Intrigue and murder in academe lead to further adventures for aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, the once-carefree second son now approaching senior citizenship.
Ever since a fire killed his older brother and damaged Bredon Hall, the seat of the Duke of Denver, Peter has taken his duties more seriously. Now he’s surprised to find that along with the title comes the office of Visitor to St. Severin’s College at Oxford. Peter took his degree at Oxford, as did his duchess, the former Harriet Vane, and she supports his obligation to the dreaming spires. When they arrive, they find St. Severin’s fellows deadlocked in a vote that only the Visitor can resolve. The wrangle centers on a medieval manuscript; half the fellows want to keep it, and half want to sell in exchange for much-needed land on the edge of town. In the meantime, the warden of the college has left abruptly without so much as a toothbrush, and no one has seen him for three months. Two fellows have suffered incidents that echo Harriet’s detective novels, which she based on her husband’s cases, and another fellow has taken a fatal tumble down stairs. It’s the first in a series of murders or attempted murders connected to an unfavorable anonymous book review, a suicide, a frightened widow and a case of blackmail. Addressing all these issues and saving St. Severin’s takes patience and diligence for Peter and Harriet—and for readers who may fidget over the leisurely pace and the insulated academic setting in post–WWII Britain.
Walsh’s (The Attenbury Emeralds, 2011, etc.) respectful attempt to keep the franchise going will invite the scrutiny of Wimsey purists, and newcomers may find the Duke affected. Even so, many fans will eagerly welcome back their beloved sleuth and enjoy seeing Harriet hold her own in a thoughtfully constructed mystery.