Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. JamesIn a way, Death Comes to Pemberley is an event in itself: A classy – perhaps classic – crime fiction novelist seizes control over the characters in one of the most loved novels of all times – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – and weaves a gruesome tale of strong feelings, turmoil and even murder.

P.D. James – now nearly old enough to have been there herself – places Darcy and Elizabeth at Pemberley with their two children, in the year 1803. They live a tranquil, quiet and orderly life at the magnificent estate with their two sons Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband Bingley live nearby. The family is faring well. Elizabeth’s father visits often; the family is preparing for the annual autumn ball and feeling somewhat optimistic about the prospects of marriage for Georgiana, Darcy’s sister.

This idyllic state of affairs is shattered when the disgraced Lydia, still married to Wickham and banned from visiting Pemberley, arrives at Pemberley in a coach on the eve of the ball. Lydia is hysterical. She stumbles out of the carriage, screaming that Wickham has been murdered (“Murder, she screamed”). The peaceful, gentile scene is replaced by a very mysterious, somewhat frightening mystery. Pemberley will never be the same.

Jane AustenApparently P.D. James has always loved reading Jane Austen (see drawing). And now she uses her considerable talent for creating mayhem and mystery to recreate and reimage the fascinating world of Pride and Prejudice. The result is a masterful crime fiction novel full of intriguing and intelligent references to Austen’s classic masterpiece. The references are so clever that a re-reading of Austen is recommended to fully appreciate the craftsmanship of the Queen of Mystery, P.D. James! I really liked Death Comes to Pemberley, and strongly recommend it.

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P D James interview – on her career

by Peter on April 4, 2011

A very interesting interview with P.D. James (age 90)!

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Original Sin, by P.D. James

by Peter on March 30, 2011

Original Sin by P. D. JamesIn Original Sin, PD James takes us into the world of modern publishing. It must be a world she knows something about, and that adds authenticity to the novel. The setting is Innocent House (great name!). Innocent House has been built to mimic a Venetian-style palazzo on the Thames. It houses England’s oldest independent book publisher, Peverell Press.

Now something serious is afoot in the old palace. Poison pen letters are circulating, rare illustrations are being lost, important proofs are being tampered with, and minor mischief abounds. Two of the press’ authors have died in less than twelve months. And when a recently fired senior editor’s murder is quickly followed by that of the new director who fired her, Adam Dalgliesh is called in with his Special Squad.

It soon becomes clear that there are plenty of motives and a multitude of suspects to consider in the case. Peverell Press is a scene full of rumors, betrayals, and intrigue. So there is much to keep the investigators busy – and to keep readers entertained.

P.D. James has written that, for her, “… one of the fascinations of detective fiction is the exploration of character under the revealing trauma of a murder enquiry.” In Original Sin, James very deftly explores a diversity of complex characters – the directors and those among the staff at Innocent House who are central to the plot, as well as several sharply delineated secondary characters – as they undergo the sagacious questioning of Dalgliesh and his team.

Original Sin is a wonderful, very entertaining and intelligent crime fiction drama about redress. Revenge, as we meet it in this book, is not at all sweet, nor does it relate much to “justice”. Written, as is always the case with books from the hand of P.D. James, in an impeccable and precise prose that is pure pleasure to read, this is a remarkable mystery. And, of course, Original Sin has a smart plot and is full of attention gripping detail as well. P.D. James is at her compelling best in this Adam Dalgliesh thriller. A must-read, if ever there was one!

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Devices and Desires, by P.D. James

by Peter on June 15, 2010

P.D. James always writes excellently, and this book is simply exceedingly well written. The prose is elegant, advanced, flowing and as always eminently readable.

Devices and Desires Devices and Desires, by P.D. Jamesfeatures Adam Dalgliesh and is set in Larksoken in Norfolk. It focuses on the lives of people in a small village community that lies in the shadow of a nuclear power station. James explores issues of community life and relationships – in particular the reactions of local people to the power station, and the workers – love, betrayal and the intricacies of the relationship between two siblings. Along the way we come across a nuclear protest organizer, a down-trodden artist and single parent, struggling with 4 children, and several other minor characters, who all have a significant part to play.

Slowly and meticulously P.D. James draws the reader into the story, and systematically she introduces the many characters that are relevant in this intriguing mystery. And our master detective, commander Adam Dalgliesh, remains for a long time a bystander on holiday at his late aunt’s cottage, while the local police are handling the case of “the Whistler” a mass murderer of young women in the community of Larksoken on the cost of Norfolk. When “the Whistler” claims his fifth victim, and Commander Dalgliesh is the one that finds the body of Hilary Robarts, he is drawn fully into the investigation.

