Clouds of Witness (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries No.2) – Dorothy L. Sayers
Chivers Press, 1988
Originally published 1927
It has been a source of much embarrassment to Gerald, Duke of Denver, that his younger brother, Lord Peter Wimsey, can’t help dabbling in detection. When their soon-to-be brother-in-law is discovered dead, however, and suspicion falls heavily on Gerald, a detective in the family is suddenly urgently necessary. Lord Peter must read between the lines of each witness’s testimony to discover the truth of what happened…even if he increasingly doubts that he wants to know the truth.
I find it difficult to separate the period-typical issues of an old book from the story itself. That was a particular problem reading Clouds of Witness because chunks of the plot required you to see certain things are either acceptable or unalterable, and both left me very frustrated. As such I’ve included a spoilery trigger warning in the paragraph below. The actual mystery is intriguing, if a bit messy, but the ending didn’t make an enormous amount of sense. The Lord Peter series continues with Unnatural Death.
(SPOILER: This book contains a domestic violence situation and a completely inadequate reaction from the protagonist. It may be true to social norms of the 1920s that Lord Peter doesn’t get involved until he wants something from the woman in question, and that he then expects her to risk life and limb in order to assist his brother, but it made me like him considerably less than I did before and may be very triggery for some readers.)