Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Mind to Murder (Published in 1963) - Authored by PD James - Second adventure for Dalgliesh

Acclaimed writer P. D. James was part of the British Police and Criminal Law Department before she ventured into the world of writing novels. Her background in the Civil Service is very clearly depicted through her skillful writing, which contains rich and vibrant descriptions of her characters. Her writing has clearly evolved with her second novel in the Adam Dalgliesh series, where she has poignantly depicted the character’s personal life.
A Mind to Murder is certainly more descriptive than its predecessor and the story line and plot setting definitely have a ring of authenticity to it. This is because James uses her experience to carefully describe characters and settings in the book. For example, the victim of this book is a hospital administrator in a London Psychiatric outpatient clinic. James herself has enough experience in that field to accurately describe the workings of the hospital and the heartbreak of mental illness, having had to take care of her husband – a physician who was a patient for more than 20 years before his death.
A Mind to Murder is about Steen Psychiatric Clinic – a well reputed clinic situated in London. However its formidable fa├žade crumbles when the hospital administrator, a Miss Bolam, is found murdered in the basement of the clinic with a chisel driven through her heart and totem from the art therapy lab placed on her chest. Miss Bolam is described as a total Girl Scout, who wouldn’t have hurt a fly. Who then could conjure such hatred towards her? Detective Adam Dalgliesh is called in to investigate the murder.




Dalgliesh then has the task of interrogating patients, doctors and other staff of the clinic. He must follow up every clue and solve every puzzle so as to uncover the murderer. This draws him into the world of psychiatry, drugs and deceit. Dalgliesh sifts through the suspects’ anxieties and desires, to uncover which one of them could have an unresolved conflict that led to the murder of Miss Bolam. The story has set pieces of suspects in a closed environment. As a result the reader begins to speculate who the killer could be.
James has developed the character of Detective Dalgliesh in this novel and has shown him to be a widower who is thoughtful and brooding. He is shown to be a child of respectable and notable parentage, and someone who enjoys writing poetry.
James’ study of the human mind and human nature are plainly perceptible in this book. A clear example of this is the inner conflict that Dalgliesh feels when he searches the home of the victim knowing well that it is an invasion of her privacy. Like before, James does not lay all her cards on the table, but reveals them as and when necessary in the book.
The book is a short and quick read with only 224 pages. Overall, A Mind to Murder is interesting and like any good murder mystery one has to pay attention to every detail, unless they want to miss out on a clue.

A Mind to Murder (Published in 1963) - Authored by PD James - Second adventure for Dalgliesh

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