The story in Devices and Desires is a dark one. Past events of a horrendous nature play a prominent part, and as the story progresses it becomes apparent that “the Whistler” is not the only murderer.

The mystery is elegantly solved, in a way that makes the seeming disparate pieces of James’ puzzle all fall into their places. Devices and Desires is a great mystery novel, but one of P.D. James darker ones – a book with much suffering and distress.

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A Taste for Death, by P.D. James

by Peter on May 12, 2010

Two bodies are A Taste for Death, by P.D. James discovered with their throats slashed in a London church. They lie in a welter of blood. One of the victims is a very prominent man: Sir Paul Berowne, former Minister of the Crown. The other victim, Harry Mack, is a tramp, a man accustomed to sleeping in the church vestibule.

Now Adam Dalgliesh and his detectives must find out why they were both killed like this. Was there a connection between the two men – unlikely as it may seem? Dalgliesh and his team, set up to investigate crimes of particular sensitivity, are faced with a case of extraordinary complexity as they discover the Berowne family’s veneer of prosperous gentility conceals ugly and dangerous secrets. It also seems the deaths may be tied to those of two young women who have recently been employed in the Berowne household.

A Taste for Death is gripping from start to finish. Dalgliesh is caught up in an investigation which has turned personal – he knew Berowne. There are many twists and turns in this complex investigation, as the detectives try to unravel the clues and evidence to point them to a ruthless and sadistic killer. And there are, of course, lots of clues that will lead you astray as well, but ultimately it comes down to one ruthless murderer.

This is a wonderful, complex mystery with a very good plot. It is also, in my opinion, the best book P. D. James had so far written. It has excellent characters, is very rich on the descriptive side and builds the story with great care, and the narrative is simply excellent. It is also very interesting in the way it develops the character of Adam Dalgliesh, and makes him an ever more credible protagonist. The ending of A Taste for Death is both poignant and surprising. If you haven’t read this one yet, so grab it and get going!

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This mystery was Death of an Expert Witness, by P. D. James published in 1977. It is an interesting book for a number of reasons, but one of them is that the murder that starts off the book, that of a young girl is not at all the focus of this book. Rather it is a quite different murder – that of Dr. Lorrimer, a very experienced expert witness and highly respected academic, who was found dead one morning in his lab, with his skull smashed in, which is the book’s real focus. The first murder actually serves a different purpose; to introduce readers to the staff of a forensic laboratory, the background of this mystery.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh and his associate Detective Investigator the Honorable John Massingham are called in to investigate the Lorrimer murder. Dr. Edwin Lorrimer was respected but not well-liked, and even hated by quite a few. He was not a pleasant man – he was bad-tempered, petty, smallish, bitter and vindictive – and he had insulted many people over the years. The suspects of this murder are all limited to the lab, but even so there are several possible suspects; almost too many motives and no physical evidence to go by.

Dalgliesh is left to use his deductive skills to find who among the suspects the killer is. Then the killer decides to claim a second victim Stella Mawson.

This is another very crafty mystery novel by P.D. James. The setting is memorable, the plot is complex, the characters are very alive and believable, and all elements of the tales are wowen together in a suspenseful fashion. Death of an Expert Witness is a very elegant mystery book, quite engaging and a pleasure to read.

Praise:

‘P. D. James is one of the national treasures of British fiction… Each new book gives pleasure not just for macabre crimes or ingenious solutions but its density of experience.’ –Malcolm Bradbury, Mail on Sunday

‘Unlike so many crime writers, James still has the power to move, fascinate and astonish.’ –Independent

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The Black Tower, by P D James

April 10, 2010

The Black Tower has been cited as one of the best 100 greatest mystery novels of all time. In my opinion it is a great book, but actually more as a psychological novel or thriller than as a classical mystery book. For sure, it is the creepiest of P. D. James’s works. There are multiple [...]

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Shroud for a Nightingale, by P.D. James

April 9, 2010

The New York Times called Shroud for a Nightingale “mystery at its best.” The fourth novel in the Adam Dalgliesh series, aptly titled Shroud for a Nightingale, P. D James shows readers, for the first time, a new side of her vast crime fiction writing abilities. This time she dives deeply into a complex and [...]

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Unnatural Causes, by P.D. James

April 5, 2010

This is a very complex mystery featuring Adam Dalgliesh. Unnatural Causes is a book some readers like a lot, and some readers think is one of the least interesting novels in the Adam Dalgliesh series. The reason, to my mind, is that the mystery this time is very complex. Some readers simply lose interest in [...]

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A Mind to Murder, by P.D. James

March 21, 2010

This is the second book in the series about Adam Dalgliesh. While it may be slightly lighter than some of the later novels in the series, it is still a great mystery. When the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is found dead with a chisel in her heart, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland [...]

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