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About the Author
Date of Birth:June 13, 1893
Date of Death:December 17, 1957
Place of Birth:Oxford, England
Education:B.A., Oxford University, 1915; M.A., B.C.L., 1920
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Clouds of Witness
A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery
By Dorothy L. Sayers
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1927 The Dial Press, Inc.
All rights reserved.
"Of His Malice Aforethought"
O, who hath done this deed?
Lord Peter Wimsey stretched himself luxuriously between the sheets provided by the Hôtel Meurice. After his exertions in the unravelling of the Battersea Mystery, he had followed Sir Julian Freke's advice and taken a holiday. He had felt suddenly weary of breakfasting every morning before his view over the Green Park; he had realised that the picking up of first editions at sales afforded insufficient exercise for a man of thirty-three; the very crimes of London were over-sophisticated. He had abandoned his flat and his friends and fled to the wilds of Corsica. For the last three months he had forsworn letters, newspapers, and telegrams. He had tramped about the mountains, admiring from a cautious distance the wild beauty of Corsican peasant-women, and studying the vendetta in its natural haunt. In such conditions murder seemed not only reasonable, but lovable. Bunter, his confidential man and assistant sleuth, had nobly sacrificed his civilised habits, had let his master go dirty and even unshaven, and had turned his faithful camera from the recording of finger-prints to that of craggy scenery. It had been very refreshing.
Now, however, the call of the blood was upon Lord Peter. They had returned late last night in a vile train to Paris, and had picked up their luggage. The autumn light, filtering through the curtains, touched caressingly the silver-topped bottles on the dressing-table, outlined an electric lampshade and the shape of the telephone. A noise of running water near by proclaimed that Bunter had turned on the bath (h. & c.) and was laying out scented soap, bath-salts, the huge bath-sponge, for which there had been no scope in Corsica, and the delightful flesh-brush with the long handle, which rasped you so agreeably all down the spine. "Contrast," philosophised Lord Peter sleepily, "is life. Corsica—Paris—then London ... Good morning, Bunter."
"Good morning, my lord. Fine morning, my lord. Your lordship's bath-water is ready."
"Thanks," said Lord Peter. He blinked at the sunlight.
It was a glorious bath. He wondered, as he soaked in it, how he could have existed in Corsica. He wallowed happily and sang a few bars of a song. In a soporific interval he heard the valet de chambre bringing in coffee and rolls. Coffee and rolls! He heaved himself out with a splash, towelled himself luxuriously, enveloped his long-mortified body in a silken bathrobe, and wandered back.
To his immense surprise he perceived Mr. Bunter calmly replacing all the fittings in his dressing-case. Another astonished glance showed him the bags—scarcely opened the previous night—repacked, relabelled, and standing ready for a journey.
"I say, Bunter, what's up?" said his lordship. "We're stayin' here a fortnight y'know."
"Excuse me, my lord," said Mr. Bunter, deferentially, "but, having seen The Times (delivered here every morning by air, my lord; and very expeditious I'm sure, all things considered), I made no doubt your lordship would be wishing to go to Riddlesdale at once."
"Riddlesdale!" exclaimed Peter. "What's the matter? Anything wrong with my brother?"
For answer Mr. Bunter handed him the paper, folded open at the heading:
RIDDLESDALE INQUEST. DUKE OF DENVER ARRESTED ON MURDER CHARGE.
Lord Peter stared as if hypnotised.
"I thought your lordship wouldn't wish to miss anything," said Mr. Bunter, "so I took the liberty—"
Lord Peter pulled himself together.
"When's the next train?" he asked.
"I beg your lordship's pardon—I thought your lordship would wish to take the quickest route. I took it on myself to book two seats in the aeroplane Victoria. She starts at 11:30."
Lord Peter looked at his watch.
"Ten o'clock," he said. "Very well. You did quite right. Dear me! Poor old Gerald arrested for murder. Uncommonly worryin' for him, poor chap. Always hated my bein' mixed up with police-courts. Now he's there himself. Lord Peter Wimsey in the witness-box—very distressin' to feelin's of a brother. Duke of Denver in the dock—worse still. Dear me! Well, I suppose one must have breakfast."
