Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Clouds of Witness
I SO needed this book. I've read every Lord Peter Wimsey book and story written by Dorothy L Sayers, so this was a reread for me. But after spending eight grueling days on Tristram Shandy, I really needed a comfort read. I can always count on a Sayers mystery for that. Clouds of Witness is her second novel featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. And this time, it's not just a matter of him indulging his detective hobby--the family honor and his brother's life is at stake.
Lord Peter's brother--Gerald, Duke of Denver--has gathered a small hunting party at Riddlesdale Lodge. All went well--there was plenty of game and decent company--until one of the guests turned up dead at the most unsuitable hour of three o'clock in the morning. And not just any guest--but the brother-in-law-to-be of Peter and Gerald, Denis Cathcart. The Duke is found crouching over the body. Lady Mary, sister to the Duke and Lord Peter, has secrets of her own and in covering those up manages to throw the light of suspicion ever brighter on her brother. There are all sorts of clues...mysterious footprints in the garden that belong to no one known, a disappearing letter full of comments about the dead man, a suitcase that travels from conservatory to hall oak chest to who-knows-where, a bejewelled cat charm, and tracks made by a motorcycle with sidecar. It will take all of Wimsey's wits, Bunter's way with the maids and barmaids, and Inspector Parker's ruthless routine to get to the bottom of the mystery. It all wraps up with the pomp and circumstance of the trial of a British peer in the House of Lords and an exciting last-minute burst of evidence on the part of Lord Peter to save his brother from the gallows.
I love the Lord Peter stories and I love Dorothy L Sayers. I can't say it any better than that. And after the struggle I went through with the last book I just don't know that I can do much of an in-depth review on this one. It is interesting how Sayers changed her mystery style inClouds from that of Whose Body? This story has more action....Lord Peter traipses across the countryside, gets chased by angry dogs, finds himself mired in the bog ("Peter's Pot"), shot at by a Socialist, and making an emergency plane trip through stormy weather in his quest to clear his brother. There is still a great deal of delightful dialogue....again featuring the wonderful Dowager Duchess of Denver. I also enjoy this one a lot because we get introduced to Sir Impy Biggs and Mr. Murbles, who manage the case for the defense. Biggs is rather theatrical and a bit ruthless in his quest to defend the Duke. He tells Peter: "I don't care twopence for the truth. I want a case. It doesn't matter to me who killed Cathcart, provided I can prove it wasn't Denver." Reminds me of Arthur Crook in The Innocent Bottle--another lawyer who says he doesn't care who he sets up for the murder, provided he can get his client off.
As I said at the beginning, this was just what I needed to get the taste of Tristram Shandy out of my head. Sayers comes through with a tidy mystery, a comfortable cozy, brilliant British setting, just enough of Lord Peter's piffle and his mother's circuitous dialogue to make me happy. Four stars.