Book Review: Jill Paton Walsh’s Attenbury Emeralds

Posted March 14, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Jill Paton Walsh’s Attenbury Emeralds

Attenbury Emeralds

on January 4, 2011 and has 338 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Third (& last?) in the Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane historical mystery series carried on from Dorothy L. Sayers by Jill Paton Walsh.

My Take

It is a recollection of Lord Peter’s rising as a detective to his “death” as a detective now that he has something of more immediacy to occupy his thoughts, using the stories and intrigue surrounding the Attenbury emeralds through the years.

This was a sad tale, partly because it doesn’t even feel like a Dorothy Sayers and partly because there is so much loss.

We do learn what happened when Peter came home from the war, a broken man. How Bunter came to enter his service and save him.

There are bits of fun along the way; I did enjoy reading of Peter’s first case and his fledgling efforts — that linen closet was rather funny.

Sugg was an idiot. One of those policemen who give all cops a bad name with his making up his mind based on class rather than evidence.

All in all, this feels more like a mopping up before the door is closed on a series begun by Dorothy Sayers. And I would have much preferred that it had gone on living. Including Jerry.

The Story

It begins over breakfast and the paper when Harriet asks Peter about the Attenbury emeralds. The case that saw him begin his career as a detective and one on which he first met Sergeant Parker…and Inspector Sugg.

A story that unravels and reveals incident after incident, murder after murder through the years

The Characters

Lord Peter Wimsey is 60 years old in this story and very comfortable with his life, his wife, and his children. Harriet is still writing her detective stories and still learning about Peter’s past. The last time we visited the Wimseys, they only had two children who were three and one years old. Now they have Bredon, Paul, and Roger who are 16, 14, and __, respectively.

Lord Peter’s manservant and friend, Mervyn Bunter, is with Lord Peter as well. Hope is still doing her photography. They have a son, Peter, a.k.a., PB, whom the Wimseys consider family and who is at school with the Wimsey boys. Mrs. Trapp is still cooking for the Wimseys.

Gerald is Peter’s older brother and the Duke of Denver. Helen is still the duchess and a nasty piece of work. The sunny Viscount St. George is no more having died during the war in the Battle of Britain. Honoria Lucasta Wimsey, their mother and the dowager duchess, is still alive; her maid, Franklin, is still with her. Mrs. Farley is still housekeeper at Duke’s Denver while Thomas continues as butler. Dr. Fakenham is the physician there. Jim Jackson and Bob are gardeners at Duke’s Denver who help the boys take inventory. Dick Jenkins is the new lodgekeeper; old Bill’s son.

Lady Mary does charity work for the Prisoners’ Aid Association, and CID Chief Inspector Charles Parker is still hard at work at Scotland Yard. Their children are Charles Peter, 23, (call him Charlie; he’ll finish up his degree and wants to join the air force); Mary is called Polly and wants to be a policewoman like her dad; and, Harriet is 16 with an itch to play hockey.

The Attenburys include:
The recently deceased Arthur Abcock was the Earl of Attenbury who has been succeeded by Edward, his grandson — his father, Roland, died. And Edward has a huge problem with those bloody emeralds again! His mother, Sylvia, Lady Abcock, and the rest of the family are insistent on Edward’s keeping their country seat in spite of the death duties. (His sister Verity died when a bomb hit a nightclub she was in.)

Claire is now the dowager Lady Attenbury and Edward’s grandmother; Sarah was her maid at the start of Peter’s story. Ladies Charlotte (she was engaged to a scoundrel, Reginald Northerby, but later married Frank Morney and they run a stud); the wild Diana, who was eventually claimed by the Marquis of Writtle and almost did a Northerby; and, Ottalie (never did marry and she sings these days) are her daughters. Jeannette was Charlotte’s maid at the start. Mrs. Ethel DeBerris is widowed and related to the Attenburys through Claire, Lady Attenbury; Ada is her daughter and still good friends with Lady Ottalie.

Freddy Arbuthnot is a friend of Peter’s and of the Attenburys; he’s still doing his financial wizardry. And still happily married to Rachel.

Cavenor Bank has an issue with the emeralds
Mr. Sander is a director of the bank and trying on some threats, which Peter counters nicely. Mr. Orson and Mr. Whitehead are employees.

Various people involved in the emerald problems through the years
Inspector Sugg was an idiot policeman then, and has been down through the years, allowing his prejudices to close his mind down to the possibilities. Miss Pevenor is compiling a history of jewelry. Nandine Osmanthus is attempting to recover a part of the emeralds for his employer, the Maharaja of Sinorabad. Mr. Handley and his son are pawnbrokers. Mr. Tipotenios attempts to recover a pawned emerald. Sir Impey Biggs defended the naughty Diana. Mrs. Prout was a cleaner at the House of Lords. Captain Rannerson was desperate to sell his horse, Red Fort. Rita Patel who helped identify bodies and their belongings during a bombing in 1941 during the war. Joyce and Sue worked at the Coventry Street mortuary. Inspector Vaud is bit much like Sugg; too willing to make his theories more real than the facts. Bill Rumm is a safecracker friend of Peter’s who helps out. Mr. Bird may be a retired insurance company owner, but he can’t stay away from the office.

The Cover and Title

The cover continues the silhouette concept, just more spare and as a darkened black-and-white photograph of a couple walking, as though they were in the park: Harriet in her knee-length coat and Peter in his hat and overcoat against a gradated background of a teal blue rising to a pale teal.

The title is the focus throughout the story, The Attenbury Emeralds.