In a series of letters to the Spectator over the winter of 1940, Sayers presented members of Lord Peter Wimsey’s family discussing such morale-building issues as rationing and leadership. Taking her cue (and a little of her prose) from these hints of how the peerless peer and his connections were spending the months of the phony war, Paton Walsh shows how, while her husband is off fighting the good fight somewhere on the continent, Lady Peter, née Harriet Vane, is so preoccupied down in Hertfordshire with the conduct of the war and her own depleted yet crowded household that she has no interest in writing mysteries. Even so, she’s still keeping company with corpses. The latest is promiscuous land-girl Wendy Percival, who failed to emerge from an air-raid shelter during a drill because she was lying dead in the street above, dispatched by someone’s bare hands. Harriet’s preliminary questioning of the three young men Wicked Wendy kept on a string—bumpkin Jake Datchett, handyman Archie Lugg, and RAF officer John Birdlap—indicates no likely candidate for her killer. But who can the murderer be when practically the entire population of the village was huddled in the shelter beneath the Crown Inn and Archie’s father, undertaker Fred Lugg, was watching the street from a tower above?
Though the mystery is gossamer-thin, Paton Walsh (Thrones, Dominations, 1998, etc.) provides another Greatest Hits of Wimseydom, complete with family news, an allusive cipher, a dozen deathless village types, and, eventually, the return of Lord Peter to hearth, home, and homicide.