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Clouds of Witness (1926)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lord Peter Wimsey (2)

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3,6181023,433 (3.81)319
In a shocking scandal, the likes of which has not been seen in the English aristocracy since the 18th century, the Duke of Denver stands accused of the foul murder or his sister's fiance, shot through the heart on a cold, lonely night at Riddlesdale Hall in Yorkshire. The Duke's brother, Lord Peter Wimsey, attempts to prove Denver's innocence, but why is the Duke refusing to cooperate? And what does his sister, Lady Mary, know about the affair? Trying to reveal the truth, Wimsey uncovers a web of lies and deceit within the family and finds himself faced with the unhappy alternative of sending either his brother or his sister to the gallows - until he himself becomes a target...… (more)
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» See also 319 mentions

English (100)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 100 (next | show all)
Highly entertaining mystery romp. If you enjoy golden age stuff you'll enjoy this for sure. The characters aren't super well developed or anything but they're clear and it's hard to get lost with who's who - importantly, Peter Wimsey himself is pretty stand out. The dialogue is good and sometimes is actually pretty funny. The plot goes through a bunch of twists and you never feel ahead or behind compared to the characters, although looking back you can definitely see hints and stuff and nothing comes completely out of nowhere (not sure if you could solve it but I've never been good at that anyway). The ending is satisfying and the depiction of the trial of a lord is fun - it's a cool thing to add to an otherwise "straight" mystery book - and it's all relatively light hearted. Not a work of literary genius but an excellent example of the type and something you'll have a good time reading.

(There's a bit of attacking of socialists but it makes sense given all the main characters are upper class and I'm cool with it because it contained a funny and pretty accurate example of the way sometimes people romanticise the poor. The politics of detective novels would make an interesting book in themselves) ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
I found Clouds Of Witness to be a very mixed bag. It has a chaotic feel to it as if the energy of the eccentric and well-drawn characters keeps pressing against the confines of the exposition of the slightly over-complicated plot.

Some parts of it sparkle. I love the way Wimsey uses words as both a shield and a sword. When he first appears, he finds the shooting party at breakfast, knows that they've been speaking about him and unleashes a torrent of knowing commentary, an effortless domination of the room, all achieved with a breezy we're all good chaps here tone that it's hard to take offence at but which can't be mistaken for affability.

I also love the way his mother talks when she's sharing her thoughts. You can see her mind working as she pursues her thoughts in a rush of words that tumble like a pack of hounds chasing a fox and which she keeps trying to discipline through half-remembered quotations and verbal footnotes. It ought to sound as if she's babbling but instead, it displays a sharp, well-educated mind forming patterns from the available data.

The characters, even those whose role in the plot is minor, thrum with life. Their voices sound true on the ear. Their foibles, habits and manners are captured with actuely observed without being commented on. I loved the adroit concise, incisive and amusing descriptions of the reasons why the members of the shooting party are angry and unhappy at breakfast on the Sunday morning after the inquest. It made me smile and it helped me see each of them more clearly.

The plot was fairly sound. Everything worked and it delivered a few surprises along the way but it lost a little credibility by depending on so many people deciding independently to do covert and uncharacteristic things in the early hours of a particular morning.

Some of the plot exposition was clumsy, by modern standards. The way the inquest was reported using transcripts enhanced with notes from the police rather than from the point of view of one of the people present shows how conventions in novels have changed over the past ninety-seven years. The KC's closing argument in the trial in the House Of Lords went on so long that I suspect some of their Lordships may have dozed through parts of it.

The action scenes, which included shots fired, death-defying flights and perilous encounters on the moors felt a little frantic, like something from a comic book.

Another sign of how expectations around novels have changed since 1926 is the way French is used in the text. Most of the short sentences in French are not translated and a long letter, that is key to the plot, is included in its entirety before the translation is g8iven. It seems that Dorothy L Sayers assumed that her readers would be able to read French with ease.

