Nancy McKibben's Reviews > A Presumption of Death

A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh
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really liked it
Recommended 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 characters, of course.)

So Paton did have a framework to work with in her novel, and in fairness, she is not an upstart, but an accomplished writer. And though I was prepared to be hypercritical (in case you couldn’t tell), I have to say that she created an excellent imitation of a Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mystery. The voice is spot on, as they say in the mother country. One could almost forget that the book is not an actual Dorothy L. Sayers novel.

So, we open with Harriet at Talboys with the children, and not only her own, but her sister-in-law’s, digging in for the duration of the war. Walsh (and Sayers, I suppose; I have read The Wimsey Papers, but it’s been a while) includes any number of compelling details about life in rural England at the beginning of World War II. We learn about rationing, the RAF, blackouts, and land girls. Lord Peter and trusty manservant Bunter are meanwhile involved in shadowy espionage on the continent - dangerous espionage that in one nail-biting scene puts Lord Peter’s life in Harriet’s hands when he sends a code breakable only by her.

And, of course, there is a murder. We need say no more about that, except that it is an unusual one, solved in an unusual fashion. And I must give Paton her due - although it makes me a bit uncomfortable to resurrect characters with a different author, she does an excellent job and I enjoyed the book.

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Reading Progress

February 9, 2013 – Started Reading
February 11, 2013 – Finished Reading
February 12, 2013 – Shelved

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