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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 9 December 2013
Jill Paton Walsh has taken Dorothy L Sayer's novels onwards after the end of the Second World War and into a more modern age. She has had to adjust her inherited characters to reflect the social changes of the time. In addition, because she writes in the present day she has to reflect present social attitudes more than Sayers did because we expect our modern authors to reflect the way that we think now and reflect it into the past. This is hard going for any writer and presents a lot of issues for a series where class is a very important feature of the story and the setting.

I think that this novel succeeds admirably. Although I have read and loved the original novels for years I am very much enjoying these sequels. I enjoy meeting again the old characters and seeing them change, and also reading a good mystery novel.

I felt that Harriet and Peter were very recognisable and familiar to fans of the series. Their passion is undimmed and they approach things in a more mature light whilst retaining their integrity. I loved the way in which Harriet dealt with her son's lack of academic success and how difficult that Peter found it. I loved Harriet's internal monologue when she recounts how she breaks down social barriers between herself and Bunter to make her feel more comfortable but hasn't the courage to keep them up which would be more acceptable to him. It was a delight to see how they are coming to terms with Peter's new status.

The book is set in Oxford - the setting of my favourite of the original novels Gaudy Night: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery) but the author also includes lots of references to previous novels and includes plenty of previous characters. The familiarity of the cast and location, and the delight that I felt in meeting them again and seeing what the author had done with them was one of the delights of the novel.

The actual mystery is well enough done but nothing special. I was a bit bemused about what had happened to the police investigation whilst Peter did his own thing. I really couldn't anticipate the ending but I thought that the solution was very much in the spirit of the original novels.

I am a fan of the original series and also these sequels. I found this book absorbing and entertaining. A few continuity errors and a slightly weak plot in no war marred my total enjoyment of the novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 25 December 2014
Peter and Harriet, or, to give them their current titles, the Duke and Duchess of Denver, travel back to Oxford. This time, it’s to St. Severing College, where Peter has inherited the job of Visitor, and has been asked to settle a dispute causing division within the College.

There are many little links and references put in to their earlier Oxford adventure, Gaudy Night. Some of them just don’t ring true. For example, when Harriet visits some of her old friends in Shrewsbury College, she is asked how St. George is doing, and she has to explain. But surely, given they know Peter is now Duke, yet they knew St. George was previously heir to the title, they must realise what that means?

However, the real problem with all the little references is they feel forced. They aren’t just background, but plunked down determinedly. Rather than providing a depth of history, they seem to scream, “Notice! This really is a Peter and Harriet novel!”

And it’s worse that that. The murders that start happening seem to be based on Peter’s old cases, and Harriet’s books. This level of self reference might have worked well, if made sufficiently complex, but here falls flat: not enough is made of them.

All in all, these “later Wimseys” try hard, but don’t match the brilliance of the originals.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2014
This was enjoyable to read once but ultimately disappointing; it's possibly time for Peter and Harriet to drive off into the sunset in peace. This series has gone at least one book too far. It's good to read that Peter is making a good job of being a Duke, and the sons seem to be turning out well. But enjoying that's much the same as the vaguely guilty enjoyment of following "The Archers". The plot with its reliance on Peter's previous cases (allegedly adapted by Harriet in her detective novels) is just too clever-clever. There are some grating anachronisms (ploughman's lunches in the very early 50s is the most glaring, and Jill Paton Walsh should at least have looked up about pubs in the Oxford area online before name-checking them.) I suppose you could argue that these are not errors but point to the fact that this is Oxford in an alternate universe or cloud cuckoo land and not the Oxford we know. Still, bottom line, none of these things would have mattered had we been swept up by a strong, fast-moving plot.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 19 January 2014
The author presumably thought it important to tie this back to Sayers' original novels, hence the return of various modus operandi (I know that's not the plural) from the original books plus a prurient interest in the main characters' sex life. I'm not sure she needed to bother because she's easily a good enough writer to plot and write a Wimsey book from scratch. It's not in the slightest believable, but then it's about a murder solving Duke married to a detective novelist. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the only fault I can offer up is that Wimsey on more than one occasion pops into the pub for a ploughman's lunch. Seeing as the term wasn't invented by the Milk Marketing Board until the 1960s he is being somewhat anachronistic which is a shame given all the other period colour that is trowelled on.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2015
When I first read this book I found myself thinking "how very silly". The idea of a highly intelligent person carrying out a series of murders by methods described in detective novels, even when they are allegedly based on ones investigated (by Lord Peter as he was) in "real life", was, and remains, hard to take. And while in many ways I very much like the way that Peter and Harriet have developed over the four post-Sayers novels, to Peter's present age of 63 (I think), one or two things really stick with me. I can't take his flippant attitude to prayer in Balliol College chapel. This is a man brought up in a long tradition that matters hugely to him, and the Anglican Church was always at the heart of that tradition. He can identify a biblical passage from memory by its chapter and verse -- see The Nine Tailors, II, Third Part. Now in 1953 we see a late-middle-aged duke whose attitude to prayer is flippant and individualistic, an attitude that shouts 2014 all too loudly. (And what would DLS have thought?) Then there's the anachronistically egalitarian approach to education - did Eton pupils really get Oxbridge interview practice at Reading University? - which again seems too obviously an example of the present author intruding modern sensibilities onto those of a past generation. When it is so obvious that Bunter is deeply uncomfortable at any attempt to break down the social barriers between him and the Wimseys, why do Peter and Harriet so selfishly continue to try to make him do so? (Answer: to relate better to 21st-century sensibilities, of course.) Is not Wimsey's uxoriousness a bit cloying after nearly 20 years of marriage? Was Miss Hillyard left at the end of Gaudy Night feeling so positive towards Harriet as to be able to "beam at her" when she reappearance in Shrewsbury? Overall I felt that perhaps in terms of these sequels this was a bridge too far. Yet to my surprise on rereading the book I found it still compelled; perhaps it's the fact that the characters are so much alive still, perhaps it's just the atmosphere of the academic world in Oxford and life in the 1950s.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2014
The premise is smart: someone is recreating the murders from Peter's detecting days, within the confines of an Oxford college. There are four problems with the text:
The execution of the plot is cumbersome, contrived and incomplete. It is never clear whether the parallels with other Wimsey crimes are intentional or coincidental. It reads like an early draft of a potentially complex and absorbing plot still needing to be fully developed and rationalised. It rambles with the same imprecision and lack of direction its characters do, shuttling purposelessly between settings.

