter’s humour and ease with people. I no longer think he is vain, even if the idea of Bunter living in-house, pouring baths bothers me. We acquaint Peter’s family and nothing beat the triumph of an abused woman freed. It was odd that no child was mentioned when she left. I don’t imagine how an airplane trip was dangerous in 1926 and why elements would reach passengers. However, I was impressed with the legwork Peter, Bunter, and Charlie did in England and Paris and loved the French. Better than scattered phrases, we were treated to a grammatically-perfect French letter, translated for those who needed it.

My triple issues with “Clouds Of Witness” are these. We rank Dorothy with the early greats. She must have preceded the “Show, don’t tell” advice. Seldom is action played out for us, nor do we experience how the characters feel; except Bunter pulling Peter from a bog. Emotions not driving this novel is the second issue. Books are not screenplays, with emphasis on external antics. Finally, one pet peeve is a disproportionate chunk of time dwelling on things that could be curbed and robbing readers of scenes we’d like to savour, or grasp more clearly. I am certain the best is to come and will read on.
Profile Image for Sean Gibson.
Author 6 books5,797 followers
September 11, 2023
Another delightful chapter in the Peter Wimsey chronicles...albeit not quite as delightful as the prior book, in my humble opinion. Then again, I also think the Detroit Lions are going to win the Super Bowl in my lifetime, so what do I know?
Profile Image for Ann.
511 reviews
August 1, 2008
"Clouds of Witness" was a very delightful book! In both the mystery and the characters, I thought Sayers came through brilliantly!

Lord Peter Wimsey (the main character and detective) is truly a humorous, clever, thoughtful, and lovable character! He breezes through life, always seeing the amusement and humor in situations, but doesn't lack the ability to understand people and events for the gravity they may hold.
Wimsey himself was a delightful enough character to hold my interest through the book, but add to this his good friend (and partner in crime-solving) Mr. Parker (adorable friends!) and Mr. Bunter (another more "proper" counterpart to Wimsey) and you have an entire book set to amuse!

Oddly enough, Sayers doesn't use a lot of description. In a way it reminds a bit of Jane Austin (though the feel of the books is not similar!), in her ability to convey the characters in their uniqueness and completeness through dialogue.

The mystery also is most interesting. And while I could have felt "cheated" by the ending, I didn't because of the various sub-mysteries that were occurring throughout the book. It is, in a way, three or four mysteries all revolving around one.

Additionally, the mystery centers around Wimsey’s own family, which adds another element to Wimsey’s character, and the mystery itself.

A note: the book does contain a few slightly graphic descriptions of the murder, but I stress the word slightly. I have read some Agatha Christie, and think that it’s probably on par with those. I am quite the queasy reader, and I had few qualms.
The only thing I regretted – if it could be called a regret – was the prevalent use of French. I can’t blame or criticize Sayers on this front, only myself for not having a better grasp of the language. That said, while a times I was dismayed because I did not understand every detail or clue, for the most part everything was eventually (and in a timely manner) translated or explained.

I really enjoyed this read! And am very much looking forward to picking up another Lord Peter Wimsey mystery!!
Profile Image for Kirsten .
1,610 reviews259 followers
January 3, 2016
I just love Lord Peter. Very frivolous, but totally serious about his crime-solving! In a way, he's like Columbo. (Not fashion, obviously.) He is underestimated by his adversary because of the front he puts to the world, but when you come right down to it, they're doomed.

In this story, we learn more about Lord Peter and his family when a murder comes to the heart of his aristocratic family. Very fun what with adultery, card sharps, elopements and Soviets!
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 6 books302 followers
March 26, 2020
Sayers brings real comedy, history, and her Oxford training in languages to her inevitable detective stories. Dickensian names: Lord Peter Wimsey, lawyer Sir Impey Biggs (a handsome, big imp), opposing attorney general Lord Wigmore (in full wig). Mr Murbles, the senior lawyer, says " ‘Brilliant man, Sir Impey. He is defending Truth.’ Lord Peter, ‘Astonishin’ position for a lawyer, what?’ Mr Murbles acknowledged the pleasantry…’”(164).

First heard this book aloud decades ago, by my wife, so I had not grasped all the wit, though I knew the plot was multiple, at least three affairs with three different couples all converging to one crime, of which the detective’s older brother, the Duke of Denver, stands accused. The Duke reserves his alibi which would compromise a married woman—perfect gentlemanly act which increases the difficulties of his defenders, including his detective brother (whose interests the Duke disapproves—incunabula and crime rather than football).

Sayers gives us an intricate plot, with its culmination a long letter in French written by the victim the day of his murder. Lord Peter Wimsey has to go to the US by steamship to find it, and when he does, he flies back in a 1920’s plane, flimsy, the famous pilot’s jacket covered in rain. Flying through ravaging storm and fog, Wimsey’s arrival in doubt, his butler Bunter resolves to set a fire in his bedroom, hopeful.
From our yearly visits to England, but perhaps more from watching TV mysteries like Midsommer and Father Brown, we have personal experience of much in this novel. Further, I have a coat that my British-resident friend asked if a Burberry. No, a wax-coated LL Bean, but… We “musn’t rest upon our oars” takes me back to college freshman crew on the Connecticut River (169). Also, my wife and I have had one cup of hot chocolate, with a jigger of brandy, every evening for over a decade. Our preferred brandy is Portuguese, not the priceless 1800 Napoleon served in Lord Peter’s house near Piccadilly.

