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Clouds of Witness (1926)

by Dorothy L. Sayers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lord Peter Wimsey (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,059773,043 (3.83)266
Lord Peter Wimsey's future brother-in-law is murdered during a family retreat at Riddlesdale Lodge. His brother Gerald Wimsey, the Duke of Denver, is charged with the crime. Lord Wimsey joins the investigation, uncovering a mysterious letter from Egypt, a grieving fiancee with suitcase in hand, and a bullet destined for one very special Wimsey.… (more)
Recently added byArina40, 2blackcats, private library, alexbayley, PickwickPlockPlock, dmturner
Legacy LibrariesM. R. James, Ernest Hemingway

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English (76)  Swedish (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
This was just as fun as I remembered. ( )
  _rixx_ | May 24, 2020 |
Sayers, Dorothy L. Clouds of Witness. 1926. Lord Peter Wimsey No. 2. Harper, 1995.
Some reviewers complain that Lord Peter is a caricature. True enough. But I am happy with that. There is not much else an aristocratic amateur detective can be. Lord Peter rattles on, creating clouds of talk that puts other characters to sleep but keeps readers amused. Did his brother commit murder? Well, what would you guess? So, that is not what keeps us going. We know the answer, what ever it is, will be underwhelming. It is the verbal performance that keeps us turning pages. And ain’t it interestin’ that Lord Peter flew the Atlantic a year before Lindbergh? ( )
  Tom-e | Apr 21, 2020 |
This one started out so promisingly but ended up being a hot mess.

Lord Peter's brother, the Duke of Denver, has been arrested, charged with the murder of his prospective brother in law, Captain Denis Cathcart. Denver found the body outside his lodgings at 3 am, but steadfastly refuses to give any reason why he himself is out so late at night, and why his weapon was used to fire the fatal shot. Of course, the arrest and trial of a peer of the realm is Big News, and though Peter has never been especially close to his elder brother, he does take it upon himself to investigate the matter with his BFF Charles Parker and his handy valet Bunter.

Basically, everyone in this story is a complete idiot, up to and including the entire Wimsey family, save the Dowager Duchess. (Even Peter himself acts like a twat in the bizarre final scene of the novel.) Because of their stupidity and obstinacy, a very simple situation spiraled out of control. To make matters worse, we are given cruelly minute detail of every scrap of evidence during the trial near the end of the book, even though its already obvious that Denver didn't commit the crime. This was such a long, boring, and completely useless couple of chapters. And then there's the end, where Peter & co are drunken idiots in the middle of London. What was the point of that, exactly??

This is a terrible follow-up to the amusing Whose Body?. I think you can definitely give it a miss and nothing of value will be lost. ( )
1 vote eurohackie | Apr 10, 2020 |
The second Lord Peter Wimsey book. Lord Peter returns from Corsica to find his brother, the Duke of Denver, charged with the murder of his sister's fiance. There are numerous sub plots and the denouement, the trial of the Duke in the House of Lords (his peers) gets a little bogged down in procedure and legal argument. However, though not the best Dorothy Sayers outing, it's still a very enjoyable read and gives more insight into Peter's family background. ( )
  Figgles | Apr 4, 2020 |
Sayers brings real comedy, history, and her Oxford training in languages to her inevitable detective stories. Dickensian names: Lord Peter Wimsey, lawyer Sir Impey Biggs (a handsome, big imp), opposing attorney general Lord Wigmore (in full wig). Mr Murbles, the senior lawyer, says " ‘Brilliant man, Sir Impey. He is defending Truth.’ Lord Peter, ‘Astonishin’ position for a lawyer, what?’ Mr Murbles acknowledged the pleasantry…’”(164).

First heard this book aloud decades ago, by my wife, so I had not grasped all the wit, though I knew the plot was multiple, at least three affairs with three different couples all converging to one crime, of which the detective’s older brother, the Duke of Denver, stands accused. The Duke reserves his alibi which would compromise a married woman—perfect gentlemanly act which increases the difficulties of his defenders, including his detective brother (whose interests the Duke disapproves—incunabula and crime rather than football).

Sayers gives us an intricate plot, with its culmination a long letter in French written by the victim the day of his murder. Lord Peter Wimsey has to go to the US by steamship to find it, and when he does, he flies back in a 1920’s plane, flimsy, the famous pilot’s jacket covered in rain. Flying through ravaging storm and fog, Wimsey’s arrival in doubt, his butler Bunter resolves to set a fire in his bedroom, hopeful.
From our yearly visits to England, but perhaps more from watching TV mysteries like Midsommer and Father Brown, we have personal experience of much in this novel. Further, I have a coat that my British-resident friend asked if a Burberry. No, a wax-coated LL Bean, but… We “musn’t rest upon our oars” takes me back to college freshman crew on the Connecticut River (169). Also, my wife and I have had one cup of hot chocolate, with a jigger of brandy, every evening for over a decade. Our preferred brandy is Portuguese, not the priceless 1800 Napoleon served in Lord Peter’s house near Piccadilly.

Many characters here are witty, including butler Bunter’s mother, who says, “facts are like cows. You look them in the face hard enough, they generally run away”(79). Lord Peter later informs his butler, “Well-bred English people never have imagination, Bunter.” “Certainly not, my lord. I meant nothing disparaging.”(175)
Scotland Yard, headed by a Scot, and a crossword solution in Scottish, never spelled out for me. Broad Yorkshire dialect as well, as in the Yorkshire “national” anthem, “On Ilkley Moor Bat’ at,” quoted in, “Then doocks will coom an’ ate pop worms/ On Ilkla Moor…” (196).
Be prepared for many un-American, British words: “widdershins” “gaiters”, and words like “loofah” which I had to search, evidently an organic sponge grown from a gourd—even in California.

The real title should be “Cloud of Witnesses,” which appears late in the novel (258), but Sayers must have preferred the sound of both -s endings.

Sayers considered her Divina Commedia translation to be her best work, in Dante's prosody,
hendecasyllabic terza rima. ( )
  AlanWPowers | Apr 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 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
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.
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
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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