“But to Lord Peter the world presented itself as an entertaining labyrinth of side-issues” – Dorothy Sayers
Lord Peter Whimsey has abandoned dismal London for the sights and sounds of Corsica. He is relaxed and feeling good when he spots a disturbing headline. His brother, the Duke of Denver, has been arrested for muuurdeeerrrr.
He has to hop a biplane home (which is just such fabulous imagery) to rescue the family. Once home he is confronted with the icy reserve of upper crust houseguests, his brother’s obstinate refusal to cooperate and his sister’s depression. The victim is the former fiancé of the sister who had gotten into a disagreement shortly before the murder over a matter of honor with the Duke.
The wheels of justice turn laboriously slow as the ancient laws regarding trying a member of the House of Lords creates unnecessary hurdles. Peter uses this time to investigate for clues with the help of his trusty sidekicks, Bunter the manservant and Parker the police detective. As this is the early 1910s, forensic tools are limited and it takes a few miraculous coincidences to bring about a truthful resolution. Along the way there are Bolsheviks and cowards, mysterious blonds and yet another dashing journey across the ocean in an open cockpit aeroplane. I love my siblings, but I would probably let them hang rather than set foot in one of these rickety contraptions.
Like the first book in this series, this is fun quick read with only a few problems with what used to be acceptable levels of casual racism and sexism. There is a very serious domestic violence relationship that is a major plot point. The heroes of the story are concerned for the wife’s safety, but assisting her in escaping the situation isn’t their first thoughts. Later they only offer her assistance when she has bravely shared information that will ensure that her husband will decide to murder her. Once again the mix of collective grief mingled with optimism that was shared by all in the period between the first and second world wars shine through. The cyclical nature of history is so ominously present these days, that it’s hard to ignore when reading about these somewhat lighthearted murders. Still, spending time with witty and charming characters is a welcome respite from alternative facts and crumbling democracy that is, unfortunately, going to be the legacy of these times.