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Rarely There

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Black Tower by P.D.James


The Black Tower
by Phyllis Dorothy James White

I've read about a dozen or so of P.D.James. About a decade ago. On a whim, I wanted to read a few again just for nostalgia, like reading Agatha Christie over and over even though I know what happens...

Adam Dalgliesh, aging yet athletic, sharp, with a keen sense of justice, makes a likable protagonist. BBC's production of Adam Dalgliesh mysteries are probably well-known, but, reading P.D.James is quite a different sort of pleasure altogether. Dry, wry wit, some incidental humor, fairly serious yet not fantastically outlandish plot, gradual development of characters over the pages, unlikely hero caught up in a web of deceit that he must unravel at the risk of his life... throw in some fairly pathetic supporting characters, a few murders and a colorful adversary, and you get a winning combination for a satisfying detective novel.

This is a macabre story, bordering on creepy, especially since it is set in a remote sanitarium with terminal invalids who feel desperate and hopeless about their lives; and, Adam keeps convincing himself that he is past his prime and is no longer suited for solving crime, as if suffering from borderline depression, and is just convalescing after being told that he was terminal, so he doesn't really actively investigate until too many coincidences and incongruities become impossible to ignore.

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