Monday, August 01, 2022

37. Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers

After figuring out the various grandes dames of British detective fiction, I realized that I had never read a Dorothy L. Sayers and so was happy to discover several in a free box in Vancouver, in particular this lovely 1974 reprint of this early 1926 Lord Peter Wimsey novel.  Also, a good choice for a vacation read.

A big part of the charm of these mysteries is reading the lifestyles and interaction of the aristocracy.  Clouds of Witness is rich with these elements as the murder takes place in (or rather just outside) a house the family is leasing for shooting and Wimsey's elder brother, the Duke of Denver, is the accused.  I don't know how much of his history and family play a role in the rest of the books.  Here, though it is his older brother, Wimsey displays British "business as usual" and adds no extra emotion to his detecting (we also learn that he doesn't really like his brother all that much, which is later affirmed in a biographical note added to the end written by their uncle).

The mystery here wasn't too tricky and I appreciated that it seemed more of a vehicle to get Wimsey, his man Bunter and his confederate in the police Parker to have adventures and interact.  Really, the crime is complicated by a series of coincidences.  Basically, his sister's fiance is found dead, shot in the heart.  The brother discovers the body and is bending over just as the sister comes downstairs and she thinks her brother shot him.  Both of them are also hiding something.  And it has come out that the fiance was a cheat at cards and the elder brother had found out.

It's sort of hard for me to distinguish between the styles of Ngaio Marsh and Sayers at this point, as both have aristocratic detectives with a backstory and I've only read one of  the latter.  Sayers has a slight lead for now in that the one book I did read was not so fiendishly complex and obsessed with the revelation of the crime.

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