Wessex In Fiction: The Late Scholar

The Late Scholar is the fourth and last in a series of Lord Peter Wimsey continuation novels written by Jill Paton Walsh and authorised by Dorothy L Sayers's estate. It was published by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK in 2013 and the US in 2014. The plot revolves around a manuscript of King Alfred's translation of The Consolation of Philosophy held by the fictional St Severin's College in Oxford.

As Duke of Denver, Lord Peter Wimsey is a visitor of the college, and with his wife Harriet Vane, sets off to intervene in a dispute between the Fellows about whether to sell the manuscript in order to buy some valuable land. But as one might expect in a novel of this genre, the dispute soon turns murderous.

The book has proved divisive among fans of the original novels (including Gaudy Night, whose Oxford setting this echoes.) Continuation novels are always tricky. Stick too closely to the original template, and you will be accused of mere pastiche; depart too far and you will irk the purists. However, the book review magazine Kirkus reviewed it favourably, saying that "many fans will eagerly welcome back their beloved sleuth and enjoy seeing Harriet hold her own in a thoughtfully constructed mystery."

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