UNNATURAL CAUSES
P.D. James

 


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UNNATURAL CAUSES
P.D. James
Faber & Faber reissue, March 2006
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Scotland Yard’s Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh is having a break at his Aunt’s house on the remote Suffolk coast. All he wants is to be left alone to enjoy long walks in peace and quiet. But his peace is shattered when the mutilated corpse of local crime writer, Maurice Seaton, is found floating in a dinghy at sea with his hands severed at the wrist. Although Inspector Reckless, from the local police, is assigned to the case, Dalgliesh is asked to informally investigate the bizarre death. He quickly discovers that the victim had many enemies, all of them with a strong motive for wishing him dead – all with cast iron alibis.

P. D. James’ books should be read slowly to allow readers to immerse themselves completely in the story. There are a few suspects, most from the literary society that the dead author belonged to, and they all seem to be fairly unpleasant people. James has created a tight community of writers, who are all interconnected with relationships and histories; there is lots of jealousy and spite. Dalgliesh is the outsider who is able to stand back and see the whole community and solve the puzzle of why the murder happened. He is an observer, learning about their secrets and hidden emotions. There are clues available, but the ending was not at all predictable. Once you know the truth then the clues become obvious. The complex plot unfolds quite slowly, leading to a rather shocking ending.

I loved Dalgliesh’s aunt. What a wonderful character she is – I so want her as my aunt. The tension between the local inspector and Dalgliesh is well depicted. As I mentioned previously, the ending was a shock that I didn’t see coming, but to me that means it is a successful mystery. It is so disappointing when you figure out who has done it half way through the book.

March 2006 Review originally posted on Murder and Mayhem
 

 

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