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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh (based on characters from Dorothy Sayers)

The Late Scholar     

Jill Paton Walsh has taken up the gauntlet and continued the adventures of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.  It has been several years since I've read (or re-read) Sayers' original novels, so I quite enjoyed a reunion with these characters without being too critical.

Walsh has written her own detective fiction, children's books, and adult novels, including Knowledge of Angels which was shortlisted for the 1993 Booker Prize.

From Wikipedia:  In 1998, she won acclaim for her completion of Dorothy L. Sayers' unfinished Lord Peter WimseyHarriet Vane novel, Thrones, Dominations. In 2002, she followed this up with another Lord Peter novel, A Presumption of Death. In 2010, she published a third, The Attenbury Emeralds.[4] Her latest addition to the series, The Late Scholar, was published December 5, 2013 in the UK, and January 14 2014 in North America.[5]

The Late Scholar takes place after WWII, with an older Lord Peter Wimsey, now the Duke of Denver, and Harriet Vane.  Peter has an inherited position as Visitor at St. Severin's College in Oxford.  As Visitor, he is being called upon to settle a dispute within the college about whether or not to sell an ancient manuscript.  The dispute is dividing the College Fellows, the Warden is missing, and several unusual accidents have occurred, one of them fatal.  

This plot device returns the pair to Oxford, the setting for Gaudy Night.  There are certain reminiscences about the Gaudy Night plot and characters that I found quite entertaining and passing allusions to famous Oxford Dons such as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis that are amusing.  Oh, and a reference to Edmund Crispin!  (I read Crispin's satirical mystery The Glimpses of the Moon last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.)

The Late Scholar is NOT Dorothy Sayers, but it does follow many of the dictates of The Golden Age of Detective Fiction, draws on Sayer's novels, and uses her familiar characters, including Bunter, in a worthy homage.

Yeah, I liked it.  Some day, I would like to take the time to re-read all of Sayers' original series, and then add Walsh's additions to the end.  There is a certain innocence to these novels, and I have a nostalgic love for the characters.  

Read in April; review scheduled for May

NetGally/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books

Mystery/Detective Fiction.  June 17, 2014.  Print version:  368 pages.


  1. Ooh, I'd heard that JPW had done these - but never actually come across them. Maybe I will actually get a hold of them and read them now!

    I do love DLS, but I think JPW would do an acceptable job of 'caring for' the characters...

  2. Becca - Walsh does a fine job, and I quite enjoyed visiting with old friends. :)

  3. Whoa, how does Peter get to be Duke of Denver? What happens to the brother and the sweet little nephew?

  4. The Wimsey's own sons are almost grown considerable time has passed. Since Jerry (the nephew) joined the RAF during the war and didn't survive, when Peter's brother died, Peter inherited the title.

    Walsh had access to some of Sayers notes and incomplete manuscripts, but I don't know if that is what Sayers intended or not.