Peter Wimsey and his brother

Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

Not the best in the series but not bad. In this installment of Lord Peter Wimsey’s detective series, Peter’s older brother, the Duke of Denver, is accused of murder. The Duke is strangely silent about his alibi although he insists that he is innocent. It’s up to Peter to get his brother out of the murder charges.

Along the way, Peter uncovers piles of confusing evidence, most of which complicate the case and some of which he never wanted to know. So much has been going on under the stubborn duke’s nose, no wonder the police are stumped as to who did what and why. And was there any connection between the murder and the other suspicious circumstances or was it all just a convoluted series of coincidences?

Peter is his usual chatty self, and lots of what he says is in reference to some obscure literary masterpieces I’ve never heard about, so I didn’t read all his nattering with as much attention as it probably required. On the other hand, there are several revelations in this book that reflect the times and the author’s point of view, not always flattering to certain tiers of society. I couldn’t resist a few brilliant quotes. Some of it is still true today as it was at the time of publication in 1926.

 

Here Peter talks to his brother’s defense attorney, Sir Imprey.

‘Damn it all, we want to get at the truth!’

‘Do you?’ said Sir Imprey dryly. ‘I don’t care two-pence about the truth. I want a case. It doesn’t matter to me who killed Cathcart, provided I can prove it wasn’t Denver. It’s really enough if I can throw reasonable doubt on its being Denver.’

...

‘I’ve always said,’ growled Peter, ‘that the professional advocate was the most immoral fellow on the face of the earth, and now I know for certain.’

Here is another snippet – between Peter, his sister Mary (the former betrothed of the murder victim), and their family lawyer, Mr. Murbles.

‘Are you suggesting, Lord Peter,’ said Mr. Murbles, in a tone calculated to chill Peter’s blithe impetuosity, ‘that, at the very time Mr. Cathcart was betrothed to your sister, he was carrying on a disgraceful intrigue with a married woman very much his social inferior.’

‘I beg your pardon, Polly,’ said Wimsey.

‘It’s all right,’ said Mary. ‘I – as a matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me frightfully. Denis was always – I mean, he had rather continental ideas about marriage and that sort of thing. I don’t think he’d have thought that mattered very much. He’d probably have said there was a time and place for everything.’

‘One of those watertight compartment minds,’ said Wimsey thoughtfully.

And here is the characters’ opinion about old headstrong ladies.

Mr. Murbles waved his hands helplessly, but Sir Imprey was rather amused. ‘It’s no good, Murbles,’ he said. ‘Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthy force.’

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to start the series from this story, but for anyone already familiar with the charismatic detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, this book is a must.