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The Attenbury Emeralds: The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mysteries) Hardcover – January 4, 2011

Book 14 of 14 in the Lord Peter Wimsey Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Walsh triumphantly follows 2003's A Presumption of Death, inspired by some letters Dorothy Sayers wrote depicting Peter Wimsey during WWII, with a wholly original interpretation of Sayers's golden age characters. In 1921, while Lord Peter was still convalescing from the nervous breakdown he suffered from his time in the WWI trenches, the aristocrat got involved in finding missing emeralds belonging to the Attenbury family. Thirty years later, the current Lord Attenbury, who's in dire financial straits, wishes to sell one of the jewels, "the king-stone," but a shadowy claimant challenges his ownership of it. When Wimsey and his detective novelist wife, Harriet Vane, look into the dispute, they discovery a chain of murders related to the emeralds. Walsh successfully recreates the tone and personalities of the originals and plausibly depicts the main characters later in life. Fans of literate period mysteries will clamor for more. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* It is a dangerous thing to bring characters so distinctive and beloved as Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane into a new age, but Walsh manages it as she did in A Presumption of Death (2002), with delicacy and precision. Post-WWII England remains under rationing and economically troubled. Wimsey, at 60, is settled comfortably. Harriet is writing. Their three boys are at school along with Bunter and his photographer wife’s boy. Peter and Bunter recount to Harriet the tale of Peter’s very first case, the (missing) emeralds of the title, a rich and exotic story. What this allows Walsh to do is show how the characters have moved into a postwar and modern sensibility, elegantly extrapolating how Peter and Harriet would think and act. She marries this with the ping-pong of quotations and kernels of fact to which fans are accustomed. Just when one might think the tale will be elegiac and ruminating, it ramps up deliciously when the current Attenbury again seeks Wimsey’s aid in tracking an elusive emerald, one of three. There are murders, intrigue, and a family tragedy, and Peter and Harriet find themselves in a very different place in 1952. Small delights include glimpses of the three Wimsey sons, all bright and beautiful, and the loyal Bunter moving with changing mores but steadfast affection. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

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Product Details

  • Series: Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mysteries (Book 3)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312674546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312674540
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #591,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This story was captivating, with well-developed characters and a complex plot.
James L. Davis
The mysteries didn't seem very clear; even at the end, it doesn't really seem to be very satisfying.
Amazon Customer
Jill Paton Walsh does a creditable job of continuing the Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey series.
Ruth W. Zamierowski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

100 of 105 people found the following review helpful By S. Berner VINE VOICE on November 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are three questions that come to mind about a book like this. The first two are easy. One: Does it capture the "voice" of the original author? Two: Is it a good story on its own. The answer to both is a resounding YES! Lord Peter's adventure with the Attenbury Emeralds, a sort of "sequel" to his first case, (when he was a much younger man) is a rattling good mystery that easily occupies the top shelf of Sayers' related writing. But, then we come to the third question, and for this I must try to be a bit more... um... impartial. Three: Will today's readers want to read it? As a long-time Sayers (and later Walsh/Sayers fan) I WANT to say yes and, I think I can. BUT, be forewarned. The mysteries of the 30s, 40s, and 50s (in which era, by the way, the story takes place) were/are much more leisurely affairs. Especially the "British" style. One has to question whether Sayers, or Agatha Christie, or Ngaio Marsh, or Mary Roberts Rinehart (each quite different from the other, but whoppingly different from, say Reichs or Grafton) would be able to scale the heights they did, today. One hopes that they would. But, if you are a reader who requires constant movement, action, etc., and you can't lose yourself in such things as simple, CONVERSATION, this may not be the book for you. And you have my sympathy.
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81 of 86 people found the following review helpful By jjmachshev VINE VOICE on January 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I must begin this review of "The Attenbury Emeralds" by Jill Paton Walsh by stating up front what a huge Dorothy Sayers fan I am. I still remember reading my first 'Lord Peter' book as a teen and the pleasure I felt as I continued through her stories. I can also recall my sharp disappointment when I realized I'd read the entire series and Ms Sayers was no longer alive to continue! Then I happened upon Ms Walsh's "Thrones, Dominations" and eagerly read it. For those who don't know, "Thrones, Dominations" was an unfinished novel about Lord Peter and Harriet, begun by Ms Sayers but never finished. Ms Walsh was selected to flesh out/complete the novel, and it was published '98ish. I enjoyed TR and even read Walsh's next 'continuation' book, "A Presumption of Death", which used Sayers' "The Wimsey Papers" (a series of articles) as a springboard. With "The Attenbury Emeralds" Walsh is on her own...and, for me, it showed.

