Death of an Expert Witness Paperback – Mar 11 1988
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The reigning mistress of murder.
P. D. James is "the greatest living mystery writer." --This text refers to an alternate 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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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.