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When a dispute among the Fellows of St. Severin's College, Oxford University, reaches a stalemate, Lord Peter Wimsey discovers that as the Duke of Denver he is "the Visitor"—charged with the task of resolving the issue. It is time for Lord Peter and his detective novelist wife, Harriet, to revisit their beloved Oxford, where their long and literate courtship finally culminated in their engagement and marriage.
At first, the dispute seems a simple difference of opinion about a valuable manuscript that some of the Fellows regard as nothing but an insurance liability, which should be sold to finance a speculative purchase of land. The voting is evenly balanced. The Warden would normally cast the deciding vote, but he has disappeared. And when several of the Fellows unexpectedly die as well, Lord Peter and Harriet set off on an investigation to uncover what is really going on at St. Severin's.
With this return in The Late Scholar to the Oxford of Gaudy Night, which many readers regard as their favorite of Sayers's original series, Jill Paton Walsh at once revives the wit and brilliant plotting of the Golden Age of detective fiction.
In Walsh's cleverly plotted fourth mystery featuring the titular husband-wife sleuthing team her second wholly original effort authorized by the Dorothy Sayers estate Wimsey has succeeded to the title of the Duke of Denver after the death of his elder brother, Gerald, in the previous book, The Attenbury Emeralds (2010). One of Wimsey's new responsibilities as duke is to serve as "the Visitor" for Oxford's St. Severin's College, a role that requires him to referee disputes among the college's fellows. Just such a controversy has sprung up. Some fellows want to sell a rare manuscript of Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy that may have belonged to Alfred the Great, who translated the work from Latin into Anglo-Saxon, in order to buy some land, while others believe that such a sale would betray the institution's values. A series of disturbing incidents including a fatal fall down stairs suspiciously similar to a murder method that Wimsey's detective-story writer wife, Harriet Vane, has used in her fiction causes the couple to suspect a killer is at work. Walsh's pitch-perfect re-creation of the charismatic leads is a delight. Sayers fans can only hope for more.