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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My first James but not my last...
Not since I saw "The Sixth Sense" a few years ago has the solution of a mystery so satisfied me as P.D. James's "Original Sin". It is one of those resolutions that makes you close the book with a satisfied snap, wondering and admiring a style that can lead you to so obvious a conclusion without giving it away too soon.
Themes of sin and justice weave in and out of...
Published on Oct. 28 2002 by Alex Nichols, author of Shadow...

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3.0 out of 5 stars Slow in spots - but better than the TV adaptation!
As much as I like to picture Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgleish, I found I was irritated by the TV adaptation of this novel. I read _Original Sin_ and enjoyed it a lot - it's dense and has a lot of characters and sideplots. It does move slowly in spots, and there are places where you do want to say "get on with it, already". But the second half of the novel is quite...
Published on Aug. 10 1998


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My first James but not my last..., Oct. 28 2002
By 
Alex Nichols, author of Shadow Rock (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Original Sin (Paperback)
Not since I saw "The Sixth Sense" a few years ago has the solution of a mystery so satisfied me as P.D. James's "Original Sin". It is one of those resolutions that makes you close the book with a satisfied snap, wondering and admiring a style that can lead you to so obvious a conclusion without giving it away too soon.
Themes of sin and justice weave in and out of the plot of this mystery, which is set at a London publishing house. The publisher has been murdered, gassed to death by a fireplace accident, with a stuffed snake wrapped around his neck. Suspicion centers around the publisher's various employees and a disgruntled midlist author whose contract has been cancelled. The publisher's death comes close on the heels on on on-site suicide of a longtime employee of the firm. By the novel's end, several more corpses make an appearance, maybe one more than is necessary.
Then there's the solution. I won't say anything about it except that it has been perfectly set up, and yet somehow the conclusion is just outside the grasp of the reader's mind, giving you one of those "Of course!" reactions.
Well worth the read... I can now see why James is considered the best in her field.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Standard James mystery is a cut above, Oct. 21 2003
By 
David W. Nicholas (Van Nuys, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Original Sin (Paperback)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another winning mystery and surprise solution for Dalgliesh!, Sept. 28 2002
By 
"lynkfri13" (Waltham, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Original Sin (Paperback)
~ - ~
P.D. James gets better and better! You do not have to be a Dalgliesh fan to read this book. Each of her mysteries stand alone as a complex study of the disasters that happen when the wrong mix of characters and motives come together.
In this story Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh, (who is also a poet, and lost his wife and baby son in a long ago tragedy), and his assistant Kate Miskin, investigate a murder at a publishing house on the brink of closing.
As always, James paints such well-described portraits of all the characters that make up the closed community around the murder. It is very easy to get swept away by this story. The characters are all so three-dimensional: each has motives for their different actions that are unique to them. As in all James, mysteries, we do get to see the action through the eyes of the other characters, not just the detectives. It's only in re-reading that you'll realize the view from the murderers eyes was carefully limited by the author, to keep us in suspense.
~ - ~
The solution to the mystery was quite a surprise. (Being such a mystery fan, many books are now transparent) As always-, James has a clever, unexpected solution, and a dramatically satisfying ending.
If you've heard of P.D.James - this is a great mystery to jump into! James fans- Don't miss it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cleverly plotted, rich and rewarding, June 6 2001
By 
Robert J. Morris (Macungie, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This was my first effort at a P.D. James novel and surely won't be my last. Each character is drawn in terrific detail that explains perfectly why they are who they are. More importantly, the detail explains why so many have a motive and opportunity for the murders.
While reading the book I felt like I'd worked for years at the publishing house on the Thames which is at the center of the novel. James paints her settings in vivid detail that is never boring and adds so much to the story.
She throws in just enough history of the Thames and explanation of the publishing industry to put real meat on this novel, and to draw the reader near the center of the mystery. Her resolution makes perfect sense, and leaves you wondering how you ever missed the clues that were placed so clearly before you.
I noticed that a few reviewers seemed to feel that this was not James' best effort. I hope they're right, because I'll be reading a pile of P.D. James novels in the next few months.
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5.0 out of 5 stars James books no argument with this thriller!, Nov. 9 2000
By 
Billy J. Hobbs "Bill Hobbs" (Tyler, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
For Superintendent Adam Dalgleish, there are just too many coincidences, too many "practical" jokes, too many deaths, and too many suspects. In P.D. James' "Original Sin," this quintessential investigator has his hands full. And James, herself, is at top form in this London thriller, all asea with several subplots at once. Intriguing they are, too. Someone is bumping off the partners of Peverell Press, a venerable publishing company now on shaky financial legs that rests on the banks of the Thames in a real ediface complex called Innocent House, an opulent Venetian-type of building that is at once a landmark as well as a nest of intrigue, murder, and mayhem, going back a couple of generations to its founder.
As one after another body is found, the pieces begin to come together, although not easily nor fast. Dalgleish and his two assistants, Kate Mishkin and Aaron Daniel, have their own personal concerns to sort out as well. James has created a host of
excellently developed characters, as she usually does, and the reader is caught up in the problems and affairs of them all. Finally to solve the case, Dalgleish and company have to look back for their answers, all the way back to World War II France. The climax comes powerfully in "Original Sin" and as usual James leaves her readers, not necessarily on a joyous note, but one that is pensive, sometimes even remorseful. But what a read. In literature, and especially with P.D. James,
there is justice after all! (Billyjhobbs@tyler.net)
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4.0 out of 5 stars VARIATION ON A THEME, Nov. 8 2000
By 
Loren D. Morrison "amateur_reviewer" (Los Angeles County, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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In ORIGINAL SIN, Lady James has followed a formula similar to one that she has succesfully used in other novels. A person in a position of some power is contemplating a series of actions that will, most probably, cause damage to the careers and/or financial stability of several people either in his employ or in some other way dependant on him. To those so affected, these actions seem ruthless, and, in fact, are ruthless, but taken by this future murder victim because he feels that they make good business sense.
