Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tried Out: "A Mind to Murder" by P.D. James

Tried Out: A Mind to Murder by P.D. James, 1963, Overdrive download.

When I was in high school I bought a P.D. James paperback. I didn't like the book and never finished the story. When I got my first job in Kansas someone asked me to order the new PD James novel. The book was probably A Certain Justice. I mentioned that I forget to order James novels because I did not like her work. I found out that the lady who requested the book was upset at my response. I apologized but I think it was too late.

According to the internets this is James's second Adam Dalgliesh novel. Dalgliesh is a police inspector in London and his name is very difficult to spell. Dalgliesh is also very difficult to say so it's a good thing I had the audio version.

On a Friday Dalgliesh is called to a psychiatric clinic where the [office manager] has been stabbed to death. The clinic is locked up at night and Dalgliesh discovers that the murderer must be a member of the staff. Dead Woman was found in a locked basement room and no patients were left unattended.

Dead Woman could be a imperious jerk and Dalgliesh has plenty of suspects. Doctors, nurses, aides, and porters were there. Dalgliesh keeps the staff in the building and he starts interviewing them all. We hear about illicit romance, missing money, secretive telephone calls, and more. After Dalgliesh finishes his interviews we follow the different staff members back to their homes and families.

Dalgliesh does not interrogate anyone. He interviews people at the clinic, their homes, or neutral places like a cafe. He doesn't haul anyone to the station. He doesn't browbeat or threaten. Dalgliesh is collecting statements and looking for lies and omittance. A straight forward procedural. Nothing raunchy, no rough language, minimal violence.

If there is a theme to this book it is soured and lost love. Divorces.  Unhappy marriages.  Failed affairs. Sexual dissatisfaction. Dalgliesh is lonely and unable to meet someone to go out with. The murderer - SPOILER ALERT - is taking advantage of an emotionally frail woman who is facing the shame of a recent divorce. The epilogue tells us how one staff member with a failed affair is leaving to be a nun.

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