Many characters here are witty, including butler Bunter’s mother, who says, “facts are like cows. You look them in the face hard enough, they generally run away”(79). Lord Peter later informs his butler, “Well-bred English people never have imagination, Bunter.” “Certainly not, my lord. I meant nothing disparaging.”(175)
Scotland Yard, headed by a Scot, and a crossword solution in Scottish, never spelled out for me. Broad Yorkshire dialect as well, as in the Yorkshire “national” anthem, “On Ilkley Moor Bat’ at,” quoted in, “Then doocks will coom an’ ate pop worms/ On Ilkla Moor…” (196).
Be prepared for many un-American, British words: “widdershins” “gaiters”, and words like “loofah” which I had to search, evidently an organic sponge grown from a gourd—even in California.

The real title should be “Cloud of Witnesses,” which appears late in the novel (258), but Sayers must have preferred the sound of both -s endings.

Sayers considered her Divina Commedia translation to be her best work, in Dante's prosody,
hendecasyllabic terza rima.
Profile Image for kris.
943 reviews193 followers
March 2, 2019
Lord Peter Whimsey is just finishing up his post-murder vacation when he gets the news that his brother has been arrested for the murder of his sister's fiance. He races back to England in order to discover what everybody was up to in the nighttime in order to get his brother acquitted. In the process, he gets shot, visits multiple other countries, goads his family a bunch, and ultimately frustrates a whole lot of lawyers.

1. In the whole, this was disappointing. The overreaching story never seemed to come together into anything truly engaging; this was very much a book of pieces and parts. There were individual scenes that were phenomenal (Bunter handily collecting evidence as he flirts with the frustrated maid; Peter handily telling Parker he's fine with Parker knowing all his family secrets; Parker's inflamed chivalry for the secretive Mary; Peter and Gerald/Jerry facing off across Jerry's jail cell; the Dowager Duchess wryly commenting on the pomp and circumstance of the Duke's trial; I could go on), but the through-lines were just...not present. I put down this book honestly disappointed in it—in both the mystery and in the characters.

(I compare the "trajectories" of this book with those of Whose Body? and realize that no one really went anywhere, introspectively. Which isn't a huge complaint, ultimately; it's just that the first book clearly challenged Peter and his motives for doing what he was doing and for a mystery about Peter's family, I'd expect even more engagement in why he's doing what he's doing.)

2. I hope Parker gets the girl!!

3. For as much of Peter's family was in this book, it definitely left a lot of detail out? I guess I'm just reviewing what I do know of the Whimsey family and realizing that it's all a lot of shadows and names—a mystery in and of itself!

4. I still love Peter Whimsey, though: he is such a wry, sarcastic, intelligent shit and it's exactly what I love most. (3.5 stars)
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,390 reviews582 followers
August 5, 2018
This one sets Peter Lord Wimsey's birth family into their core characteristics. The case is seated in their very midst. His brother Lord Denver is arrested on murder charges. Did he kill their sister's fiance?

I loved it. The first half is slow and also, IMHO, quite humorous considering the dire straits for all the family. And you get the first senses of their mother's deep character now, too. Dowager Duchess of Denver (is there a better title that sings itself with all that alliteration!) never blinks, common sense and practical applications as stalwart as ever.

Lord Wimsey and Bunker are all over the place and nearly end their existences in a bog, within a fog.

There's tons of dialect in this one and at least 1/2 of the copy seems in "sound" English rather than proper standard English. But it's delicious. There's a monster mean husband abuser and all kinds of lying going on. The sister Mary- from the beginning. And we also see the future of this naive social warrior idealist despite her terrible taste in men- taking a possible turn for marrying down, instead of just marrying bad.

It also has a top notch ending. Not all of these series have endings that go BANG. This one absolutely does.

Reading it after some of the much later, I have to admit that this is one that gives you much pivotal exact family member character and core. Enough that you get full nuance for/ in the future sensibilities or awareness factors between the main 6 or 8 central characters in this series. I'd have understood some of the much later novels in Lord Wimsey count to a clearer, unspoken onus degree to trusting or doubting relationship, if I'd have read this one previously.

Sayers had a unique way to do "flip" conversations. Even her dying or in humongous distress people can sound "funny".
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,341 reviews
July 5, 2008
4.0+ stars. I quite enjoyed my first Sayers mystery, and am delighted to have begun what I assume will be a long and pleasant acquaintance with Lord Peter Wimsey. Hard to describe his mixture of intelligence and thoughtfulness, compassion, humor but served up with a good share of the silly, foppishness of young men of the era who have little to do but spend the fortunes and honor to which they were born as aristocratic Englishmen. Yet, as one character so wisely remarks, Lord Peter doesn't just putter around his estate and shoot birds, he helps solve some of the most puzzling crimes and, in this story, it's all the more touching and pressing since it involves his family. The supporting characters are also interesting enough. A few times the chapters got a bit bogged down in particular legal proceedings, and the focus was pretty much exclusive on searching for evidence and such--not really calling forth much opportunity for character development or scenes of domestic life (compared to, say, most of the Agatha Christie books I've read). It was fun to be able to guess some of the mystery, without really knowing how it would all finally play out--and I appreciated the skill with which Sayers interwove multiple stories of intrigue and mystery all centering around the death of poor Denis Cathcart. (Note: A few scenes were also a little bloody for my taste, but overall sill very tame by today's standards. I just tend to prefer mysteries where no one is murdered, but oh well!)
Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
June 19, 2011
Well, the Lord Peter novels certainly improve the older they get. This one, the second mystery that Sayers wrote, is mostly okay. Not bad, not great, just okay. It has some good points, like more of the frankly marvelous Wimsey/Bunter dynamic (seriously, I love these two. Not since Holmes and Watson has literature known such a true bromance), plus it ends with a scene where Lord Peter is drunk as a skunk for no apparent reason. But the mystery itself isn't terribly compelling (which, considering that it deals with murder, is a bad sign) and its solution is one of those where the detective explains how he found the culprit and you think, "Well, if I knew that I could have figured it out, too!"
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