The Late Scholar, by Jill Paton-Walsh

latescholarThis is the latest of Jill Paton Walsh’s novels extending the story of Lord and Lady Peter Wimsey beyond the novels of their creator, Dorothy L. Sayers. Everything I’ve said about previous novels in this series applies here as well: The Late Scholar is enjoyable to read and well-written, but nobody can really capture Lord Peter and Harriet the way Sayers could. I think it’s actually much harder for anyone to write new Lord Peter stories than it is for, say, writers like Laurie R. King or the writers of TV’s Sherlock to come up with new twists on  Sherlock Holmes, because I think Lord Peter Wimsey, much more than Holmes and more than most fictional characters, is so completely defined by language. The way Dorothy Sayers wrote Lord Peter Wimsey (and the other characters, but especially Lord Peter) IS who Lord Peter Wimsey is — his language (which is, of course, her language) cannot be separated from the character. Paton Walsh does a good imitation of Sayers’ style — better than most writers could do, I’m sure — but you can tell it’s a different writer and so the characters always feel subtly different. 

So if you’re a Wimsey fan and you haven’t read any of the Paton Walsh novels yet, by all means, do read them — it’s fun to revisit these old characters in a new era, now that Harriet is middle-aged, Peter is verging on elderly, their children are growing up (some lovely scenes with their sons in this novel), and Lord Peter is dealing with the responsibility he always dreaded — being Duke of Denver. The mystery itself is moderately interesting (I always have to confess when I review mysteries that I’m not really a serious mystery reader; often I have trouble following the plot and figuring out whether it’s very cleverly laid-out or just confusing), and the setting is great because the characters are back at Oxford as they were in my favourite Sayers book, Gaudy Night. So, I recommend this one, but with the usual caveats.


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Filed under Fiction -- historical, Fiction -- mystery

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