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Thrones, Dominations (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane) Paperback – September 4, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 208 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Asked by her new husband, the gentleman detective Lord Peter Wimsey, why she is having trouble writing her latest mystery novel, Harriet Vane explains, "When I needed the money, it justified itself. It was a job of work, and I did it as well as I could, and that was that. But now, you see, it has no necessity except itself. And, of course, it's hard; it's always been hard, and it's getting harder. So when I'm stuck I think, this isn't my livelihood, and it isn't great art, it's only detective stories. You read them and write them for fun." Is this a clue to the mystery of why Dorothy L. Sayers put aside her 13th full-length Lord Peter novel in 1938 and never finished it? She had made lots of money, and was much more interested in translating Dante and writing about religion. Or is it another excellent novelist, Jill Paton Walsh, speculating--in a perfect imitation of Sayers's voice--on what might have happened? Walsh was invited by the estate of Sayers's illegitimate son, Anthony Fleming, to finish Thrones, Dominations. She has done a splendid job, certain to please Sayers loyalists on the "dorothyl" listserv as well as those new to the Wimsey canon. Lord Peter has been made much more human and interesting by marriage; Harriet is a wise and acerbic companion; and the story, about the murders of two beautiful young women involved with a theatrical producer, is full of twists and connivance. There's also a fascinating subplot involving the soon-to-abdicate King Edward VII and a country on the brink of World War II. Earlier Wimseys in paperback include The Five Red Herrings, Gaudy Night, Murder Must Advertise, and Unnatural Death. Books in print by Walsh include a mystery called A Piece of Justice and a novel, The Serpentine Cave. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

After Sayers married off Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Busman's Honeymoon (1937), she devoted herself to translating Dante's Divine Comedy. A few short stories later appeared, noting the arrival of three Wimsey sons, and there was a rumor that suggested Sayers had another Wimsey novel in the works. Forty years after Sayers's death, that book has been triumphantly completed by British novelist Walsh (a 1994 Booker Prize finalist for Knowledge of Angels), following the original outline. If it is true that Sayers wrote the beginning, Walsh has done her predecessor a great service. Once the cast and context are established through some long exposition, the pace picks up, particularly after theatrical producer Laurence Harwell, an acquaintance of the Wimseys, discovers his cherished wife Rosamund strangled. As the nation mourns the death of King George V, upper-class women purchase black wardrobes, some of which are augmented with stylish white collars, an element which later figures as a clue. Germany invades the Rhineland. Uncrowned, Edward VIII continues to socialize with Nazis and to rendezvous with Mrs. Simpson. Lord Peter is recruited to persuade Edward to accept his responsibilities, but abdication is inevitable. The mystery involves two cases of blackmail as well as a second murder. Despite a large cast of suspects, ranging from two inept felons to a society portrait painter, every lead seems to come to a dead end. Typical of Sayers's novels, the solution derives from coincidences and some awkward plot devices. But readers have always turned to her mysteries for other reasons, such as the way Peter and Harriet settle the tumult four months of marriage has visited upon them. Harriet uncomfortably accepts her position as Lady Peter, with money and servants, while maintaining her independent identity as a mystery writer. In fact, her discussion of a plot problem with Peter helps him break a suspect's alibi. Sayers fans will relish the cooperative sleuthing of Peter, Harriet and the self-effacing Bunter as Walsh deftly captures and subtley updates the spirit of the series, endowing the iconic characters with additional depth and complexity.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250017432
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250017437
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
With the exception of her Dante translation, I have devoured virtually Dorothy Sayers' entire output, mystery and theology. I believe divine Dottie is the most brilliant woman produced by the 20th century, and I look upon Lord Peter and Harriet Vane with near-worship, as my favorite literary couple, with Darcy and Lizzie running a close second.

If Jill Paton Walsh had written nothing else, this would stand as a career-defining triumph. I was incredulous when another Sayers aficianado told me that an Oxford alum had mustered the overweening chutzpah to touch divine Dottie and finish "Thrones, Dominations." It would not (and could not) be "The Nine Tailors" or "Gaudy Night"--Dottie herself was growing bored with Lord Peter by the time she novelized the play "Busman's Honeymoon" and could not have approached the brilliance of either masterpiece, even if she had lived to complete the novel herself. But I was floored, positively floored, by Walsh's accomplishment. As the concluding Author's Note states, Sayers' "Gaudy Night" inspired Walsh to go to Oxford, and this is Walsh's thank-you, a painstaking labor of love.

