Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers

cloudsClouds of Witness, Dorothy L. Sayers, 1926, New English Library 2003

I don’t usually read crime series and in fact this may be the first “proper” modern crime novel I have read. I want to start reading more in this genre because I love reading or seeing the same protagonist over a series of books and delving deeper and deeper into their character as the series goes on. It’s why I first started reading urban fantasy (which is a bit like a supernatural crime genre). The problem is my reading tastes have changed over the years and I don’t enjoy the style with which many urban fantasy series are written now.

I started with Dorothy Sayers because I’ve seen her name mentioned a lot and know she is supposed to be one of the best modern crime writers. This is the second book of her Lord Peter Wimsey series and the story starts with Wimsey taking a holiday after his last case while back in England his brother is suspected of murdering his sister’s fiancée.

It took me a while to get used to the characters and I wasn’t easily drawn to them. At one point I put the book down for nearly three weeks and had to force myself to pick it back up. The problem was I was slightly irritated that Wimsey was investigating his own brother’s case and was given respect and privileges by the police because of this merely because he is a Lord. Of course Sherlock Holmes is technically also an aristocratic “amateur” detective but the difference is that Holmes could have been born into any family and you would imagine he would still end up with the ear of Scotland Yard because of who he is as an individual.

When I picked the book back up I was more in a mood to enjoy it and started to see the humour in Sayer’s writing.

“I’m glad to hear it,” said Peter; “it’s so uncommonly jolly findin’ all you Yorkshire people so kind and hospitable, what? Nevermind who you are, always a seat by the fireside and that kind of thing. Excuse me, but do you know you’re leanin’ on the gate so as I can’t open it? I’m sure it’s a pure oversight, only you mayn’t realise that just where you’re standin’ you get the maximum of leverage.”

I finally got engaged when I started to enjoy Sayer’s writing and it didn’t matter so much that I wasn’t a fan of Wimsey. The rest of the cast grew on me too especially Lady Mary. The mystery and suspense of the book was very well written and it is because of all of these things I’ll probably read another Wimsey book. There’s still a chance all the characters will grow on me and I did enjoy reading Clouds of Witness.


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