These planned actions seem to provide plausible motives for his murder, therefore several of his associates or underlings do have motives for his murder. In addition, most of these people seem to have had the opportunity.
During the course of the murder investigation there are other murders which may or may not be related to the original murder. (Want to guess if they are?)
The one variation from this theme from the two previous P. D. James mysteries I have reviewed, DEVICES AND DESIRES and A CERTAIN JUSTICE, is that this murder victim is male instead of female.
That's the formula, here are the specifics:
Our victim, Gerard Etienne, began making significant changes shortly after taking control of Peverell Press, an old and distinguished London Publisher that had fallen upon hard times. He planned to drop less profitable authors, to do away with some positions, and to sell the Venetian style building that had always symbolized all that Peverell Press had stood for. These plans gave any number of people reason to wish him dead and, sure enough, he did turn up dead, murdered in what was supposed to look like a suicide. Oh, did I mention that there had been a suicide at Peverell Press only a few weeks before Etienne's murder? No? Well there was, and in the same room where Etienne's body was found. Aha, the plot thickens!
Because of Etienne's status in London society, Adam Dalgliesh and his team of investigative specialists are called in to investigate the murder.
The bulk of the balance of the book is dedicated to the investigation and to the activities of various suspects and future victims of the murderer, as well as dealing with the personal devils inhabiting the minds and lives of Dalgliesh and his two key investigators, Kate Miskin and Daniel Aron.
Lady James writes in a leisurely but engaging manner, never rushing things but letting her scenes unfold at their own pace. This aspect of her writing seems to bother some reviewers who prefer less description and more action. I feel that it is exactly this aspect of her writing that sets her apart from the run-of-the-mill mystery writer. She may utilize a lot of descriptive prose, but she does it so well!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Slow in spots - but better than the TV adaptation!, Aug. 10 1998
By A Customer
As much as I like to picture Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgleish, I found I was irritated by the TV adaptation of this novel. I read _Original Sin_ and enjoyed it a lot - it's dense and has a lot of characters and sideplots. It does move slowly in spots, and there are places where you do want to say "get on with it, already". But the second half of the novel is quite gripping, and I found I was *not expecting* the ending! That said, I was really disappointed with the "Mystery" production of the novel. Characters were dropped, the storyline was considerably simplified. Even the ending (how the killer meets "justice") seems to have been "punched up" to be more spectacular for TV. I enjoy P.D. James. Not everyone does - it seems that many people find her novels plodding and self-absorbed. I like them because they are dense and full of complex characters. Judge for yourself whether you will like her novels or not. I wouldn't say it's the *! best* novel I've ever read - maybe not even the best P.D. James - but I did find it enjoyable.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Her writing is LUGUBRIOUS, March 24 1998
PD James is getting very wordy, verbose and boring. I had to stop reading this book after she used the word "LUGUBRIOUS" three (yes! 3!) times in the first 80 or so pages. This was such an overkill, most people wont use "lugubrious" in their lifetimes. I gave up on this book and waited for the PBS mystery, which was worth the wait. Although I like many of her earlier mysteries and she really is a good writer, this book is not one of her best. Im beginning to think she gets paid by the word, (didnt that sort of go out with Dickens??) In any case, she once gave an interview on PBS stating that she didnt care much for the Agatha Christie type mysteries with a "body in a locked room" but thats exactly what she gives us here. The body, the locked room (publishing office) so she really isnt too far removed from Ms Christie's plots. She should apologize. Her new book "A Certain Justice" is much better written, even though she manages to describe a certain color as "greeny-blue" twice (yes twice) in different parts of the book. Maybe she is just running out of adjectives??
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great setting, disappointing denouement, July 19 1999
By A Customer
For once one of James's elaborate architectural fantasias seems both exciting and appropriate, and the mock-Venetian splendour of Innocent House adds a wonderful Gothic atmosphere to ORIGINAL SIN. Gerard Etienne is a superb murder victim--so utterly loathesome you come to wonder why anyone hasn't killed him long ago--and many of the suspects are wonderfully complex and even (in the case of Frances Peverell) wholly sympathetic--the latter instance must be a first for James.
But the novel's denouement is a real disappointment. The reason for Gerard's murder is pretty hokey, and doesn't seem to be very much "a piece" with the rest of the novel. And the resolution of the Daniel aaron subplot comes out of nowhere. James's next novel, A CERTAIN JUSTICE, has a far more satisfying plot and resolution.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not just any mystery novel!, Nov. 23 1998
By 
Allan J. Oster (Glenside, PA) - See all my reviews
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Original Sin provided me with further confirmation (as if I needed it) of why P.D. James is among my favorite authors. This book is well plotted and written beautifully. The book's pace is leisurely without ever being slow -- and it is this pace which allows James to develop a "classic" mystery that at the same time serves as a character study and morality play. I have always enjoyed James' use of the character study (some of the finest chapters in this book involve the inner workings of the most peripheral characters). As with A Taste for Death, the last 100 pages are perhaps the most exciting, although as soon as I read the first chapter, the prose grabbed me and I knew I was in another James work.
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Original Sin by P. D. James (Paperback - May 2002)
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