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Comment: This item is in good condition. All pages and covers are readable. There are no stains or tears. Dust jacket is present if applicable. May contain small amounts of writing and/or highlighting. Spine and cover may show signs of wear. May not contain supplementary items. We ship within 1 business day. Big Hearted Books shares its profits with schools, churches and non-profit groups throughout New England. Thank you for your support!
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A Presumption of Death (Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane) Paperback – November 27, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 150 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her second Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane whodunit, Booker Prize finalist Walsh (Knowledge of Angels) does a far better job of honoring Sayers than she did in their first posthumous collaboration, Thrones, Dominations (1998). Walsh's starting point here is "The Wimsey Papers," a series of letters on home front conditions, ostensibly written by various members of the Wimsey family, which ran in the Spectator at the outset of WWII. Lord Peter himself is offstage for most of the novel, involved in some covert mission in Europe, leaving his wife to take care of their household. When a young Land Girl is found murdered during an air raid, the local superintendent enlists Harriet's aid. Harriet's traditional line of inquiry into possible spurned suitors is diverted when an eccentric and seemingly paranoid dentist discloses that the quiet, ordinary village of Paggleham is actually a nest of German spies. Despite Peter's diminished role, he remains a vital presence throughout, thanks to his place at the center of Harriet's thoughts. Should Walsh have no further original Sayers material to draw on, she seems perfectly suited to continue the series entirely on her own.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In 1939–40, a series of letters, ostensibly written by Dorothy L. Sayers’ beloved characters, were published in The Spectator. Walsh has taken these letters and transformed them into an absolutely top-notch tale of what Lord Peter, Lady Harriet, and their extended families were doing at that time. Walsh captures voice and spirit and locale with vividness and pathos: Harriet is at Talboys with her two boys and three nieces and nephews; Peter and his gentleman’s gentleman Bunter are abroad on a secret mission; war work, rationing, and billeting of children and soldiers mingle with the quotidian countryside life. How Harriet handles the incredible task of managing life, children, and estate in wartime is gracefully portrayed and fascinating. How much she misses Peter catches the heart, especially when a cipher is brought to her, upon which his safety depends, that only she can unravel. There is a murder during a practice air raid. Bunter returns, exhausted and alone. The older children struggle with a crystal radio set. Harriet focuses her fierce intelligence on writing up, for Peter, the myriad clues about the murdered woman, and when he returns, they find resolution in a most unexpected series of ways. The details about life in wartime Britain are fascinating and rich with the warmth of reality. Longtime Sayers devotees will find references to many earlier cases expertly woven through the text. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (November 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250017440
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250017444
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Pen VINE VOICE on April 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've been a Sayers fan for many years, read all the novels and stories at least a couple times, and given scholarly papers on Sayers at conferences. I even named my youngest son Peter. I've never been able to get through "Thrones, Dominations," the first Wimsey book mostly by Walsh, as what I love most about Sayers is not the plotting (it's not all that believable, frankly), but the delightful writing, witty and full of literary allusions most people don't catch (for example, there are allusions to Gilbert and Sullivan scattered through nearly every book). It seemed to me that Walsh failed to capture Sayers' tone, feel, sound. I couldn't bear it.

I haven't read "A Presumption of Death," but rather listened to the unabridged CDs read by Edward Petherbridge (a wonderful reading). I was delighted to find that at last Walsh seems to have captured Sayers. Indeed, she seems almost to be channeling Sayers. Time after time I found myself saying, "Yes, that's how Sayers would have written that sentence. That's where the plot would have gone." I felt like Walsh had actually bothered to READ Sayers' other books at last. Of course, this doesn't read like the early Wimsey novels, but it does read like a logical extension of "Busman's Honeymoon," with less detecting and more relationship and family matters. Walsh does an especially nice job capturing the Duke of Denver, the Duchess, and the Dowager Duchess. If you couldn't stand "Thrones, Dominations" but love Sayers, do give this one a try. And if you loved Petherbridge as the ultimate Wimsey on TV and lament his passing, do have a listen to his reading of this. It's a treat.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read somewhere that Jill Paton Walsh was such a fan of Harriet Vane's that "Gaudy Night" inspired her to attend Oxford.

That's a wonderful little detail, and I love hearing stuff like that. But unfortunately for me as a Lord Peter Wimsey fan, it seems that Walsh's identification with Harriet means that Lord Peter is being winnowed out of her version of Sayers's stories almost completely.

So once again, as with "Thrones, Dominations," we have a solid, competently written book that doesn't feel much like part of the "Lord Peter" series except in name only. Most of the book takes place in WWII England, at Talboys (Harriet's childhood home, and the setting of "Busman's Honeymoon"), and Peter is absent for most of the book, off on mysterious wartime missions.

I really felt like this Harriet-centric narrative device was a mistake. We're left with Harriet's rather straightforward, plainer personality, and without even a little of the Wimsey sparkle, the book drags for long sections. The only relief is a surprisingly enjoyable portrait of Bunter, whose character is believably expanded and who is one of the book's bright spots. But nobody else really feels like themselves. Harriet is more humorless than ever, Kirk and Twitterton are both rather grim and seem to return just for fan-service (and they're completely unlike their "Busman's Honeymoon" selves).
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Format: Hardcover
The plot of A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH is relatively simple. The time is 1939 and England is at war. Lord Peter Wimsey is off doing his duty while his wife Harriet Vane --- mother, mystery writer and involved citizen --- has fled to the English countryside with her children and their cousins. After a practice air raid drill, a young woman of questionable virtue is found dead. Superintendent Kirk of the local constabulary calls upon Harriett to help solve the murder. Lord Peter usually undertakes this kind of investigation, but he is unavailable and a dead girl's killer must be found. "I don't know which way to turn, Lady Peter, and that's the truth," says Kirk, when he proposes that Harriet help him. She reluctantly agrees to step in: "It isn't easy � [s]tanding in for Peter", but this is "� in various ways what I seem to be for, at the moment."
That particular murder is the epicenter around which Jill Paton Walsh builds her tale. She uses the "Wimsey Papers", a collection of works that Dorothy L. Sayers had published in The Spectator in the 1930s and 1940s. These papers comprise a series of letters written by the Wimsey family to each other and to friends. They become the voices of the characters, both familiar and new, that Sayers wrote about. Walsh comments: "In A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH all I had to use were propaganda letters, and so I had a completely free hand with the plot."
To recreate Harriet Vane in A PRESUMPTION OF DEATH, Walsh says, " � [Sayers] didn't exactly promote Harriet, who is not, by any means, an idealized character. Just compare her with Peter. Look how grumpy she is, how bad-tempered, how sometimes cool she is. She's not beautiful, and has a hard, chilly-eyed view of life. And that's what gives her [a] convincing quality.
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