"Yes, my lord. Full account of the inquest in the paper, my lord."
"Yes. Who's on the case, by the way?"
"Mr. Parker, my lord."
"Parker? That's good. Splendid old Parker! Wonder how he managed to get put on to it. How do things look, Bunter?"
"If I may say so, my lord, I fancy the investigations will prove very interesting. There are several extremely suggestive points in the evidence, my lord."
"From a criminological point of view I daresay it is interesting," replied his lordship, sitting down cheerfully to his café au lait, "but it's deuced awkward for my brother, all the same, havin' no turn for criminology, what?"
"Ah, well!" said Mr. Bunter, "they say, my lord, there's nothing like having a personal interest."
"The inquest was held to-day at Riddlesdale, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, on the body of Captain Denis Cathcart, which was found at three o'clock on Thursday morning lying just outside the conservatory door of the Duke of Denver's shooting-box, Riddlesdale Lodge. Evidence was given to show that deceased had quarrelled with the Duke of Denver on the preceding evening, and was subsequently shot in a small thicket adjoining the house. A pistol belonging to the Duke was found near the scene of the crime. A verdict of murder was returned against the Duke of Denver. Lady Mary Wimsey, sister of the Duke, who was engaged to be married to the deceased, collapsed after giving evidence, and is now lying seriously ill at the Lodge. The Duchess of Denver hastened from town yesterday and was present at the inquest. Full report on p. 12."
"Poor old Gerald!" thought Lord Peter, as he turned to page 12; "and poor old Mary! I wonder if she really was fond of the fellow. Mother always said not, but Mary never would let on about herself."
The full report began by describing the little village of Riddlesdale, where the Duke of Denver had recently taken a small shooting-box for the season. When the tragedy occurred the Duke had been staying there with a party of guests. In the Duchess's absence Lady Mary Wimsey had acted as hostess. The other guests were Colonel and Mrs. Marchbanks, the Hon. Frederick Arbuthnot, Mr. and Mrs. Pettigrew-Robinson, and the dead man, Denis Cathcart.
The first witness was the Duke of Denver, who claimed to have discovered the body. He gave evidence that he was coming into the house by the conservatory door at three o'clock in the morning of Thursday, October 14th, when his foot struck against something. He had switched on his electric torch and seen the body of Denis Cathcart at his feet. He had at once turned it over, and seen that Cathcart had been shot in the chest. He was quite dead. As Denver was bending over the body, he heard a cry in the conservatory, and, looking up, saw Lady Mary Wimsey gazing out horror-struck. She came out by the conservatory door, and exclaimed at once, "O God, Gerald, you've killed him!" (Sensation.)
The Coroner: "Were you surprised by that remark?"
Duke of D.: "Well, I was so shocked and surprised at the whole thing. I think I said to her, 'Don't look,' and she said, 'Oh, it's Denis! Whatever can have happened? Has there been an accident?' I stayed with the body, and sent her up to rouse the house."
The Coroner: "Did you expect to see Lady Mary Wimsey in the conservatory?"
Duke of D.: "Really, as I say, I was so astonished all round, don't you know, I didn't think about it."
The Coroner: "Do you remember how she was dressed?"
Duke of D.: "I don't think she was in her pyjamas." (Laughter.) "I think she had a coat on."
The Coroner: "I understand that Lady Mary Wimsey was engaged to be married to the deceased?"
Duke of D.: "Yes."
The Coroner: "He was well known to you?"
Duke of D.: "He was the son of an old friend of my father's; his parents are dead. I believe he lived chiefly abroad. I ran across him during the war, and in 1919 he came to stay at Denver. He became engaged to my sister at the beginning of this year."
The Coroner: "With your consent, and with that of the family?"
Duke of D.: "Oh, yes, certainly."
The Coroner: "What kind of man was Captain Cathcart?"
Duke of D. : "Well—he was a Sahib and all that. I don't know what he did before he joined in 1914. I think he lived on his income; his father was well off. Crack shot, good at games, and so on. I never heard anything against him—till that evening."
The Coroner: "What was that?"
Duke of D.: "Well—the fact is—it was deuced queer. He—If anybody but Tommy Freeborn had said it I should never have believed it." (Sensation.)
