The Late Scholar

The Late Scholar is the fourth Lord Peter Wimsey-Harriet Vane detective novel written by Jill Paton Walsh. Featuring characters created by Dorothy L. Sayers, it was written with the co-operation and approval of Sayers' estate. It was published by Hodder & Stoughton (whose "yellow jackets" are alluded to in the book) on December 5, 2013 in the UK, and on January 14, 2014 in North America.[1]

The Late Scholar
1st North American Edition front cover
AuthorJill Paton Walsh
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesLord Peter Wimsey
Genrecrime novel
PublisherHodder & Stoughton
Publication date
05 December 2013 (UK) / 14 January 2014 (US/CAN)
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Preceded byThe Attenbury Emeralds 

Plot summary

The Late Scholar features the former Lord Peter Wimsey—now the Duke of Denver—and his wife, the former Harriet Vane, and is set in a fictional Oxford college called St. Severin's, mostly in 1953 (according to internal evidence within the text of the novel).

Wimsey discovers that, as Duke of Denver, he has inherited the position of Visitor of an Oxford college, St Severin's. The college is in financial difficulties, and is in the midst of an acrimonious dispute between the Fellows over whether or not to sell a valuable codex (a copy of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, with glosses which may be by Alfred the Great) to finance the purchase of a piece of land which might be worth a lot of money if planning permission can be obtained on it. The two sides are evenly balanced in numbers, and two of the Fellows appeal to him to resolve the dispute, and before he has even arrived at Oxford, some of the Fellows turn up at his seat at Bredon Hall to try and convince him of the wisdom of either course of action.

Peter and Harriet quickly set off for Oxford. But the dispute turns out to be even worse than they had thought, with attempts (some successful) to murder some of the Fellows. The Warden has the casting vote, but he is nowhere to be found. And some of the successful and unsuccessful attacks resemble the murder methods in Peter's past cases—methods that Harriet has used in her published novels.

A side plot concerns the decision of Bredon, the elder son of Peter and Harriet, not to apply for admission to Oxford University—but instead to study estate management at Reading University. While far from stupid, Bredon is not as brilliant as his father, and at Oxford unfavourable comparisons would have been inevitable. Harriet realises that Bredon is not only the son of Peter, but also the nephew of Peter's brother Gerald—who was deeply attached to the land and to the cares of its daily management, in a way that Peter never was.


  1. The Late Scholar (Paperback) ISBN 1444751905, ISBN 978-1444751901

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