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Death of an Expert Witness [Paperback]

P.D. James
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 25 2011
Dr. Lorrimer appeared to be the picture of a bloodless, coldly efficient scientist. Only when his brutally slain body is discovered and his secret past dissected does the image begin to change. Once again, Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh learns that there is more to human beings than meets the eye -- and more to solving a murder than the obvious clues.


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Review

"P.D. James is unbeatable." -- The Ottawa Citizen

"P.D. James is a remarkable writer." -- Ruth Rendell

"Shines with lucidity and firm intelligence." -- Newsweek

"A craftsman with a poet's vision... she not only detects evil but attempts to uncover the more elusive -- and enduring -- enigmas of the human psyche that lead to it." -- Time


From the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

"P.D. James is unbeatable." -- The Ottawa Citizen

"P.D. James is a remarkable writer." -- Ruth Rendell

"Shines with lucidity and firm intelligence." -- Newsweek

"A craftsman with a poet's vision... she not only detects evil but attempts to uncover the more elusive -- and enduring -- enigmas of the human psyche that lead to it." -- Time --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, Complex Whodunnit April 28 2012
By Debra Purdy Kong TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The murder of Dr. Edwin Lorrimer at Hoggatt's forensics laboratory offers a particularly difficult challenge for Commander Adam Dalgleish. After all, the killer could be one of Lorrimer's colleagues, and that person would know how to destroy evidence and mislead investigators.

Death of an Expert Witness contains all of P.D. James's usual trademarks, including haughty professionals who barely have time for Dalgleish's questions and an isolated institution filled with secrets. For those who've followed my reviews of James's work this year, you'll know her novels have been hit or miss with me, partly for their sameness and lack of interesting subplots or character development. This book, however, was one of the better ones because James did a good job of delving into characters's personal lives and foibles.

There still wasn't much in the way of subplots, and I don't think Dalgleish changed at all. As usual, the story kept me guessing about the killer's identity, but it all made perfect sense in the end. This book shows why James has gained so many fans. It's an intelligent, complex puzzler exploring desperate aspects of need and loneliness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A multitude of suspects Sept. 16 2006
Format:Paperback
P.D.James' "Death of an expert witness" is an interesting mystery. The victim is Dr. Lorrimer, a well-qualified and authoritative forensic scientist. On a personal basis he is unpleasant. He is smarting from being passed over for promotion, "petty in his dealings with underlings, vindictive in his personal relationships". Adam Dagleish is brought up from London to solve the case but finds himself confronted by a multitude of suspects. Virtually everyone has a motive to get rid of Lorrimer and there are many suspect alibis.

The novel is replete with red herrings leading us to suspect first one character and then another of being the killer.