The Coroner: "I'm afraid I must ask your grace of what exactly you had to accuse the deceased."
Duke of D. : "Well, I didn't—I don't—exactly accuse him. An old friend of mine made a suggestion. Of course I thought it must be all a mistake, so I went to Cathcart, and, to my amazement, he practically admitted it! Then we both got angry, and he told me to go to the devil, and rushed out of the house." (Renewed sensation.)
The Coroner: "When did this quarrel occur?"
Duke of D.: "On Wednesday night. That was the last I saw of him." (Unparalleled sensation.)
The Coroner: "Please, please, we cannot have this disturbance. Now, will your grace kindly give me, as far as you can remember it, the exact history of this quarrel?"
Duke of D.: "Well, it was like this. We'd had a long day on the moors and had dinner early, and about half-past nine we began to feel like turning in. My sister and Mrs. Pettigrew-Robinson toddled on up, and we were havin' a last peg in the billiard-room when Fleming—that's my man—came in with the letters. They come rather any old time in the evening, you know, we being two and a half miles from the village. No—I wasn't in the billiard-room at the time—I was lockin' up the gun-room. The letter was from an old friend of mine I hadn't seen for years—Tom Freeborn—used to know him at the House—"
The Coroner: "Whose house?"
Duke of D.: "Oh, Christ Church, Oxford. He wrote to say he'd seen the announcement of my sister's engagement in Egypt."
The Coroner: "In Egypt?"
Duke of D.: "I mean, he was in Egypt—Tom Freeborn, you see—that's why he hadn't written before. He engineers. He went out there after the war was over, you see, and, bein' somewhere up near the sources of the Nile, he doesn't get the papers regularly. He said, would I 'scuse him for interferin' in a very delicate matter, and all that, but did I know who Cathcart was? Said he'd met him in Paris during the war, and he lived by cheatin' at cards—said he could swear to it, with details of a row there'd been in some French place or other. Said he knew I'd want to chaw his head off—Freeborn's, I mean—for buttin' in, but he'd seen the man's photo in the paper, an' he thought I ought to know."
The Coroner: "Did this letter surprise you?"
Duke of D.: "Couldn't believe it at first. If it hadn't been old Tom Freeborn I'd have put the thing in the fire straight off, and, even as it was, I didn't quite know what to think. I mean, it wasn't as if it had happened in England, you know. I mean to say, Frenchmen get so excited about nothing. Only there was Freeborn, and he isn't the kind of man that makes mistakes."
The Coroner: "What did you do?"
Duke of D.: "Well, the more I looked at it the less I liked it, you know. Still, I couldn't quite leave it like that, so I thought the best way was to go straight to Cathcart. They'd all gone up while I was sittin' thinkin' about it, so I went up and knocked at Cathcart's door. He said, 'What's that?' or 'Who the devil's that?' or somethin' of the sort, and I went in. 'Look here,' I said, 'can I just have a word with you?' 'Well, cut it short, then,' he said. I was surprised—he wasn't usually rude. 'Well,' I said, 'fact is, I've had a letter I don't much like the look of, and I thought the best thing to do was to bring it straight away to you an' have the whole thing cleared up. It's from a man—a very decent sort—old college friend, who says he's met you in Paris.' 'Paris!' he said, in a most uncommonly unpleasant way. 'Paris! What the hell do you want to come talkin' to me about Paris for?' 'Well,' I said, 'don't talk like that, because it's misleadin' under the circumstances.' 'What are you drivin' at?' says Cathcart. 'Spit it out and go to bed, for God's sake.' I said, 'Right oh! I will. It's a man called Freeborn, who says he knew you in Paris and that you made money cheatin' at cards.' I thought he'd break out at that, but all he said was, 'What about it?' 'What about it?' I said. 'Well, of course, it's not the sort of thing I'm goin' to believe like that, right bang-slap off, without any proofs.' Then he said a funny thing. He said, 'Beliefs don't matter—it's what one knows about people.' 'Do you mean to say you don't deny it?' I said. 'It's no good my denying it,' he said; 'you must make up your own mind. Nobody could disprove it.' And then he suddenly jumped up, nearly knocking the table over, and said, 'I don't care what you think or what you do, if you'll only get out. For God's sake leave me alone!' 'Look here,' I said, 'you needn't take it that way. I don't say I do believe it—in fact,' I said, 'I'm sure there must be some mistake; only, you bein' engaged to Mary,' I said, 'I couldn't just let it go at that without looking into it, could I?' 'Oh!' says Cathcart, 'if that's what's worrying you, it needn't. That's off.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'Our engagement.' 'Off?' I said. 'But I was talking to Mary about it only yesterday.' 'I haven't told her yet,' he said. 'Well,' I said, 'I think that's damned cool. Who the hell do you think you are, to come here and jilt my sister?' Well, I said quite a lot, first and last. 'You can get out,' I said; 'I've no use for swine like you.' 'I will,' he said, and he pushed past me an' slammed downstairs and out of the front door, an' banged it after him."
