A Presumption of Death Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Presumption of Death

Lord Peter Wimsey is away on secret business during World War 2 and his wife Harriet takes the family to their house in the country. During an air-raid practice a Land Girl is found murdered and Harriet (because of Peter) is called in to help the local police. While worrying about her husband and looking after her family, she must uncover a brutal and professional killer. When a second body is found, she is desperate to solve the crimes.
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Jill Paton Walsh has taken "The Wimsey Papers" and created a fine mystery using Sayers' characters. It has some amusing parts (as did "Busmans Honeymoon") and plenty of introspection - it paints an image of life at the start of the war.
The review of this Book prepared by Alan J. Bishop

St. Martin's, Mar 2003, 24.95, 384 pp.
ISBN: 0312291000

In 1940, the siren testing the warning system goes off in a remote English village. Except for the Methodists, everyone including Harriet Vane, better known as Lady Peter Wimsey, enter the cave used as the air raid shelter. After a long time, the siren finally ends signifying all clear. Everyone leaves the cave only to find the corpse of a Land Girl, “Wicked” Wendy Percival, lying in the street.

Knowing he is already shorthanded due to the war effort and her experience as a crime novelist, Superintendent Kirk asks Harriet to investigate the murder that is clearly not the work of a Nazi. He wants her to perform the role of her spouse Lord Peter, overseas on government work, to make inquiries and report back to him, but not take risks. Reluctantly Harriet begins her investigation starting with the other eight Land Girls, but quickly she finds reality much more complex and stranger than fiction.

Using fictional letters that the late great Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in support of the English World war II efforts, Jill Paton Walsh paints a powerful amateur sleuth tale that fans of the Wimsey tales will enjoy and will appreciate the cleverness of the endeavor. The story line insures that the regulars remain true to their known personalities while WW II in a remote village is used to provide the background of a strong who-done-it. Still, this tale belongs to the cast especially Harriet who provides a fine time for series fans and historical mystery readers.

Harriet Klausner

The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner

Chapter Analysis of A Presumption of Death

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 50%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 25%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 15% Tone of story    -   suspenseful (sophisticated fear) How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   1930's-1950's What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   60%    -   70% Kind of investigator    -   amateur citizen investigator    -   skilled citizen investigator Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Any non-mystery subplot?    -   life in small town    -   life in that culture Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   homemaker    -   writer Age:    -   20's-30's    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Race    -   British


Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK Small town?    -   Yes Small town people:    -   nice, like Andy/Opie/Aunt Bee

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript

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Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy L. Sayers Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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