October 28th, 2010


As My Whimsy Takes Me

If you really love Lord Peter Wimsey and the thought of Edward Petherbridge playing him makes you go weak at the knees, you grab a brand new Wimsey story when you see it at the library, even against your better judgement. I read Thrones, Dominations when it came out and can’t remember a thing about it. The Attenbury Emeralds is Jill Paton Walsh’s latest Wimsey sequel, ‘based on the characters of Dorothy L Sayers’. Lord Peter’s first case, the affair of the Attenbury Emeralds took place in 1921 when he was still in a shaky state after the First World War. Rather than go back in time, the author has Peter and Bunter relate the tale to Harriet in the present, which is 1951. One particular emerald has been missed, found and lost again, with probable murders along the way. The Moonstone is invoked, not surprisingly.

Just as a new emerald problem comes up for the latest Attenbury heir, other events bring great changes to the lives of Peter, Harriet and their children. It’s quite an interesting story but all so wrong. He may now be sixty but Lord Peter as created by Dorothy L Sayers just doesn’t fit a post-war world, even if times have changed and the Bunters dine with the Wimseys. This is the Lord Peter style,

not that I can see him wearing such a collar and tie. Putting in period details, like having Harriet say she has bought a new book by Elizabeth David ‘called Mediterranean Food’ is just clunky. So is having Harriet and Peter walking through a London fog and Peter saying, ‘They’ll have to do something about this.’ (The ‘Clean Air’ Act was passed in1956). The first person narration at the start of the book, Lord Peter Looks Back as it were, doesn’t work for me; nor does telling so much of the story from Harriet’s point of view. More detection and less domestic life would have pleased me better.

I do like the younger generation in this book. Bredon, the eldest son, is a real chip off the old block as is Peter Bunter, known as ‘PB’, who is at Eton with him. The Dowager Duchess is as nice and Helen as nasty as ever. Parker, Lady Mary, and old chum Freddy Arbuthnot have walk-on parts to please the fans. It’s still just fanfic which has found a publisher.

Wimsey with Harriet