DEATH IN HOLY ORDERS (P D James)

200px-DeathinholyordersThe “Queen of Crime” was unbeatable when it came to police procedural. And she is on top of her game here. What scope, what depth, what sheer writing talent when it comes to a gripping, mesmerizing, no-holds-barred whodunnit. More civilized and polite than most: there is no graphic sex, no foul language and no violent scenes. Nice.

James writing in the way she knows best, unassuming and literate, psychological and breath-taking. And her main man, Adam Dalgleish, is with his trusted assistants Kate Miskin and Piers Tarrant, as the superintendent enters ecclesiastical waters in this episode. A theological student has been found dead on the East Anglian shore, a tragedy ruled “accidental.” This is a really complex story, with nearly all of the characters having some reason to either hate the murdered man, or reason to implicate someone else.

However, pressed by the student’s father, Dalgleish re-examines the ruling and James is off in her typical style. Known as the “dark poet of Scotland Yard,” Dalgleish finds himself, once again, in familiar territory, as he recalls having visited the College of St. Anselm in his youth; however, momentary nostalgia aside, he finds more than he could possibly have anticipated. Of course, there is soon another death and Dalgleish’s own “little gray cells” begin working overtime.

Indeed, this may be the most horrifying case he’s encountered, as James explores evil as she’s never done before. The story holds one’s attention, with scandals, interlocking clues, and bodies piling up nicely. No surprise ending, though. Police procedure and forensic evidence lead doggedly to the truth. Once again, James takes some time to present Dalgleish, the man, as well. Each of the books in his series provides more and more insight into this incredibly complex policeman. Dalgleish fans will welcome this, of course. “Death in Holy Orders” is yet another of those books that find themselves almost impossible to put down if you are into crime novels. James and Dalgleish–what a combination, what a read!

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