This is by far the better murder-mystery story of the series. Combining Jealousy, obsession, and blackmail, P.D. James spins an interesting mystery around the murder of an “expert witness”. The plot is cleverly done and the story is quite well written. James’s intelligence and creativity as a mystery writer is quite evident in this installment. It looks as if James, by the time of writing this particular Dalgliesh story, has become literary mature.
James takes us yet again to a medically related setting – this time, it being a forensic laboratory. Mercifully, she concentrates more on the characters and the inner selves of the highly intelligent scientists, their subordinates, and the assistants without tiring the readers with scientific details. This character penetration was what was interesting in this story. They showed both the vulnerable and the malicious and the vindictive nature of those highly educated and well respected.
The story was well built and the curiosity and the suspense of the readers were cleverly maintained. There were both clues and enough red herrings, not to baffle the readers but to keep them guessing a little longer. The ending, however, was felt a bit bland. Its hurried conclusion did not do justice to the suspense that was so well built up to that point.
I enjoyed the authoritative and dominant role Adam Dalgliesh played in the story. And I also liked the subordinate officer John Massingham. He is so far the best subordinate officer the Commander got to work with. I truly liked the combination and their joint effort in solving the mystery of the murder, and sincerely hope James would humour me another time with their joint venture. 🙂
I enjoyed this Dalgliesh installment a lot, and if not for the falling at the end, I would have rated it higher. However, this installment was a good inducement for me to continue with the series, and also a good indication that the series will get better. But I do wish that James would soon outgrow her preference for description to the molecule level! It really can be painfully irritating at times.