Thrones, Dominations, by Dorothy L Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh

>> Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Thrones, Dominations, was started by Dorothy L Sayers and put aside after she wrote a rough draft of the first 6 chapters and a plot diagram (more info here). Over 60 years later, Jill Paton Walsh took over and from the material available to her finished the book.

Lord Peter Wimsey and his bride, novelist Harriet Vane, are settling into married life. But their peace is shattered when murder strikes close to home - a woman within their own social circle is the victim. Friends and relatives become suspects in this tangled web of intrigue..
Any review of Thrones, Dominations will necessarily be mostly about whether Paton Walsh did a good job in continuing Sayers' book. My impression, on the whole, was positive. True, her voice is obviously not exact to Sayers', which means that T,D does have a different flavour, though it's similar enough. There were a few instances where I detected this very clearly... a reference explained which Sayers would probably have left for the reader to decipher, a certain unsubtleness in incorporating world events into the story...

Still, in what IMO was the most important thing, Paton Walsh did well enough. Peter and Harriet were still recognizably Peter and Harriet and their relationship was still the relationship Sayers had laid the foundations for. Ok, so there were some points where the author faltered a bit and they rang slightly false, but my main fear, that this would be about two characters who only shared the same names with those I wanted to read about, wasn't realized. I'd give this book a B+.

As for the story itself, I found it pretty good. A good whodunnit? Well, I had the misfortune of accidentally reading the ending before I started. Really, it was accidental. I was checking how many pages the book had, to enter it into my list, and my eyes just settled on the first line of the next to last page "So and so was convicted....". I did my best to forget it, in the couple of months before I started the book, and I was actually successful in erasing it from my mind. And then I start reading it and the exact same thing happens!

Still, the impression I have is that the identity of the murderer mustn't have been too difficult to guess. This was more a how-dunnit kind of book, and it was interesting to read it this way.

However, as in all the books after Five Red Herrings, the mystery wasn't the point here. It was really good, though, as a way to contrast Peter and Harriet's relationship with a more typical "madly in love" couple. This is excellently done. While the Wimseys' relationship doesn't remain static in T,D, a mere copy of what it is like in Busman's Honeymoon, it's evolution is coherent with what it was like there, and it's an evolution I very much liked.

A final element I must mention is the theme of the clash between inherited responsability and the desire for marital happiness. This we see both in Harriet and Peter bearing the family's pressure to have a child and in Edward VII's situation, which has quite a bit of space in the book. This was very interesting, though it was introduced here a little less subtlely than I might have wished.

All in all, I thought Paton Walsh did a good job. I'm buying the next, Presumption of Death, as soon as the paperback comes out in August.


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