Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recommended: "The Private Patient" by P.D. James

For the past few weeks, it's been difficult to finish a book. Whether this is due to the weather, short days, the holiday rush, or just lousy reading material, I can't say for sure. I tried reading Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. While this book was initially interesting, about halfway through I put it down and never returned to it.

Next I started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Reg Keeland. The book began with the main character coping with being on the losing end of devastating a lawsuit. Not an appealing beginning for this reader. I put it down about 25 pages in, but intend to try again under more auspicious circumstances (such as in the shade on a beach, enjoying warm temps and cold pina coladas).

Finally, I turned to The Private Patient, An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery by P.D. James and hit my reading groove. Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard has appeared in 14 mystery novels by Ms. James. The first, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962. James is now 88 years old, and whether she will publish any further books featuring Dalgliesh is unknown. As a fan of P.D. James and this character, the thought that The Private Patient may be our final adventure together brought about feelings of sentimentality that colored the entire read.

P.D. James writes beautifully and excels at describing the places and people that populate The Private Patient. Occasionally, she makes an odd word choice, but having just worked my way through half of Sea of Poppies, which is heavily laden with odd and unusual words, this was not too remarkable.

The plot of The Private Patient concerns the murder of a woman staying at an old country house that has been converted into a private hospital. The woman, investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn, is in the care of a plastic surgeon who will remove Gradwyn's deep, disfiguring facial scar. In classic murder mystery style, Dalgliesh and his team focus their investigation on the small group of individuals staying at the house on the night of the murder. The story moves at an interesting, but leisurely, pace. The lives of the victim, the suspects, and the investigating officers are examined in turn until finally, in the last quarter of the book, matters are revealed and resolved at lightening speed.

If you are not already a fan of the Adam Dalgliesh series, then this is probably not the book with which to start. Instead, go to the beginning of the series and enjoy reading some great mysteries. If you have spent years enjoying reading about Adam Dalgliesh, then it is a very fine read. It may not turn out to be the best book of the series, but it fulfills an important roll in resolving matters for the main characters. For example, P.D. James closes The Private Patient with Dalgliesh entering a new stage in his life. If this turn out to be the last book in the series, then she wrapped up matters with a happy, hopeful future for her character.

Still, no matter how happy a future P.D. James has left for Adam Dalgliesh, reaching the end of this book made me terribly sad.


  1. Thank you for your posts. I have been following your blog for some time and I appreciate it.

  2. Thanks so much! I appreciate hearing from you.