P.D. James has a first-rate reputation as a mystery writer.But Inspector Dagleish is not really my cup of tea.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Hercule Poirot Dec 28 2001
Format:Paperback
Two disclaimers for this review: 1, this was my first P.D. James novel. 2, I believe that Agatha Christie was the goddess of all mystery writing.
I am used to a body within the first few pages, and letting Hercule Poirot deduce things from there until the solution is provided. However, there are no bodies until 80 pages into the book, and most of the discussion includes things that Dalgliesh brings out later with witnesses anyway, making them redundant.
Also confusing was James's apparent escape from reality with character names. Some are completely absurd, like the characters names "Makepeace" and "Gotobed." Combining words into names detracts from the proposed seriousness of the situation.
This book is much heavier than a true murder mystery, and the decision comes down to this: whether you want a true murder mystery, where you follow facts and psychology in the attempt to deduce the murderer, or whether you want a deeper novel -- a P.D. James novel -- where, along with the murder, time is spent reflecting on life and the world in a more philosophical fashion.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
80 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to sit up with all night Nov. 3 2002
By Gary F. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
P.D. James' work occasionally collapses under its own weight as the author strains to combine psychological novel with crafty murder mystery--but DEATH OF AN EXPERT WITNESS shows the writer at her best, creating a memorable setting in rural England, a host of very believable characters, and a complex plot, with all aspects of the work coming together in seamless fashion.
Dr. Lorrimer is a forensic scientist employed at a police laboratory, well respected by the scientific community and a bastion of authority in the witness box. Unfortunately, he is also a singularly unpleasant man: bitter at being passed over for promotion, petty in his dealings with underlings, vindictive in his personal relationships. So it is hardly surprising when he is murdered--but the circumstances are something of a shock: he is clubbed to death in the middle of his own laboratory, a situation that seems to indicate one or more of his co-workers is involved. And Chief Inspector Dalgliesh has an abundance of suspects from which to select.
James' detective Dalgliesh is a rather dour creation, and in some James novels he can become a tiresome companion--but here James balances his darkness against the demands of the overall novel to considerable effect. The result is a stylish, atmospheric work with an intelligent plot and a satisfying conclusion--a book to keep mystery fans sitting up all night. Recommended.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who can resist Adam Dalgleish? May 2 2005
By Laurie Fletcher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an old P.D. James that I had somehow missed when I read her continuously in the mid-1990s. Although I love the James character Cordelia Gray, who appears in all of the "Unsuitable Job for a Woman"-type mysteries, my favorite James character is Inspector Dalgliesh. Since BBC/PBS did a series of "Mystery" episodes years ago based on the Dalgliesh character, I have him firmly fixed in my mind as the troubled Inspector (aren't they all?) who is also a brilliant poet and lover of all things fine in life. This book is a Dalgliesh book, not his best (that would be "A Taste for Death" or perhaps "Shroud for a Nightingale"), but even the worst Dalgliesh (I can't think of one) would be better than the best of most other people. This one takes place at a forensic laboratory where criminal and other evidence is processed and gives us a bit of a glimpse into how the Brits do Crime Scene Investigation (CSI). These are country people, not slick American city types, and that's OK. The countryside hides lots of interesting characters who have all sorts of motivations. Keep in mind that this was first published in 1986 and the world has changed rather tremendously since then!
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good detective story. Nov. 27 1997
By dfink@dmagic.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The first 60-65 pages were difficult to get through, because the main character is absent from them. When he does enter, Inspector Dalgleish is not developed nearly as much as he is in other books. We learn very little about him in this book. On the other hand, the search for the murderer is straighforward and interesting. There was the sense that enough clues were provided to the reader to identify the guilty party.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Expert at Mystery Sept. 11 2004
By RCM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
P.D. James has established herself as one of the definitive mystery writers of her generation and has established Adam Dalgliesh as one of the premier detectives within the literary world. 'Death of an Expert Witness' is a classic example of James' intelligent writing and thoroughly engaging plot lines that keep the reader guessing up until the end. Surely this is one of her best Dalgliesh mysteries.

The expert witness in the title refers to Dr. Edwin Lorrimer, a much respected forensic biologist who leads a solitary life in rural England. Although admired by colleagues for his work and intelligence, Lorrimer is severly disliked as a person. The introductory book introduces us to several characters that inhabit Chevisham and their various reasons for disliking Dr. Lorrimer - and perhaps even their motives for killing him. When he is found dead in his laboratory, all signs point to someone on the inside, and Adam Dalgliesh is called in to piece together the mystery surrounding his death.

The cast of characters is well written and believable; their supporting roles are thoroughly realized and move the plot along at a brisk pace. Dalgliesh is a master at tracking the little things that move humans to murder and the reader follows in his footsteps, searching for the clues even as he seeks them out. As usual, there is a hint of melancholy in Dalgliesh's actions and in the novel's bittersweet ending; the reader has come to empathize with the vivid characters who may or may not be guilty.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As usual, P.D. James delivers June 29 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Though it pales in comparison with James' more recent work, DEATH OF AN EXPERT WITNESS, one of the best of her early novels, deserves to be judged based on its own merits. This is an excellent detective novel with interesting, believably drawn characters and an intriguing setting. James' descriptions of the goings-on at a forensic laboratory make the story even more engaging and realistic. The plot is complex, moving steadily toward the sharp climax, and the writing is, as usual, flawless. A great read.
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