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"Clouds of Witness" by Dorothy Sayers

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In Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers again places a unique slant on the Murder Mystery genre. As we discovered in Whose Body?, most murder mysteries focus on "Who done it?" Whose Body? focused on "Who's Dead?" Like Whose Body?, Clouds of Witness also offers up some complications arising from mistaken identity, albeit in a different context. As Sir Peter Wimsey sorts through the evidence, the clues incriminate one person, then another, until all the characters know who is dead, why this person is dead, and who is at fault.

To further complicate the issue, for Sir Peter, the crime hits very close to home. His brother is accused of the murder, which took place on the ancestral estate. If Wimsey is unable to locate the truly guilty party, his brother will hang for the crime. As expected, Wimsey is up to the task, but it is not his knowledge of forensics that produces the ultimate solution. Rather, it is his knowledge of French that brings the truth to light. Should you possess a reading knowledge of French, you will be able to enjoy Clouds even more, because Ms. Sayer devotes many passages, and in one case an entire chapter, to French. If you are a French illiterate, as I am, having to skip the chapter does not greatly detract from the enjoyment of this novel. In fact, it gave me cause to consider learning some French.

As usual, Ms. Sayers offers up an amusing story with some colorful characterizations. The only complaint I can offer regarding Clouds of Witness is that Wimsey's man, Bunter, has only a marginal role. I found Bunter so amusing in Whose Body? that I was looking forward to seeing what he had up his sleeve in this offering.


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