A Presumption of Death Hardcover – Mar 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
In her second Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane whodunit, Booker Prize finalist Walsh (Knowledge of Angels) does a far better job of honoring Sayers than she did in their first posthumous collaboration, Thrones, Dominations (1998). Walsh's starting point here is "The Wimsey Papers," a series of letters on home front conditions, ostensibly written by various members of the Wimsey family, which ran in the Spectator at the outset of WWII. Lord Peter himself is offstage for most of the novel, involved in some covert mission in Europe, leaving his wife to take care of their household. When a young Land Girl is found murdered during an air raid, the local superintendent enlists Harriet's aid. Harriet's traditional line of inquiry into possible spurned suitors is diverted when an eccentric and seemingly paranoid dentist discloses that the quiet, ordinary village of Paggleham is actually a nest of German spies. Despite Peter's diminished role, he remains a vital presence throughout, thanks to his place at the center of Harriet's thoughts. Should Walsh have no further original Sayers material to draw on, she seems perfectly suited to continue the series entirely on her own.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"The setting is authentic and the story is gripping, but this is also a serious and committed book." --Barbara Reynolds, President of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society and author of Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul
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Top Customer Reviews
Jill Paton Walsh does quite a competent job with character and setting, which is why I'm giving four stars to something whose final manifestation appalled me.
Her plot is less complex than the genuine Sayers article, and I felt the relative absence of introspective musing common to Sayers' later work, but given the shortness of the book I think both were in proportion.
I disagree with the reviewer who says Lady Peter would not have cared for the exhausted Bunter's physical needs; Lady Mary might have hesitated but it was entirely in keeping with Harriet's impatience with convention. I do agree that she would not have invited people to call her "Harriet"; she faced the fact that she would have to put up with being "Lady Peter" (socially -- continuing professionally as "Miss Vane" is quite appropriate) in "Busman's Honeymoon."
SMM went to all the expense of paying for the rights, the author, the production, the publicity and the distribution. Anybody could have explained that the market for this book comprises people likely to read carefully. It is unconscionable that the budget did not offer a good copy editor enough time to read the text, in context.
I'll overlook the sentence fragments, although I'm convinced Sayers would not have permitted them.
There are errors of spelling: Fighters "bale" out of airplanes in practically every chapter.
There are errors of idiom: Harriet says, "Well, I have done," when Sayers' Harriet would have stopped at "Well, I have." Anachronistically, characters begin statements with "Only," sounding like visitors from Harry Potter.Read more ›
As a volume in the Wimsey-Vane series, the book is very weak. The personal material is entirely dependent on previous, authentic Sayers' works. Harriet is constantly thinking back to the events of Busman's Honeymoon, and Gaudy Night is also referred to. Interestingly, she seems to have forgotten about the Thrones, Dominations case. It doesn't figure in her recollections at all. The parts that are new are more wish-fulfillment (popular characters get happy endings) than authentic development.
Finally, to the person who complained that Jerry Winsey appears as uncle to his cousins Charlie Parker and Paul Wimsey, give me a break. Jerry is considerably older than the boys. It's a courtesy title.
Knowing he is already shorthanded due to the war effort and her experience as a crime novelist, Superintendent Kirk asks Harriet to investigate the murder that is clearly not the work of a Nazi. He wants her to perform the role of her spouse Lord Peter, overseas on government work, to make inquiries and report back to him, but not take risks. Reluctantly Harriet begins her investigation starting with the other eight Land Girls, but quickly she finds reality much more complex and stranger than fiction.
Using fictional letters that the late great Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in support of the English World war II efforts, Jill Paton Walsh paints a powerful amateur sleuth tale that fans of the Wimsey tales will enjoy and will appreciate the cleverness of the endeavor. The story line insures that the regulars remain true to their known personalities while WW II in a remote village is used to provide the background of a strong who-done-it. Still, this tale belongs to the cast especially Harriet who provides a fine time for series fans and historical mystery readers.
Most recent customer reviews
One specific criticism: Walsh seems to have mixed up the Wimsey children Roger and Paul: in Sayers' story Talboys, set after this book, Bredon is six, Roger is four, and Paul is... Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2004 by Kristiana W
I'm a big fan of Sayers and have sometimes found "continuations" by other authors to be a disappointment. Read morePublished on Aug. 12 2003 by CrisInTexas
I have to admit that I was hoping Walsh would get better at doing Sayers, & instead she seems to have strayed further from her writing than in the previous attempt (which I... Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2003 by Suzy Shedd
This novel was not as rich in the Sayeresque detail as other Sayers/Wimsey books. Thrones Dominations had more of the detail that makes Lord Peter such a joy. Read morePublished on June 22 2003
I have been reading and re-reading the entire Sayers/Wimsey body of work for more than 35 years. Jill Walsh has done all the Wimsey fans a great service in continuing the Wimsey... Read morePublished on June 20 2003
I wish that Dorothy Sayers had written more Wimsey novels. However, I think it is a really bad idea for any writer to try and fill another writer's boots. Read morePublished on June 2 2003