Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love the way Sayers writes. She uses a lot of interesting words to say exactly what she means--21st century novels don't usually have the richness of vocabulary that older novels do, which is a shame--and she structures her information like good architecture. When you need to come right upon something, when it needs to have strong impact, she brings you right to it, often with a coronors report or a newspaper headline. But often she brings you along a more winding path that lets you see more details of the thing as you go from point A to point B.
"Her first appearance that morning had been made in Lord Peter's dressing-gown, but she now wore a serge skirt and jade-green jumper, which had been brought to town for her by the fourth member of the party, now composedly eating a mixed grill and sharing the decanter with Parker. This was a rather short, rather plump, very brisk elderly lady, with bright black eyes like a bird's, and very handsome white hair exquisitely dressed. Far from looking as though she had just taken a long night journey, she was easily the most composed and trim of the four. She was, however, annoyed, and said so at considerable length. This was the Dowager Duchess of Denver." (p.127)
This is an amazing passage, there is a ton of information packed in there about a character we hadn't seen yet in this novel, but had heard about (she is mother to Lord Peter and the girl in the jade jumper). We learn what had happened and get a chance to form an image of the woman before we are told who she is, so her position doesn't overwhelm her person. The whole novel is written like this, with lots of detail in a few sentences and often a bit of a zinger folded in.
The mystery in this book was more complex than in Whose Body? , with more people and their various personal intrigues all coming into the investigation.