Reading Clouds Of Witness after having read later novels like Strong Poison (1930), The Nine Tailors (1934) and Gaudy Night (1935), I was aware of how brightly Dorothy Sayers' raw talent shone through and how much she had honed her skills over the next decade. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | Oct 25, 2023 |
I thought this book was fantastic, it pulled me in right away and kept me glued. Unfortunately the author felt the need at the end of the book to recap, step by step, the circumstances surrounding the crime. On the audiobook this lasted a full 25 minutes! It's as if the author was so concerned that readers grasp the full extent and intricacies of the plot that she couldn't just trust us to remember what had happened, but instead had to beat us over the head with a monologue summary. It absolutely left a bad last impression of an otherwise great book. Docking 2 full stars out of supreme irritation. ( )
  blueskygreentrees | Jul 30, 2023 |
Clouds of Witness. (The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries Book 2). Dorothy Sayers. This is the first Lord Wimsey book I have read, and I loved how very British it was. The asides and snide comments made me laugh out loud at times-especially comments about the French. Lord Peter’s brother is accused of murdering his sister’s fiancé, and Peter is sets out to prove his innocence. And he does, of course. The courtroom scenes were somewhat tedious, but over all I enjoyed the book and will read more of them. ( )
  judithrs | Mar 20, 2023 |
When the Duke of Denver is arrested for murdering his sister's fiancé, Lord Peter rushes home to do a bit of detecting. Apart from the delightful humour, one of the most appealing elements of Sayers' mystery novels is that she always incorporated commentary of social conditions and happenings of the day. In this story, Wimsey takes a flight across the Atlantic to secure a witness statement to clear his brother, a trip that sounds almost innocuous until it is remembered that this was in 1920. In the open plane, pilot and passenger were soaked in a rainstorm on the return journey! The Duke's dramatic trial in the House of Lords was an excellent display of the pomp and pageantry associated with that institution. Favourite characters here are police Chief Inspector Parker who overcomes his timidity in a Paris shop to buy lingerie for his sister; Wimsey naturally; and Bunter at the top of the list. As always, Sayers is eloquent and entertaining. ( )
  VivienneR | Mar 19, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sayers, Dorothy L.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barcilon, RogerCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bayer, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergvall, SonjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bleck, CathieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carmichael, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, Ruth DudleyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffini, Grazia MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michal, MarieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Lord Peter Wimsey stretched himself luxuriously between the sheets provided by the Hotel Meurice.
[Afterword] The year 1920 is the generally accepted dawn of the Golden Age of detective fiction.
Quotations
The inimitable stories of Tong-king never have an real ending, and this one, being in his most elevated style, has even less end than most of them. But the whole narrative permeated with the odour of joss-sticks and honourable high-mindedness, and the two characters are both of noble birth. -- The Wallet of Kai-lung
"Here's his fountain-pen. Very handsome - Onoto with complete gold casing. Dear me! Entirely empty.... I don't see any pencil about."
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Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish between this mystery novel, Cloud Of Witnesses by Dorothy L. Sayers (1926), and the similarly-titled anthology of essays, Cloud Of Witnesses edited by Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday (1991; rev'd 2005). Thank you.
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In a shocking scandal, the likes of which has not been seen in the English aristocracy since the 18th century, the Duke of Denver stands accused of the foul murder or his sister's fiance, shot through the heart on a cold, lonely night at Riddlesdale Hall in Yorkshire. The Duke's brother, Lord Peter Wimsey, attempts to prove Denver's innocence, but why is the Duke refusing to cooperate? And what does his sister, Lady Mary, know about the affair? Trying to reveal the truth, Wimsey uncovers a web of lies and deceit within the family and finds himself faced with the unhappy alternative of sending either his brother or his sister to the gallows - until he himself becomes a target...

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When blood stains his family name, Lord Peter fights to save what he holds most dear

After three months in Corsica, Lord Peter Wimsey has begun to forget that the gray, dangerous moors of England ever existed. But traveling through Paris, he receives a shock that jolts him back to reality. He sees it in the headlines splashed across every English paper-his brother Gerald has been arrested for murder.

The trouble began at the family estate in Yorkshire, where Gerald was hunting with the man soon to be his brother-in-law, Captain Denis Cathcart. One night, Gerald confronts Cathcart with allegations about his unsavory past, leading the captain to call off the wedding. Just a few hours later, Cathcart is dead, with Gerald presumed to be the only one who could have fired the fatal shot. The clock is ticking, and only England's premier sleuth can get to the bottom of this murky mystery.
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