P.D. James is one of the best novelists alive, and she has gained a considerable reputation as a mystery writer. It's to the point that she was created Baroness James of Holland park a dozen years ago. She writes these Adam Dalgliesh mysteries, which are complex, textured stories that have multiple points of view, and involving, engaging characters that act in interesting ways, for intelligent motives.
In this volume, Dalgliesh is consulted about a series of practical jokes that have occurred at a venerable publishing house that's situated in a large mansion on the banks of the Thames River. He declines to get involved, and two weeks later there's a murder on the premises. The partners of the firm are from two extended families, though the leadership has recently passed from a pair of elderly men to a younger generation, dominated by the first victim, a vigorous man with a somewhat distasteful personality.
Dalgliesh steps into this mystery with his assistant Kate Miskin and a new one, Daniel Aaron, and he spends most of this book trying to disentangle the various threads of the crime and the things that are going on. The plot thickens, more murders occur, and the plot speeds up as things proceed.
James is somewhat like Christie, but different in one significant way that makes her a considerable improvement. Christie's novels were very plot-driven, with characters that didn't come to life much. The one exception was the main detective, and then you had to read several books to get into their character and get to know them. James by contrast writes a good plot---her books are almost as complex as Christie---but they are equally populated with characters that are memorable in and of themselves.
This is one of James' better books, and I only give it four stars as opposed to five because it gets a bit slow in the middle, and the murderer turns out to be a bit improbable. Other than that, the story is fine and I enjoyed it.