The Coroner: "What did you do?"
Duke of D.: "I ran into my bedroom, which has a window over the conservatory, and shouted to him not to be a silly fool. It was pourin' with rain and beastly cold. He didn't come back, so I told Fleming to leave the conservatory door open—in case he thought better of it—and went to bed."
The Coroner: "What explanation can you suggest for Cathcart's behaviour?"
Duke of D.: "None. I was simply staggered. But I think he must somehow have got wind of the letter, and knew the game was up."
The Coroner: "Did you mention the matter to anybody else?"
Duke of D.: "No. It wasn't pleasant, and I thought I'd better leave it till the morning."
The Coroner: "So you did nothing further in the matter?"
Duke of D.: "No. I didn't want to go out huntin' for the fellow. I was too angry. Besides, I thought he'd change his mind before long—it was a brute of a night and he'd only a dinner-jacket."
The Coroner: "Then you just went quietly to bed and never saw deceased again?"
Duke of D.: "Not till I fell over him outside the conservatory at three in the morning."
The Coroner: "Ah yes. Now can you tell us how you came to be out of doors at that time?"
Duke of D. (hesitating): "I didn't sleep well. I went out for a stroll."
The Coroner: "At three o'clock in the morning?"
Duke of D.: "Yes." With sudden inspiration: "You see, my wife's away." (Laughter and some remarks from the back of the room.)
The Coroner: "Silence, please.... You mean to say that you got up at that hour of an October night to take a walk in the garden in the pouring rain?"
Duke of D.: "Yes, just a stroll." (Laughter.)
The Coroner: "At what time did you leave your bedroom?"
Duke of D.: "Oh—oh, about half-past two, I should think."
The Coroner: "Which way did you go out?"
Duke of D.: "By the conservatory door."
The Coroner: "The body was not there when you went out?"
Duke of D.: "Oh, no!"
The Coroner: "Or you would have seen it?"
Duke of D.: "Lord, yes! I'd have had to walk over it."
The Coroner: "Exactly where did you go?"
Duke of D. (vaguely): "Oh, just round about."
The Coroner: "You heard no shot?"
Duke of D.: "No."
The Coroner: "Did you go far away from the conservatory door and the shrubbery?"
Duke of D.: "Well—I was some way away. Perhaps that's why I didn't hear anything. It must have been."
The Coroner: "Were you as much as a quarter of a mile away?"
Duke of D.: "I should think I was—oh, yes, quite!"
Excerpted from Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers. Copyright © 1927 The Dial Press, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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In sum, as tale spinning and as ingenious detection, it is admirable.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a long time Dorothy L. Sayers fan, I was delighted to find Lord Peter Wimsey available on my Nook. I just wish the later ones were there, as well. Clouds of Witness is the second Lord Peter book, which introduces the reader to Peter's family, as he is put in the unenviable position of seeing either his brother or his sister convicted of murder. This book also opens the door for other important people to Peter being charged with the heinous crimes which he and his "sidekick" butler are so adept at unraveling. Sayers is first a notable academic and translator, so her diction and syntax are complex at times; thus, she teaches as well as entertains. Additionally, I've often wished I had taken French rather than Spanish when reading her books, but the Latin roots and cognates usually get me past when mere context clues fail. I cannot recommend strongly enough for the mystery lover to indulge him/herself in all of Dorothy L. Sayers' books. Please, please Nook people--work on getting Gaudy Night and the other later books out in electronic form--my paperbacks are wearing out!
