Clouds of witness by

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'O, Who hath done this deed?' - Othello
Lord Peter Wimsey stretched himself luxuriously between the sheets provided by the Hôtel Meurice
–Dorothy L. Sayers - Clouds of Witness - c.1926

First read in 2010, reread in 2014.

After solving the mystery of Whose Body Lord Peter Wimsey holidays in the wilds of Corsica, but, tiring of the rustic and wanting a bit of luxury he heads to Paris where he gets the shocking news that his brother, the Duke of Denver, has been arrested for murder. And the victim was Denis Cathcart, his sister’s fiancée. Wimsey heads for home straight away, and together with Inspector Parker he begins to investigate what actually happened.

The title of this book

alludes to Hebrews 12:1: “we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” In solving the mystery, Lord Peter’s problem is the opposite of the usual case: rather than having too few clues to go on, there are too many, and Peter pursues several avenues that turn out to be false before hitting on what really happened.

Cloud of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers
Cloud of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers
For me, however, the plot takes second place. I enjoyed the plot and figuring out what had happened, but I loved the characters, and the way the story was told.

And the conversation between the characters is just perfect. Read what Sir Impey has to say about “the truth”, is this not the perfect example of a lawyer :)

“Damn it all, we want to get at the truth!”
“Do you?” said Sir Impey drily. “I don’t. I don’t care twopence about the truth. I want a case. It doesn’t matter to me who killed Cathcart, provided I can prove it wasn’t Denver. It’s really enough if I can throw reasonable doubt on its being Denver…”

While I merely enjoyed the first in this series, I really loved this book, although I felt that Lord Wimsey himself wasn’t quite such a complex character. The effects of the war on him came across as less pronounced, but, that is understandable. After all, if you’d read the first book then you would be well aware of his PTSD and of the origin of the relationship between himself and Bunter.

In many ways this reminded me of Georgette Heyer’s romances; both authors have a wonderful turn of phrase and can portray a certain character in just a few short sentences. We also get to see how important class and standing are. And of course, honour and a man’s word.

“I’m presumed innocent, aren’t I, till they prove me guilty? I call it a disgrace. Here’s a murder committed, and they aren’t taking the slightest trouble to find the real criminal. I give ’em my word of honour, to say nothin’ of an oath, that I didn’t kill Cathcat – though, mind you, the swine deserved it – but they pay no attention. Meanwhile, the real man’s escapin’ at his confounded leisure. If only I were free, I’d make a fuss about it.”

I really should have ordered book 3 before I read this one shouldn’t I?

Buy or borrow: 9780450001802

Other reviews: A book a day till I can stay ; A girl walks into a bookstore ;

Post Author: Fence

4 thoughts on “Clouds of witness

    Chris

    (7 September 2010 - 12:14 am)

    I can't tell you how happy I am to hear that you enjoyed this one even more than Whose Body? I read Whose Body? not long ago and really enjoyed it and immediately ordered this one, but I still haven't read it…now I'm really looking forward to it :)
    Chris´s last blog post ..Early Saturday Farmer’s Market – 9-3-10

      Fence

      (7 September 2010 - 7:33 pm)

      Isn't it great when you can see many many hours of happy reading ahead of you :)
      Fence´s last blog post ..Clouds of witness

    Emmet

    (7 September 2010 - 3:06 am)

    Cheers for the mention! I really enjoyed the book also and am looking forward to reading more by Sayers. Detective novelist and Dante scholar, she was a fascinating woman.
    Emmet´s last blog post ..79 Yeats Is Dead ed By Joseph O’Connor

    Fence

    (7 September 2010 - 7:36 pm)

    Wasn't she? I've read some very favourable reviews of her non-fiction work which I'll have to get around to at some point.

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