In "Thrones, Dominations," the almost idyllic Wimsey union is paralleled by a more troubled, more forced, more fake marriage between a shallow, stupid beauty (think Dian Momerie of Peter's former acquaintance) and a theatre man--until the shallow beauty, whom the brilliant, honest Harriet was attempting to befriend with predictable difficulty, turns up dead. The ensuing mystery unfolds with Sayeresque twists and turns, and Walsh can be forgiven for not bewildering the reader with several apparently airtight alibis and plausible murderers, as Sayers and only a handful of other mystery writers have been able to do.

How did Walsh do it?
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I finished reading the last page of the last Lord Peter story I was sad because there weren't anymore and since Ms Sayers had died there weren't going to be anymore. I was delighted when I discovered that someone had picked up the story. Is Ms Walsh's writing just the same as Ms Sayers? No, of course not, but she does have a good feel for the subject, I enjoyed THRONES, DOMINATIONS greatly.
The story picks up a few months after BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON. Lord Peter and Harriet have returned to their London residence, Harriet is still trying to adjust to her new lifestyle and both are struggling with Peter's family. A murder takes place involving a young couple with which they are acquainted. Peter and Parker solve the crime with the assistance of Harriet and Bunter.
The scenes of the Wimseys' domestic life are wonderful, and well written. Harriet finally standing up to her overbearing sister-in-law is fantastic! There are many delightful journal enteries from the Dowager Duchess as well as scenes with many old friends from previous novels.
The flaws I found were really more in the editing than the writing. Some passages could have been trimmed a bit, perhaps others even eliminated since fans of Lord Peter and Harriet Vane really don't need to be reminded of the back story. More details about the time period, particularly Edward and Mrs Simpson, the rise of Hitler and the changing of societal rules were added in this work than in the original stories but Ms Sayers was writing for a contemporary audience while Ms Walsh's readers are separated from the era by seventy years.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm giving this book five stars not because it's any rival to "Crime and Punishment", but because the critical reviews are so completely off base. Paton Walsh's writing style is in many ways an improvement on Sayers, who too often in her later books allowed her characters to natter on ad nauseam in an annoyingly twee, look-how-learned-I-am fashion. In terms of Wimsey-Vane character development and plotting, "Thrones, Dominations" is head and shoulders above "Have His Carcase" and on a par with "Strong Poison", if not "Gaudy Night" which admittedly stands alone. Paton Walsh also skillfully and entertainingly weaves in pre-WW II British and European politics -- e.g. the death of George V, the fascinating dilemmas posed by Edward VIII, etc. -- which Sayers herself referred to only vaguely, most often as a way to get Lord Peter out of the country and delay the solution of the mystery du jour. One suspects Sayers was bored by the events of the day; Paton Walsh is anything but, and the new dimension adds richness and interest.
Oh yes -- the mystery itself isn't half bad (LOVE that walk through the London sewers!)
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Format: Hardcover
Just as a forged painting is ultimately recognized as a product of its own time, every completion or pastiche of a dead author's work reveals itself as of our time. "Thrones, Dominations" is no exception. A few examples: There are too many mentions of genuine 1930's historical figures, something Dorothy Sayers rarely did. The language slips occasionally; would Lord Peter really say that London is not someone's "scene"? Jill Paton Walsh also doesn't take the class system of prewar England seriously enough; I doubt if Lord Peter would ask any young actor to call him "Peter" on the strength of a few minutes' acquaintance. Nonetheless, for a fan who has read Dorothy Sayers again and again over the last 30 years, this book is far better than nothing - certainly closer to the real thing than I had imagined anyone getting. And it does have some wonderful things. Best new idea: That Bunter is a high Anglican. Best new character: Mango. Best capturing of the "real voice": The Dowager Duchess. If you are a Dorothy Sayers fan, you should read it. If you are not yet a fan, don't start with this. Try "Whose Body" or "Murder Must Advertise". But get around to this one.
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