Death in Holy Orders Audio Cassette – Abridged, Apr 2001
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|Audio Cassette, Abridged, Apr 2001||
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Despite challenges from Ruth Rendell and (more recently) Minette Walters, P.D. James's position as Britain's Queen of Crime remains largely unassailable. Although a certain reaction has set in to her reputation (and there are those who claim her poetry-loving copper Adam Dalgliesh doesn't correspond to any of his counterparts in the real world), her detractors can scarcely deny her astonishing literary gifts. More than any other writer, she has elevated the detective story into the realms of literature, with the psychology of the characters treated in the most complex and authoritative fashion. Her plots, too, are full of intriguing detail and studed with brilliantly observed character studies. Who cares if Dalgliesh belongs more in the pages of a book than poking around a graffiti-scrawled council estate? As a policeman, he is considerably more plausible than Doyle's Holmes, and that's never stopped us loving the Baker Street sleuth. Death in Holy Orders represents something of a challenge from James to her critics, taking on all the contentious elements and rigorously reinvigorating them. She had admitted that she was finding it increasingly difficult to find new plots for Dalgliesh, and the locale here (a theological college on a lonely stretch of the East Anglian coast) turns out to be an inspired choice. We're presented with the enclosed setting so beloved of golden age detective writers, and James is able to incorporate her theological interests seamlessly into the plot (but never in any doctrinaire way; the nonbeliever is never uncomfortable). The body of a student at the college is found on the shore, suffocated by a fall of sand. Dalgliesh is called upon to reexamine the verdict of accidental death (which the student's father would not accept). Having visited the College of St. Anselm in his boyhood, he finds the investigation has a strong nostalgic aspect for him. But that is soon overtaken by the realization that he has encountered the most horrific case of his career, and another visitor to the college dies a horrible death. As an exploration of evil--and as a piece of highly distinctive crime writing--this is James at her nonpareil best. Dalgliesh, too, is rendered with new dimensions of psychological complexity. --Barry Forshaw, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Baroness James may have turned 80, but neither she nor her dogged Scotland Yard detective Commander Adam Dalgliesh (last seen in 1997's A Certain Justice) shows any sign of flagging in this superb whodunit, with its extraordinarily complex and nuanced plot and large cast of credible characters. When the body of a young ordinand, Ronald Treeves, turns up buried in a sandy bank on the Suffolk coast near isolated St. Anselm's, a High Anglican theological college, it's unclear whether his death was an accident, suicide or murder. The mystery deepens a few days later when someone suffocates Margaret Munroe, a retired nurse with a bad heart, because she remembers an event 12 years earlier that could have some bearing on whatever's amiss at St. Anselm's. Enter Dalgliesh at the behest of Ronald's father, Sir Alred, who's received an anonymous note suggesting foul play in his son's death. It isn't long before another death occurs, and this time it's clearly murder: late one night in the chapel, somebody bashes in the head of Archdeacon Crampton, a hard-nosed outsider who wanted to close St. Anselm's. Dalgliesh and his investigative team examine the complicated motives of a host of suspects resident at the college, mostly ordinands and priests, slowly unveiling the connections among the various deaths. Illegitimacy, incest, a secret marriage, a missing cloak and a valuable altar triptych are just some of the ingredients in a case as contrived as any Golden Age classic but presented with such masterful ease and conviction that even the most skeptical readers will suspend disbelief. This is a natural for PBS Mystery adaptation. (Apr. 19)Forecast: With a 300,000-copy first printing, this BOMC main selection is sure to race up the bestseller lists.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition. See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
As usual, P D James¡¦ novel is a pleasure to read. Very rarely do detective stories provide the thrill to keep the reader¡¦s heart pumping, the mystery to keep his curiosity alive till the last page, but also wonderful insights into each characters. In simple words, her novels are never shallow. Enjoyment from her novel is never derived from skimping through the pages, but from drinking in each sentence slowly. And it never hurts that Adam Dalgliesh has remained such a charismatic character all along.
It was only relatively late in the story that I figured out who the murderer would be, which is a sign that the writer has not made things so obvious that the book is not worth reading (although it could just have been my unfamiliarity with this genre). At the same time, once the murderer was revealed there were clues that one could look back on, so it didn't feel that James has just picked an unlikely candidate in order to keep it a mystery. This was a fun read but not, ultimately, one that would make me want to read many similar books. For it's explorations of character and the exploration of an unusual setting I would recommend it as something worth reading.
I found the mystery itself quite compelling. The plot proved complex enough without resorting to sometimes laughable complexities for novelty's sake. This was my first Dalgliesh novel, but I found the character decently enough described so as to be able to enjoy reading about him.
The ecclesiastical aspects of the story proved very interesting. James uses the high church-low church matrix to place her characters and their religious politics in finly drawn relation to each other, Church history, and contemporary events.
And though I don't expect to find many others like me in this regard; I enjoyed reading about religion and religious people in a non-religious context. Ecclesiology can be fun (really!) but ecclesiastical murder is more fun!
Since reading "A Death in Holy Orders" I am now reading my way -- backwards -- through the entire Adam Dalgleish series. And I'm enjoying it immensely.
And James has got me back on to Trollope. In a passage in "Holy Orders" a chapter of "Barchester Towers" is read aloud -- to great effect. As I read my way backwards through Dalgleish, I'm reading my way (forwards) through Trollope's excellent "Chronicle of Barsetshire" novels, beginning with "The Warden." Thanks Baroness James for returning me to those excellent, less gorey, but much funnier Victorian novels about life in and around the Church of England.
Most recent customer reviews
although sometimes her books can ramble on a bit, and the writing be a bit too wordy, this one has found the perfect balance.
The writing is somewhat less... Read more
As if we needed any further proof of this. Her detective novels are arguably the best on the shelves. She not only writes a good mystery, but her character depiction is flawless. Read morePublished on April 20 2002 by Shirley Schwartz
P.D. James has a great skill at writing mysteries in a very compelling way. Modern American writers in this genre tend to be very bland, but James' sense of tradition and... Read morePublished on April 17 2002 by David P Henreckson
I've read all of Dame James's Dalgliesh books and must say that I've found this the least interesting. The writing, as always, is wonderful, but the actual mystery is not. Read morePublished on Feb. 19 2002
While Death In Holy Orders may lack the acidity and richness of A Certain Justice, it compensates immeasurably with the quality of transporting the reader to a fine far-flung... Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2002 by Liz
and much too long. I am a long time fan of James, having read everything she's written, but I did not find this book to be very satisfying. Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2002
Very typical Dalgleish stuff, but for the first time its wonderful to learn about the man himself - his past, his present; thats he's really a human being in the real world. Read morePublished on Dec 12 2001 by Emma Hughes
Have we not been here before? Monks/priests on an isolated coastline, the usual suspects arrayed before us, a death in an isolated cottage. Read morePublished on Dec 7 2001