Sayers' 2nd of the Lord Peter Whimsy stories is a great read. This Nook edition is also easy to read (formatted well), which is an issue I've had with other classics of similar price. If you are a fan of mystery, this book will not disappoint!
This was my first introduction to Dorothy Sayers and the world of Lord Peter. I found myself looking for more by this author, and have been hooked ever since.
I love Lord Peter Wimsey, he has an incredible sense of wrong and right, of honor and love of family. He finds that his brother has been accused of murder and jailed. Lord Peter drops everything and rushes to investigate. His brother refuses to talk,so he does it his way. This is a true British mystery which I love. ***I received this book in exchange for an honest review***
I have pruchased and read the Lord Peter Whimsey books since 1970 and still love to reread them on my nook, keeping them for revisiting! We lost a great writer when she turned to religious writing, but her biographer is also tlented and has fleshed out her WW IIabd after outlines richly and well.
I first read this 35 years ago and immediately read the rest of the series. Set in England just after WWI with well-drawn characters from all levels of society. Lord Peter and his valet Bunter are classic Amateur Sleuths. If you like Agatha Christie's early work give Sayers a try.
readers who enjoy well written british mysteries will enjoy dorothy sayre.the books are set in england after world warone, so readers getsome history also. A very enjoyable read!
Acclaimed for his portrayals of Lord Peter Wimsey on BBC, Ian Carmichael is the ideal voice for this story. As the London Daily Express put it he plays Wimsey so perfectly that 'Sayers might have created Wimsey just so Carmichael could portray him.' Dorothy Sayers (1893 - 1957) is surely one of the most popular mystery writers of all time. Today, some years after her death, her stories continue to be widely read. With 'Clouds of Witness' her protagonist Lord Peter Wimsey is called upon to investigate the death of his sister's fiancé. At least it may have been a fragrant departure as the recently murdered was found dead among the chrysanthemums, sartorially perfect in dinner jacket and slippers. Most shocking is the fact that Sir Peter's brother, the Duke of Denver, stands accused. Surely that cannot be so. Sir Peter begins his own investigation in order to save his brother. As is often the case, Sayers creates a surprising courtroom scene and Carmichael reads it with gusto.
Another fun British murder mystery, the second I've read with Lord Peter Wimsey. Getting to be familiar with the characters, most of whom are pretty likeable, even though they are British aristocrats. This was a good plane ride book!
Clouds of Witness is one of Dorothy Sayers¿s earlier Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. It¿s definitely not as good as Murder Must Advertise, or The Nine Tailors, but it certainly shows some promise.Having just spent time abroad in Corsica, Lord Peter Wimsey returns to find that his brother Gerald, the Duke of Denver, has been accused of the murder of one of his houseguests at Riddlesdale Lodge, a house rented for the hunting season. The murdered man was Lord Peter and the Duke¿s brother-in-law-to-be¿so Lord Peter intervenes in what promises to be a sticky mess. It turns out that a lot of people are guilty of a lot of things, and it¿s up to Wimsey to sort things out. What I love about this book is that you know who didn¿t do it¿the fun is in figuring out who did.This book (the second Sayers wrote about Lord Peter, actually) isn¿t as strong as some of her later books, but it¿s pretty good nonetheless. The identification of the murderer isn¿t as important here, though, as is a major twist that¿s revealed near the end. Lord Peter himself, with his unusual manner of speaking and varied pursuits, is an endearing character, and it¿s easy to see why Peter might have inspired many other gentleman-detectives in fiction (Inspector Linley from Elizabeth George¿s books). I thought that Lady Mary was one of the weaker characters (way too many dramatics for me). Clouds of Witness may be the second book in this series (after Whose Body?), but if you¿re new to the series, you may want to start with this one¿there¿s a lot more character development, as well as the introduction of some characters who make recurring appearances throughout the series.
This mystery with Lord Peter Wimsey and his valet, Bunter, has them working diligently to clear Lord Peter's brother (the Duke of Denver) of a murder charge. The characters include not only the Duke of Denver, but Peter's sister Lady Mary, his Mother the dowager Duchess, colorful villagers, and a few political malcontents.Again this mystery was written in the early part of the 20th century but it was still entertaining and challenging for the reader.
