Book Review – Clouds of Witness

  • Title: Clouds of Witness
  • Author: Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/07/2013

I’m re-reading the Lord Peter mysteries in chronological order, having read them originally in junior high and high school. Clouds of Witness is my favorite, in part because Lord Peter is playing for such high stakes. Lord Peter’s in France on vacation (or holiday) when he gets the news that his older brother, Gerald, the Duke of Denver, has been accused of murder. Lord Peter and Bunter rush home to Denver’s hunting lodge in Yorkshire. There they discover all sorts of goings-on besides the accusation against “Denver” (Gerald, the Duke). The dead man is Lady Mary Wimsey’s fiance’ (Lady Wimsey is Peter and Gerald’s younger sister); yet Lady Mary isn’t all that broken-up about it. Before long we discover that she was planning on leaving her fiance’ and eloping with someone else, a young radical that her eldest brother would never approve of. Lady Mary had, in fact, thought it was this other man that had died and thus her strange reactions.

Meanwhile Gerald is tried by a coroner’s inquest and found guilty of murder – and thus he is set to be tried in the House of Lords by a Lord High Steward and all the Lords of the House.

Lord Peter is totally frustrated by his brother’s complete lack of interest in his own case. He won’t explain why he was on the moor or what he was doing. Peter figures that “Jerry” is protecting someone but is frustrated anyway. Gerald, the Duke of Denver, insists he’s a lord and the duke, and people should take his word for it that he isn’t guilty of murder. Eventually Lord Peter finds out what happened that night.

Lord Peter does get shot while investigating Lady Mary’s affairs (no pun intended) but recovers quickly.

He and Bunter also get lost in the fog on the moor, and Lord Peter becomes entrapped in a bog. It’s an incredibly moody, thought-provoking sequence.

Lord Peter eventually finds evidence and a witness to prove that his brother isn’t guilty and brings the evidence to the House of Lords at the last minute. As Gerald, Duke of Denver, and Lord Peter leave the House of Lords, they are attacked by an assassin in a confusing sequence, but the assassin is killed in the end and no one else is seriously hurt.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The characters are great and the mood – the sense of time and place – is perfect. Highly recommended.

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