This eighth book of the Dalgliesh series takes us to a village in the headland of Norfolk where a nuclear power station is shadowing the community. Apart from the possible threat that the power station poses to the public, and amidst the minor protests, there is a greater danger to the community with a serial killer on the loose. And to this confusion, Adam Dalgliesh is drawn to settle his affairs that have arisen following his aunt’s death.
With her usual intelligent writing, P.D. James paints an eerie atmosphere of the headland, creating the air of gloom and foreboding. In this sinister setup, James exposes power, ambition, and misguided idealism which leads to blackmail, deceit, and murder.
The murder mystery is entangled with complex social and personal issues of those attached to the power station and the inhabitants of the headland. While the mystery surrounding the murders was undermined by these secondary subjects, it produced a good story overall. The characters were complex and were chosen from very different sections. I found them interesting and enjoyed the psychological penetrations into their lives.
This wasn’t a case of Adam Dalgliesh. At least not in the strict sense. He was more of a watcher than an investigator. He was only thrown into the muddle by being a witness. I don’t usually enjoy Dalgliesh playing the second fiddle, but here, I didn’t mind it so much. Dalgleish’s role in this mystery is not in the capacity of a policeman but as a human being. I truly liked the way Dalgleish was portrayed in this story. He is detached of course from the crime and the investigation, yet he is very much attached to its course through his subtle and humane handling of the possible suspects. I think this story is where Adam Dalgliesh shines his best as a person.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. It certainly revived me from the bitter disappointment of the previous book of the series. I cannot say it is a better murder mystery in itself. There were better ones. But nonetheless, it was a good story on the whole.