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A Presumption of Death
on 4 February 2017
Having greatly enjoyed, “Thrones, Dominations,” I was keen to read the second in the Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane series, continued by author Jill Paton Walsh. This begins in 1939, with England in the early days of the Second World War. Lord Peter is away on a dangerous mission overseas and Harriet has closed up the London house and retreated to Talboys with her two sons, Bredon, aged three, and Paul, who is nearly one. She also has the care of the children of Charles and Mary Parker; Charlie, Polly and Harriet.
The local village has changed, with land girls and troops bringing new faces and the community preparing itself for war with air raid practice. Most of the village intend to use the cellars of the local public house as a shelter, but the Methodists are unhappy about taking refuge in a public house, so nearby caves are utilised for them. However, although the practice seems to go well, when the all clear sounds and everyone emerges into the village, it is to find the body of a young woman dead in the middle of the street…
With Superintendent Kirk short staffed, he asks Harriet for help. She soon discovers the young lady, Wendy Percival, is nicknamed, “Wicked Wendy,” and is known as something of a flirt. However, although she has caused some disruption among several young men, it seems the case is not going to be a simple one to solve.
I really enjoyed this novel, even if I did not find it worked quite as well as the first. I like the fact that Walsh has brought in new characters, although she does seem to want to use them all and sometimes it seems that, despite the advice to only travel where absolutely necessary, almost everyone is haring about the country visiting each other. Still, we have Helen; Harriet’s disapproving sister in law, who is always interesting as a character, the delightful Dowager Duchess and Mary Parker, among others. I thought the author really portrayed the period well and the mystery, if slightly confusing at times, made you think about the choices that sometimes had to be made in war time. I look forward to reading on and will certainly read the next in the series.