Dorothy L Sayers and her excellent Lord Peter Wimsey novels have been a constant source of enjoyment for me over the years. They exhibit the very best of Sayers’ dry humour and expert plotting, whilst showcasing a side of the author which I had not seen before (I knew her previously as a Dante translator).
As such I was excited when I found out that her final, unfinished novel, Thrones, Dominations was being published after having been finished by Jill Paton Walsh. I wasn’t disappointed either- the novel is seamless, with no indication of where Sayers left off and Paton Walsh took over. The characterisation is perfect, and the sweet sub-plots revolving around the Wimsey family and dedicated manservant Bunter are well handled.
Following on from this success Paton Walsh decided to take on the task of writing a full length Wimsey novel of her own, and has since completed three. The best of these is The Attenbury Emeralds, which takes the reader through Lord Peter’s very first case and the new mystery that threatens the lives of the aristocracy many years later.
Again, whilst begin sympathetic to the reader’s need to learn more about the characters following the previous novel, Paton Walsh does not go overboard- the characters are as well-rounded as ever and the dialogue is so good you could probably convince even die-hard Sayers fans that they were reading from pages written by the great lady herself. The scathing critiques of the upper classes remain, and the time period reflects the dissent in the serving classes which Paton Walsh expertly references, interweaving it into the novel with great skill.
Ultimately these novels emulate the very best of Sayers’ own work, acting as both social commentary and riveting crime novels. Whilst the insight is not quite as razor sharp as that of the Sayers herself, Patton Walsh’s books make great reading for both fans of the war-damaged, hilariously unpretentious and generally curious Lord Peter and newcomers alike.