Clouds of Witness

Clouds of Witness
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Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers is the second novel in the acclaimed Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series. Published in 1926, this novel follows the amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey as he investigates a murder that has taken place at his family's ancestral home. Set in the idyllic English countryside, this novel is a perfect blend of a classic whodunit mystery and a social commentary on the changing landscape of the British aristocracy.

The story begins with Lord Peter's brother, the Duke of Denver, being accused of murdering his sister's fiancé, Captain Denis Cathcart. Despite the strong evidence against the Duke, Lord Peter is convinced of his brother's innocence and is determined to clear his name. The investigation takes Lord Peter and his faithful manservant Bunter to the family's estate, where they must navigate through a tangled web of family secrets, old grudges, and potential motives for the murder.

One of the most striking aspects of Clouds of Witness is its vivid and richly detailed setting. Sayers expertly captures the beauty and tranquility of the English countryside, while also highlighting the stark contrast between the lavish lifestyle of the aristocracy and the struggles of the working class. Through her descriptions of the grand estate and its inhabitants, Sayers paints a picture of a society in transition, with the looming threat of the First World War and the changing values of the younger generation.

The characters in this novel are also incredibly well-developed, each with their own distinct personalities and motivations. Lord Peter, with his sharp wit and deductive skills, is an endearing and charming protagonist, while his brother, the Duke, is portrayed as a troubled and emotionally distant character. The rest of the Wimsey family, as well as the various suspects and witnesses, are all well-crafted and add depth to the overall story.

In addition to its well-crafted plot and characters, Clouds of Witness also delves into deeper themes such as loyalty, honor, and justice. As Lord Peter unravels the truth behind the murder, he is forced to confront his own beliefs and biases, and question the loyalty of those closest to him. Sayers also provides a scathing commentary on the shallow and superficial nature of the British aristocracy, and the ways in which their actions can have far-reaching consequences.

Overall, Clouds of Witness is a masterfully written mystery novel that combines a gripping plot, well-developed characters, and thought-provoking themes. Sayers' writing is sharp, witty, and engaging, making this novel a must-read for fans of the genre and anyone interested in exploring the intricacies of British society in the early 20th century. It is a timeless classic that continues to captivate readers with its intricate plot twists, compelling characters, and beautiful prose.

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Reader Reactions

From Susan

This delightful mystery is the second featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. When his brother, the Duke of Denver, is accused of murder then it is Lord Peter's job to clear his name. The Duke is found standing over the body of his sister's fiancé, who he has recently argued with about claims that the victim, Captain Denis Cathcart, was a card sharp. However, when questioned, he refuses to give a reasonable account of why he was wandering around outside, in the middle of the night. Why is he being so secretive and what is their sister, Mary, hiding?

This is a wonderful, Golden Age mystery, with Lord Peter Wimsey and Charles Parker truly collaborating. There are some great, atmospheric scenes, most notably when Wimsey and Bunter are lost on the moors. The scenes in the House of Lords, where the Duke of Denver is tried, are also very interesting. Much of the fun in these books is in Wimsey himself and his light-hearted banter and eccentric behaviour. He is one of the greatest fictional amateur detectives and this is one of his best cases.

From Kaethe

The plot is absurdly complicated, amusingly so. There are no end of intrigues in the country house where the murder takes place.

But that's not the joy of reading a Sayers' novel: the pleasure is all in the humor. Wimsey acting a fool, Bunter's magical ability to produce anything needed, Mary's good heart, and the Dowager's formidable control of everything. It's Downton Abbey written by Oscar Wilde.

From Susan

This is the second book in the Peter Wimsey series and is simply delightful. His brother, the Duke of Denver, is arrested at a family's "shooting box", Riddlesdale Lodge. The murdered man is the fiancée of his sister, Mary.

This novel really gives you a look at Peter and his family. There is not enough of the Dowager Duchess but it's fun getting to know his siblings. Bunter is someone I want in my life. He runs Peter's bath water, brings him breakfast in bed and pulls him out of quicksand. Peter's life? Who wouldn't want it? He's waited on hand and food, has no money worries and spends his time looking for rare books. It sounds like heaven to me.

This is a buddy read with my GR Ireland group and I am loving reading this series. I don't know how I missed Sayers' books before this but I'm glad I've found her now.

From Elinor

Surely Dorothy Sayers must be the grand master of dialogue and dialect, both highbrow and lowbrow. Her working class characters are delightful, and the upper crust characters litter their conversation with literary references which I either have to stop and look up – or just read and enjoy. Each chapter begins with a quote from literature, ranging from Shakespeare to fairy tales.

I particularly love Lord Peter Wimsey's speeches. For example, here he is speaking to his butler: "Bunter," said his lordship, "I'm the biggest ass in Christendom. When a thing is close under my nose I can't see it. I get a telescope, and look for the explanation in Stapley. I deserve to be crucified upside-down, as a cure for anemia of the brain." There is much more in this vein, all of it highly entertaining.

Moreover, her murder mysteries are well-plotted and interesting. All in all, a very satisfying read.

From Damaskcat

This is the second novel featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. This time murder comes unpleasantly close to home when Lord Peter's brother – the Duke of Denver – is accused of the murder of his sister's fiancé. Riddlesdale Lodge is the scene for the death of Captain Cathcart and no one seems to be telling the truth about what they were doing at the time of the man's death. Lord Peter begins to think that his brother will go to the gallows rather than reveal what he was doing at the time.

The investigation will lead Wimsey into personal danger before he finally ferrets out the truth of what really happened on the fateful night which looks like destroying his family. I enjoyed this book and thought the plot was very well done. I didn't work out what really happened until all was revealed by the combined efforts of Wimsey and Chief Inspector Charles Parker of Scotland Yard, an old friend of Wimsey's.

I like the way the family interact – Gerald, the Duke, not very bright but trying to do what is expected from him in his role in society; Lady Mary – hiding something from a mistaken idea that to reveal it will put everyone in danger; the Dowager Duchess – shrewd and observant in spite of her flighty persona and Helen – wife to Gerald and bent on keeping up appearances in all the wrong ways.

I can recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Golden Age crime stories and even though it is part of a series it can be read a standalone novel.

Clouds of Witness: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery

The Solution of the Riddlesdale Mystery with a Report of the Trial of the Duke of Denver before the House of Lords for Murder

The inimitable stories of Long-King never have any real ending, and this one, being in his most elevated style, has even less end than most of them. But the whole narrative is permeated with the odour of joss-sticks and honourable high-mindedness, and the two characters are both of noble birth.

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