- P.D. James grabs the reader with the opening of this novel
- An unlikely pair and a provocative beginning to this mystery
- An unlikely pair in death. Is it murder or murder/suicide?
- Nothing is simple in this tale.
- A murder investigation without result, yet
- A selfish wife, a mistress, an angry daughter
- Dalgliesh goes on. Despite doubts, he knows will solve this murder
- Eloquent, evocative writing, about beautiful things, about murder
- A fine book to read thoroughly, over time, recognize its depths
An Adam Dalgliesh mystery
P.D. James grabs the reader with the opening of this novel
Aspiring writers are told so often about grabbing the reader right off the bat that it has become axiomatic. P.D. James provides the perfect illustration in A Taste for Death:
The bodies were discovered at eight forty-five on the morning of Wednesday 18 September by Miss Emily Wharton, a sixty-five-year-old spinster of the parish of St. Matthew’s in Paddington, London, and Darren Wilkes, aged ten, of no particular parish as far as he knew or cared.
An unlikely pair and a provocative beginning to this mystery
How this unlikely pair got together and how they happen to be where they are is a provocative beginning to a novel which keeps a reader’s interest from this first paragraph to the last one. Young Darren and elderly Miss Wharton are clearly drawn characters and readers should note; they don’t appear often, but they have critical roles.
An unlikely pair in death. Is it murder or murder/suicide?
Even more unlikely a pair are the two bodies Miss Wharton and Darren find; one has been, until his recent resignation, a member of Parliament and a junior Minister, the other is a homeless man, a tramp who has never lost his taste for alcohol. Both are found, side by side, in the church vestry, with their throats slit and a razor lying nearby. Commander Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard—dubbed AD by his team—is called to the bloody scene, and thereby begins the untangling of a web as twisted and apparently unsolvable as AD has encountered.
Nothing is simple in this tale.
- Is it double murder or murder and suicide? Facts can be made to fit either scenario.
- What links these two utterly disparate men that led to this horrific crime?
- It seems impossible that there could be a connection, but AD cannot let go of the idea.
- It’s a thread of the web that he cannot untangle but also cannot ignore.
A murder investigation without result, yet
Time passes, clues come and go, people are put on and taken off the suspect list as the murder investigation continues seemingly without result, at least not results that fit the senior officer’s notions. Dalgliesh works most closely with two subordinates:
- An intense young single woman who is on the watch for slurs or snubs related to her gender
- A married man with children who isn’t at all sure that a woman has the right stuff to be a proper cop, especially when it comes to bloody murder, and its ugly details.
- The tension between the two is delicately played. A bit of gender competition adds spice to the team’s search for the murderer
A selfish wife, a mistress, an angry daughter
All the characters in A Taste for Death have a back story that is revealed bit by bit, and makes their actions seem sensible, at least to themselves and in most cases to the reader. Personalities clash, character flaws abound, secrets are forced into the open. A selfish, cruel wife, an apparently loving mistress, a father and an angry daughter, a son and wastrel brother, a priest and a housemaid, all act out of their own needs. Is murder, is violence, beyond any of them?
Dalgliesh goes on. Despite doubts, he knows will solve this murder
Dalgliesh, a perceptive and introspective man, has moments of doubt that what he does matters, and there is a sense of sadness and disillusion with his choices in life that he carries with him like a cloak. But AD keeps going, checking out alibis, asking unwelcome questions, peering into the dark corners of lives, clinging to his belief that there is, however elusive, a connection between a drunken tramp and a rich man-about-town. He knows, through instinct developed over years of experience, that when he finds the connection, he’ll find the killer.
Eloquent, evocative writing, about beautiful things, about murder
P.D. James combines eloquent, evocative writing and an intricate plot. She describes beauty in glorious detail, brutality and murder in all its ugliness. She can scare you to death, yet keep you hanging on. In one particularly harrowing scene where a child’s life is threatened in awful fashion, I didn’t turn away, the story held me in place. I was there through every moment with the potential victim. On other occasions during the unveiling of the tale, a reader might almost weep in empathy with sorrow and smile in muted joy at other times.
A fine book to read thoroughly, over time, recognize its depths
There is so much in this book that I do not have space to cover, nor would I if I had the space. To me, this is not a page-turner. On the contrary, it is a book that needs to be read thoroughly, over time, so that the underlying currents, good and bad, in all the lives can be recognized and understood. Be aware, though, it is not a happy, all’s-well-that-ends-well, put-it-on-the-shelf-and-forget-it kind of novel.
I can almost guarantee, though, that when the story winds down and you know the who and why and what and where about everything and everybody, you’ll not forget it.