16 October 2010

Top mysteries challenge review: Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers

Year of publication: 1926
Series and no.: Lord Peter Wimsey, # 4
Genre: Mystery, cosy
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Semi-pro
Setting & time: Rural England and London; contemporary

Lord Peter Wimsey returns home after a prolonged stay abroad to find that his brother, the Duke of Denver, has been arrested on suspicion of having murdered the fiancé of his sister, Lady Mary, at a hunting lodge in Yorkshire. Both Mary and the Duke show suspicious behaviour and clearly have something to hide, even from their clever brother, who has to find out what they were really up to on the night of the murder before he can find out what really happened.

This story has one of those wonderfully intricate puzzle-plots that I enjoy so much, besides featuring adventure, romance and humour and Sayers’ trademark high-quality writing style, not to mention great characters that seem to jump off the pages. This is a pre-Harriet story, and Peter is here still prone to play the upper-class fop and sometimes comes off as quite arrogant and even bitter. This really makes me wish that I had attempted to read the books in some semblance of the right order, because I think it would be quite fun to read the books to see how Peter develops and grows as a person through the books. But that may come later.

I found the descriptions of the House of Lords trial of the Duke quite fascinating, but seeing what a grand production such a trial seems to have been it is no wonder that the right of peers to be tried by the House has been abolished.

I am giving the book 4+ stars, for the combination of great plot, great writing and great characters. It only just misses getting 5 stars because I didn’t like it quite as well as Gaudy Night.

Books left in challenge: 74 (if that looks wrong and you think it should be 75: I miscounted)

Place on the list(s): MWA # 77
Awards and nominations: None I am aware of

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