The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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January 29, 2011

The Attenbury Emeralds

I reserved The Attenbury Emeralds at the library months ago, as soon as I heard about it. This is the third mystery that Jill Paton Walsh has written featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. The book jacket reminded me that the first one (Thrones, Dominations) was written to complete an unfinished manuscript by Dorothy L. Sayers, and then JPW took it from there.  It's been a long time since I read the Dorothies, and even since I watched the PBS adaptations, so it's hard for me to know how well the dialogue and characterizations match the originals. At the very least, I think they capture the spirit of Sayers' work very well and, anyway, these mysteries are very good reads in their own right. (I also enjoyed the series that JPW wrote about Imogen Quy, a Cambridge University nurse.}

This book has an interesting set-up that might not work in other hands, but does here. For the first eleven chapters, Peter tells Harriet the story of his first case. {'We are back to the beginning.' said Peter the next morning. 'Back to the time when my wits were awry and I was in Bunter's custodianship.'}, when Peter and Bunter went to a country house party and helped to find Lord Attenbury's valuable emerald. He is telling this story 30 years later, just after World War II, when their oldest son is at Eton, the Dowager Duchess of Denver is becoming frail, and his romance with Harriet is still strong. 

Peter has just revealed the solution to the first mystery and Bunter has just looked up the definition of 'cockles' {'Wrong shellfish again,' said Harrier. 'Shall we go to dinner?'} when the current Lord Attenbury, grandson of the above, asks Peter to fight a challenge to his family's ownership of the emerald. Along the way, other important things happen {'Let the dukedom be a private sorrow.'} It's a well-done story in a story, and a very enjoyable book.
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Penny said...

I'm catching up here (a permanaent state with me, I'm afraid...)

I loved 'Thank Heaven Fasting'. Yes, so different from 'Provincial Lady' (whose husband I dislike intensely, BTW! Henrietta's is MUCH nicer!) Such a different time with such different social rules! I enjoyed your 'Downton Abbey' reference! I watched it on television and then my dear daughter bought me the DVD for Christmas. We're now watching it together. So good! Can't wait for the next series. Our Radio Times showed a photo of the cast at a party. I was so suprised to see that 'O'Brien' (boo, hiss!) is actually a very attractive young woman!

I adore Peter Wimsey and Harriet and enjoyed 'Thrones, Dominations'. I must try the later ones. I enjoyed the Imogen Quy books, too.

Cristina (Rochester Reader) said...

Great review. I think opinions are divided over the JPW continuations but I shall give them a try after working through the DLS.
I quite enjoyed the Wimsey/Vane TV adaptations :-)
Thanks for commenting on my blog... Do join in the challenge if you can... it's very informal - even if you just read one or two books. Please don't forget to add your name to the Mister Linky on the challenge page in the menu if you do.

Cristina (Rochester Reader) said...

Bless you, Audrey! You seem to be well ahead of me :-) Thanks for joining the challenge.

Thank you for visiting!

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