The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh

Posted by Sherry on 9/15/2011 in 1921, 1950, 20th Century History Project, Adult Fiction |

Jill Paton Walsh has continued the story of Dorothy Sayers’ famous sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, in her books Thrones, Dominations and A Presumption of Death. These two bring the story into the early 1940s, while Paton Walsh’s third installment, The Attenbury Emeralds, takes place after World War II with Lord Peter and his wife, the famous mystery novelist Harriet Vane, dealing with post-war changes and reminiscing about the good old days of post-World War I Britain and Peter’s very first case.

So the book happens in two time periods, both post-war. As fans know, Lord Peter was quite torn up by his part in the Great War, and he only recovered with the help and ministrations of that perfect manservant, Mervyn Bunter. As The Attenbury Emeralds begins, Lord Peter is telling Harriet the story of how he rejoined society after the war (slowly and with much trepidation) and how he blundered into his first detective case, recovering a stolen emerald for his friends, the Attenbury family.

Jill Paton Walsh isn’t Dorothy Sayers, but she’s a good writer in her own right. She’s written several good children’s and young adult books, and if anyone can presume to extend the story of Lord Peter Wimsey, Ms. Walsh has made a good claim on the right to do so with her first two volumes. (I wrote a little about Walsh and Sayers and the Lord Peter books when I first discovered Ms. Walsh’s sequels back in 2004.)

There is a big change in store for Lord Peter in his personal and his public life in this book, and I think Ms. Walsh writes about Lord Peter’s later years (he’s sixty plus by the time this story takes place) convincingly, with respect for Sayers’ creation and with some charm. This older Peter Wimsey is not quite so tortured and emotional as the youthful Lord Peter was, but he’s still just a bit vulnerable and highly attractive.

I recommend all three sequels by Jill Paton Walsh, if you’ve read the original series by Dorothy Sayers and just can’t get enough of Lord Peter Wimsey and his family and his lovely wife, Harriet. If you haven’t read Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, you have a treat in store for you. Get thee to a library or bookstore and read. Here’s a chronology of the Lord Peter Wimsey stories and novels. I’d suggest that you start with the first novel, Whose Body?, and travel through the book-length stories, not worrying about the short stories unless you’re particularly fond of short stories.

1 Comment

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