The three main characters of DLS' Oxford novel:Harriet, Peter and Oxford itself, are weak shadows of their Gaudy Night selves. This is not the Oxford that "alters one's values". These are a Peter and Harriet almost without inner lives, who'd be more at home in an Agatha Christie novel than a DLS story.

The editing is cursory and applied more robustly could have rectified inconsistencies (eg Miss Manciple shifts from being Stella to Ellen), plot holes, anachronisms and poor grammar.

There is a dumbing-down of detail and sanitising of scholarship which DLS never found necessary: instead of an Oxford where "no hand plucked his velvet sleeve", in JPW's city students sit "finals" and colleges compete in an "annual league table" .

For DLS aficionados who want to envision a post-war Peter and Harriet there may well be a lot of better written and better conceived fan fiction out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2014
Jill Paton Walsh's extension of the Peter Wimsey canon is a real pleasure, and I thoroughly enjoyed this latest addition. Mind you, there are some inconsistencies and downright howlers that surprised me; was her editor dozing?

For example, at one point Charles Parker is described as Assistant Chief Constable despite the fact that he's still in the Met, which of course has a Commissioner at the top, not a CC. Later on, he's been demoted to Chief Inspector again. Similarly, JRR Tolkien is claimed to be notorious for not taking women tutees, when in fact Humphrey Carpenter's biography makes a point of the fact that he was a popular choice for them; being married, he didn't need a chaperon to see them at his home.

Finally, it's welcome to see a little vignette for a narrowboat, but the "upswept tiller' must have been in the tied up position; when underway, the tiller was turned over so that it curved down. Since the boat is "Friendship", famous as the vessel owned by Joe Skinner, it's unthinkable that he'd have been boating into Oxford with his tiller the wrong way up.

Maybe the second edition will catch these and the few others I spotted, but don't wait for it; buy it now, it's great.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 3 January 2014
After Paton Walsh's two previous successful Wimseys based on Sayers fragments, which I thought good and have re-read with pleasure, this was a real come down. The plot was bizarre without being comic. The whole thing felt written without the attention to period style and accuracy I would have expected. A number of obvious errors such as reference to Miss Lydgate's hairpins when it was Miss de Vine whose hairpins wandered, and the gross error of the enquiry after Lord St George when Peter Wimsey could not have become duke without his death seemed ridiculous coming from so historically informed and astute a person - errors appearing within the space of a couple of pages, seemed to me to betray a lack of real commitment on the part of the author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2014
I like Jill Paton Walsh's writing style which is good homage to Sayers while leaving out the long letters in French & Latin quotes that do tax the brain cells! The plot was amusingly far fetched & there were a few inconsistencies which grated a bit - surely the SCR of Shrewsbury would have known that if Harriet was a Duchess then gorgeous Jerry had died!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 2013
Once again another welcome return to the world of Lord Peter Wimsey. The sequel books have never been quite as good as the original Dorothy L Sayers work (which I re read every year and remain superb), but I grew up with the characters and it is always very enjoyanle to return to that world and in my opinoin Jill Paton Walsh still captures the feel and rhytym of the original books.

You need to remember that this is now the 1950's not the 1920's but its still like having your favourite uncle over again - he may be 30 years older but he is still and always with be your favourite. Thank you JPW
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