While not as wonderful Gaudy Night and Hangman's Holiday, Clouds of Witnesses, which follows Lord Peter Wimsey's investigation of the murder charge against his brother, will keep you turning pages. Sayers characterization is wonderful, as usual. Wimsey's brother, the Duke of Denver refuses to account for his whereabouts during the time of the murder; Wimsey's sister is obviously lying, and Wimsey's brother-in-law to be is the victim. An interesting development is that Detective Parker, Lord Wimsey's associate, reveals for the first time his attraction to Lady Mary, Lord Wimsey's sister.
Clouds of Witness, the second Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, brings the action close to home for the amateur detective. Peter¿s elder brother Gerald, the Duke of Denver, has been indicted for the murder of Denis Cathcart, who had been engaged to Peter¿s and Gerald¿s younger sister, Lady Mary. And that young woman isn¿t telling everything she knows, not by a long shot. Nor is Gerald, for that matter. Even the dead man has his secrets.Mysterious accomplices, ducal discretion, a brush with death in the peat bog, a final solution discovered by the most coincidental (providential?) means ¿ this is a Dorothy Sayers mystery and the characters all play up to their roles. Peter is, as always, the witty and disarming peer whom everyone underestimates. Parker is his faithful sidekick, willing to take on the drudge work but also quite a keen thinker himself. And don¿t forget the efficient Bunter, whose resemblance to Jeeves grows more and more pronounced every time I meet him.I¿m reading the series hopelessly out of order, and it is fun to see the early developments of later events (like in this book, the beginning of Parker¿s admiration of Lady Mary). Interesting too is Lord Peter¿s own development; his look of benign idiocy isn¿t quite perfected yet in this early story. But the Lord Peter/Parker partnership is well in hand, and the Dowager Duchess¿s brief appearances confirm her as one of the more delightful minor characters ever penned.Though this was an entertaining and well-written mystery, I didn¿t find it quite up to the best of the Lord Peter stories. But Sayers¿s average effort is another author¿s masterpiece, and there are few detectives I enjoy more than the intelligent and charming Lord Peter Wimsey. Recommended.
Lord Peter Wimsey's brother Gerald, the Duke of Denver, is arrested for the murder of Mr. Cathcart whose body was found at Riddlesdale Lodge on a night when the Duke had gone out. His brother refuses to talk. His sister is not telling the truth. Wimsey's adventure takes him to England, France, and America as he tries to clear his brother of the charges. There are a few almost comical moments in the book. I was a bit distracted as I read this book, but it was enjoyable.
I tried this second story hoping it would be better than the first. It was not. It was tiresome, and tedious. I will not be reading another.
Another excellent Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. As usual, it has a good mix of humor and seriousness, and I particularly enjoyed Parker in this one. There's a tendency in fiction about private detectives to portray the police as idiots, and there's a certain amount of that even in the Sayers mysteries, but I've always appreciated Inspector Parker. Parker is, of necessity, more stolid than Lord Peter and of course slightly less brilliant, but he's a very good, honest cop and often keeps Lord Peter from flying off into fantastical scenarios. I also got a huge giggle out of the chapter where Lord Peter meets his sister's "radical" friends.
Every now and then I have to have a visit with Lord Peter Wimsey. He is my favorite, bar none, detective. Archie Goodwin is second, for when I'm not feeling so refined.Read this book recently with a group and found it interesting how much character growth there is, and yet the characters are well established. We just get to know them better. Mostly the Wimsey family, but Parker, Bunter and Mr. Murbles, some of my favorite characters are given good play here.
Very witty and fun but I got lost with all the different characters and still can't figure out some of the plot.
A 200 page very well-written free English mystery book in the time after WWI with the second son Lord Peter Wimsey and his friend Police Detective Parker needing to prove the innocence of his brother Earl Denver in a murder at his hunting lodge. The narrative and dialog are all dated for that period of England after WW I in the various dialects of the regions. Shock, angst, deception, drama, humor, and mentions of romance. An enjoyable round of mystery.
Trifle dated for us today as the accepted mores were different one of the best for pure mystery and construction is whose body peters post war trama at that time was something not usually mentioned