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If you are a real Sayers fan, avoid this book like the plague
on 9 March 2015
I pounced on this book at a second hand book sale and was delighted to find a 'new' Sayers book that I hadn't read. And I was encouraged by the many reviews that you couldn't tell where Sayers left off and Paton Walsh began.
WHAT a disappointment. You can tell instantly. The first quarter or so is obviously mostly Sayers, though with some slightly odd additions, but then there is a step change. The dialogue becomes cringeworthily obvious, with literary references shoved in all over the place just for the sake of it, and about five separate conversations about the perils of marrying for gratitude - I think that's been sufficiently dealt with, don't you? Harriet becomes this hideous arch woman, constantly calling Peter 'my lord' in private, which she never does in any of the other books - he's just Peter. She also seems to become a feminist in a way that didn't really exist until much later. Wimsey calls her 'Domina' as a nickname (ugh ugh), and all the conversations between him and Parker are just so fake. Wimsey himself practically isn't there, and comes across as the silly ass that he always plays in public, with added James Bond skills, not the sensitive, intelligent man that we know and love. The Dowager Duchess becomes a silly old woman obsessed with interior decor, there is no understanding of the subtleties of how the upper classes relate to their servants, and every single character that ever appears in a Lord Peter Wimsey novel pops up, often for no reason at all, and then doesn't sound like themselves in the slightest, particularly Freddy Arbuthnot. There are loads of places where the language seems wrong for the period (not that I'm an expert) and I spent the whole of the rest of the book desperately hoping that it would improve, but it just gets worse and worse.
To be fair, the plot isn't bad (though a bit obvious), and the cultural context of King George V / Edward VIII is interesting in a way. But that's all I have to say in favour of it. I'm now going to read every single Wimsey/Harriet Vane book in a row to expunge the memory of this one, and pretend that it never happened. Or perhaps that it happened, but written about as Sayers would have done.