Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #2)” as Want to Read:
A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #2)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Presumption of Death

(Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane #2)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  5,648 ratings  ·  291 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,648 ratings  ·  291 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane, #2)
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having greatly enjoyed, “Thrones, Dominations,” I was keen to read the second in the Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane series, continued by author Jill Paton Walsh. This begins in 1939, with England in the early days of the Second World War. Lord Peter is away on a dangerous mission overseas and Harriet has closed up the London house and retreated to Talboys with her two sons, Bredon, aged three, and Paul, who is nearly one. She also has the care of the children of Charles and Mary Parker; Char ...more
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
Aug 04, 2012 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
Aug 08, 2011 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
Aug 30, 2016 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.
Renee Wolcott
Aug 23, 2010 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
Well, it wasn't as bad Thrones, Dominations, but it was painfully transparent and the characters of Peter and Harriet bear little resemblance to Sayers's originals. ...more
Sep 19, 2013 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
Oct 07, 2007 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? ...more
Brenda Clough
Mar 16, 2015 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 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
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 17, 2014 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
Townsend the Wonder Hamster
Sep 10, 2015 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 up was Antonia Fo
Feb 12, 2008 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. ...more
Feb 29, 2012 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.
Feb 08, 2015 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. ...more
Bionic Jean
Jill Paton Walsh writing her second novel with Dorothy L. Sayers' characters. Disappointing. ...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
Jul 10, 2011 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
Jul 25, 2008 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. ...more
Not as good as Thrones, Dominations, but it's still doing the job. ...more
Joanne Gass
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Kathy Davie
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, mystery
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 thoroug
A Presumption of Death is written under false pretences if it is pretending to be a seamless continuation of the works of Dorothy L Sayers. The blurb on the back of the book describes Thrones, Dominations, but a cursory glance might mislead someone to thinking it refers to the book at hand. It is a quotation from Ruth Rendell in the Sunday Times that " It is impossible to tell where Dorothy L. Sayers ends and Jill Paton Walsh begins. It is simply like reading another Sayers novel." If Thrones, D ...more
Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I am a huge fan of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers, and I was cautiously optimistic when I discovered that there were additional mysteries written by Jill Paton Walsh based loosely on notes written by Dorothy Sayers. There generally has not been a good track record of sequels of this sort, but the Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane series seems to be an exception.
The mystery set in this book mostly falls to Harriet Vane to solve, but all of your favorite characters are there, from
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
Jan 29, 2012 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
Mar 18, 2011 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
Dec 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, homefront
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
May 17, 2010 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!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Striding Folly
  • Busman's Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsey, #11)
  • Have His Carcase (Lord Peter Wimsey, #7)
  • Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey, #10)
  • The Five Red Herrings (Lord Peter Wimsey, #6)
  • In the Teeth of the Evidence
  • The Nine Tailors (Lord Peter Wimsey, #9)
  • The Wimsey Papers
  • Murder Must Advertise  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #8)
  • Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey, #5)
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (Lord Peter Wimsey, #4)
  • Hangman's Holiday: A Collection of Short Mysteries
  • Lord Peter Views the Body
  • Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey, #3)
  • Clouds of Witness (Lord Peter Wimsey, #2)
  • A Treasury of Sayers Stories
  • Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey, #1)
  • The Documents in the Case
See similar books…
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

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)

News & Interviews

Believe it or not, we're halfway through 2021! As is our tradition, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial team burrows into our data to...
9 likes · 1 comments
“Where there’s a will there’s relations. Misquoted from the Book of Proverbs” 0 likes
More quotes…