The Murder Room is all that a murder-mystery should be. Intriguing and clever mystery plot, an exciting story, an interesting set of characters, including the suspects, and well-balanced writing. After my previous disappointment, I approached this novel with caution and without expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised and am happy to find that, at last, this is one book in the series that I could claim to have truly enjoyed. In all the eleven preceding books of the series, I found some complaint or other which stopped me from fully enjoying their stories. This was true even for A Certain Justice which for me had the cleverest plot in the Dalgliesh series so far. But now with The Murder Room, I can say that series gave me at least one book to enjoy without a grumble.
The murder mystery was cleverly written, setting the story at a reasonably quick pace. The story was truly intriguing, burning the readers with impatience to know how things will turn out, who the criminal is and what was the driving motive. The criminal and motive were easy to guess, but James threw in some complications by introducing a few conflicting motives. Knowing James’s style by now, I didn’t waver in my conviction, but I admit that she certainly threw in some pretty intelligent twists and turns, and almost deceived us.
A word must be said about the characters. It was a diverse set chosen from very different backgrounds. Their separate lives interested me. I was able to connect with many of them comfortably. Like in some of her other novels, James had not taken upon her to deliberately make her characters antagonistic or evil. She has balanced them well and has let her readers decide on who is who. That was something I found relieving.
The writing was smooth and balanced, not too wordy, and not too much probing into the psychologies of the characters. James can be really tiresome with her detailed descriptions of places and characters and too much exposure to their inner minds. I’ve experienced that time and again, but mercifully, here we see somewhat more “tamed” writing without too much enthusiasm showed for details. I also found the writing to be quite sensitive which I truly appreciated.
Now we come to our most important character – Commander Adam Dalgliesh. Personally, I think this novel is where Dalgliesh was portrayed in his best element. He showed a lot of his humane side here. His authority never slackens, but his tact and sensitivity to the suspects show a very patient and compassionate man. And the exposure into his personal life interested me nearly as much as the murder-mystery. After knowing him for months, I’m truly happy that he finally found love! 🙂
The Murder Room is the best murder mystery of the Dalgliesh series so far, and I sincerely hope that James will keep this form and that the rest of the books in the series will be equally enjoyable.