Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

‘Does it occur to you that what’s the matter with this case is that there are too many clues? Dozens of people with secrets and elopements bargin’ about all over the place—’

‘I hate you, Peter,’ said Lady Mary.

The Duke of Denver, Lord Peter’s brother, has been accused of the murder of a house guest. He has no alibi and his statements are so contradictory that it really looks like he is in danger of being found guilty.

Luckily for him, Mr. Bunter, Lord Peter’s valet, has managed to find a current edition of The Times while with Peter in Corsica and promptly arranges for Peter’s return to the family home.

All I can say is that this book is even better on the second read. On the first read, I was so involved in the solving the mystery of who killed Cathcart, that I didn’t appreciate the all of the snippets of humour and wit that are strewn throughout this novel. Well, I did appreciate them, but not as much as I should have.

This book is a hoot.

But it is not just fun that makes me love the Wimsey clan. I also love the interaction between the characters – whether it is Bunter looking after Wimsey, Lady Mary stropping with Wimsey, Wimsey egging on poor love-sick Parker, or the Duchess calling them all to order.

And best of all, there is such a lovely spirit of the hopefulness and modernism of the 1920s in this. I really like this book and am so glad that I didn’t stop reading this series after the disappointment that was Whose Body?.

‘I think we may say we have made some progress,’ said Parker.

‘If only negatively,’ added Peter.

‘Exactly,’ said Sir Impey, turning on him with staggering abruptness. ‘Very negatively indeed. And, having seriously hampered the case for the defence, what are you going to do next?’

‘That’s a nice thing to say,’ cried Peter indignantly, ‘when we’ve cleared up such a lot of points for you!’

‘I daresay,’ said the barrister, ‘but they’re the sort of points which are much better left muffled up.’

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

‘Do you?’ said Sir Impey drily. ‘I don’t. I don’t care twopence 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. Here’s a client comes to me with a story of a quarrel, a suspicious revolver, a refusal to produce evidence of his statements, and a totally inadequate and idiotic alibi. I arrange to obfuscate the jury with mysterious footprints, a discrepancy as to time, a young woman with a secret, and a general vague suggestion of something between a burglary and a crime passionel. And here you come explaining the footprints, exculpating the unknown man, abolishing the discrepancies, clearing up the motives of the young woman, and most carefully throwing back suspicion to where it rested in the first place. What do you expect?’

‘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.’


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