I won't detail the plot, there's plenty of info about that already; instead I'll try to explain what worked, and didn't, for me. In TAE, Peter and Harriet seemed distant, both to the reader and each other. I can't pinpoint whether this impression came from dialogue or scene setting or POV or pacing or maybe it was just a mixture of everything! But I didn't 'feel' much of ANYTHING and that bothers me. I also thought the author spent a bit too much time lamenting the demise of the British ton and its opulence/decadence. She did try to mitigate this by having Lord Peter's son be such a buddy with Bunter's son. Of course it's Peter and Harriet (titled) who think this friendship is a 'good thing'.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By James C. Hall on July 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I find myself conflicted in my opinion of this book. First, as considered solely as a mystery story, it is good; not great -- but there are very few of those -- but certainly good. A reasonably plausible situation, a clear and plausible back story, no misleading clues, no significant errors -- but also no real spark.

It is in dealing with the Wimsey family that I am both pleased and disappointed. The author does manage to continue the principle characters reasonably well; that is, their actions and reactions are not out of character with the persons created by Dorothy Sayres. And I will grant you, cheerfully, that doing even that well with Miss Sayres' characters is a remarkable achievement. I do have a reservation regarding the writing in that regard: Miss Sayres almost never found it necessary to add an adverb (e.g. "brightly", "sharply") to the he said/she said tags on dialogue; her dialogue spoke for itself. Miss Walsh does add adverbs, all too often -- and often unnecessarily, disturbing the flow. I am pleased by Miss Walsh's handling of the almost inevitable descent of the Dukedom on Lord Peter, she does, I think, rather well in outlining his reaction, and that of Harriet Vane, to that event.

But notice that I used the word "outlining": it is only my opinion -- and not being an author, it is perhaps impertinent of me to even comment on this -- that a great deal more insight could have been added into the reactions of both of them to this event, particularly to the impact that had on the estate. Miss Walsh gives only a very superficial treatment to the impact of the death of the 16th Duke on the estate itself, and on the reactions of Peter and Harriet that.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Linda Bulger VINE VOICE on December 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
British author Jill Paton Walsh got a dream assignment in 1996: completing Dorothy L. Sayers's last Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane novel from the manuscript and notes left by Sayers. The result ("Thrones, Dominations") was a great success, and Paton Walsh has now published her second solo Wimsey/Vane novel.

I've picked up each of these three novels with a bit of trepidation. How can anyone walk in the footsteps of the great Sayers? Will Wimsey still have his quick-witted charm, will Harriet still have his measure? How will they grow older together? "The Attenbury Emeralds" satisfies on all counts.

The story is a revisiting of Wimsey's first case. The troublesome emeralds, after behaving themselves for thirty years, have gone missing again ... or have they? Wimsey is recruited for his detecting skills by the new young Lord Attenbury. The story is certainly complex, if not as multi-layered as the original novels. I don't think anyone would read this book strictly for the sake of the mystery, and not at least partly for the iconic characters and relationships. With that in mind, I think the mystery is good enough.

The characters and relationships--what a challenge, bridging the huge gulf between the 1920s and the 1950s. The young bachelor Wimsey lived a life of privilege under the care of his man Bunter, wealthy and titled but with little risk of having to own the family title. Now thirty years later there is much less interest in the life of service, and the old class distinctions are crumbling around the edges. Wartime shortages persist long after the war's end. The old noble families are finding it hard--or impossible-- to hold on to their ancestral properties with the burden of death duties taking such a cruel toll.
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