Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by P. D. James
Faber and Faber, October 2005
400 pages
ISBN: 0571229182

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

P D James is, together with Ruth Rendell, one of the most enduring of British women crime fiction writers. Both authors have received many awards and both have been rewarded by the Establishment in that each now bears the title of Baroness.

Despite these superficial similarities, there would be little point in comparing the work of the two. P D James came relatively late to writing -- she was 42 when her first book, COVER HER FACE appeared -- but her long life has ensured an impressive bibliography. THE LIGHTHOUSE is a further episode in the adventures of Commander Adam Dalgliesh, the ever-popular protagonist who made his debut in the author's first novel.

Commander Dalgliesh is given the task of deciding whether the death of a writer on an isolated island off the Cornish coast is suicide or murder. It is a very delicate task and one which, of necessity, must avoid the attentions of the media as Combe Island has now risen above its bloodstained antecedents where the original inhabitants were thought to enrich themselves from looted vessels.

It is now a refuge for the powerful wanting to retreat, for a time, to a place where there would be no need for personal security measures beyond those afforded by the island itself.

The dead writer was a difficult person who had no friends on the island, not even his daughter and his personal secretary, and was raising the level of disquiet by announcing his intention to move permanently to live on Combe. It was an unfortunate circumstance that, since Nathan Oliver was born on the island, he was one of the few people entitled to opt for permanent residence there.

Oliver liked to introduce a certain realism into his books. Wherever possible, he would place a real-world character fitting the characteristics he required in one of his fictional people, into a situation mirroring that which he wished to incorporate into one of his novels, then observe how the non-fictional person would react. Given some of those situations, it was not unlikely that some of his victims might seek revenge in a form possibly as drastic as death.

Neither Dalgliesh nor his team finds it convenient to be removed from their normal surroundings to pursue the investigation but they must subordinate their wishes to the call of duty. As the case continues, a second victim falls foul of the murderer while Dalgliesh himself is temporarily felled by an agency that could well prove as lethal.

P D James writes in a style that can best be described as elegant. Her prose is polished and she displays a great respect for the language. One would be committing lese-majeste were one to describe James' novels as thrillers since they far exceed the narrow confines of such categorisation, being more at home in the realms of higher literature.

Her characters are all provided with realistic and convincing motivations and backgrounds. James, nonetheless, provides genuine and intricate puzzles for her select group of sleuths whom she baffles until the last -- as she surely does her readers. She constructs the scenario very carefully by placing her characters on the isolated island of Combe, where no others can intrude.

P D James ably demonstrates that her ability to construct intricate plots and believably human characters continues to grow and improve over the decades.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, September 2005

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]