Clouds of Witness (Dorothy L. Sayers)

By Dorothy L. Sayers

First published: UK, T. Fisher Unwin, 1926

Blurb (UK)

Sayers - Clouds of Witness.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

To those who found Whose Body? by the same author such fascinating and interesting reading, this new detective story will make a strong appeal.

Lord Peter Wimsey will be remembered as the apparently indolent peer who was in truth a veritable sleuth and a serious but friendly rival to Scotland Yard.  In the new book, however, Lord Peter is shaken out of his usual calm, and all his remarkable ingenuity is taxed to the utmost in solving what has become known as the Riddlesdale mystery.  as a character Lord Peter Wimsey, born in the purple, has become established in the forefront of modern detectives.

My review

A piece typical of the 1920s: dated without being period, and never escaping from its roots in sensational fiction (the Renaissance of detective fiction was still a year or two away). Wimsey, so fatuous and bright as to be positively lurid, is shot at by Bolshevists, lost on the Yorkshire moors in a fog, nearly drowned in a bog (shades of Hound of the Baskervilles!), and threatened by savagely jealous farmers while trying to clear his brother, the Duke of Denver, from the charge of murdering his sister’s fiancé. Physical clues (footprints and grains of sand) and the evidence given at the inquest (presented at the beginning to save the grind of interviews) lead to more scandals and histrionics, before Wimsey’s dramatic trans-Atlantic flight allows him to arrive at the court at the very last minute to avert another scandal, and produce the letter in French that proves the “crime” is a disappointment.

The highlight of the book is Murbles’ account of the imaginary life led by a miser; the portrayal of wife abuse is also excellent.

Contemporary reviews

Books (NY Herald Tribune) (Will Cuppy, 1st May 1927, 90w):

Here is abundant proof that a thriller may be richly humorous without balling up the clews or destroying the suspense by so much as a title.


Boston Transcript (11th June 1927, 270w):

Clouds of Witnesses is both well written and well built.