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Devices and Desires [Hardcover]

P. D. James
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan 1990
A serial killer of women is on the loose on the Norfolk coast in a community overshadowed by the Larksoken nuclear power station. Commander Dalgliesh, who is staying at his aunt's converted windmill, becomes in-volved in the hunt for the murderer, a search that implicates him in the concerns and dangerous secrets of the headland community.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 433 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred a Knopf; 1st Edition 4th Printing edition (Jan 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394580702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394580708
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 497,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

P. D. James was born in Oxford in 1920 and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience has been used in her novels.

She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of the Arts and has served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of its Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London.

She has won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She has received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors.

She lives in London and Oxford and has two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Product Description


" Taut. . . . Absorbing. . . . Better than her best." - "The New York Times Book Review" " I have often thought of mysteries as the sorbets of literature, something light and tangy to clear the palate between more serious courses. The books of P.D. James, however are more substantial fare, fulfilling as well as delicious, and Devices and Desires is no exception." - "The Washington Post Book World" " A masterful writer . . . Devices and Desires seems to be that highly prized work- a terrific tale suspense and detection that also delivers the satisfaction of a mainstream novel." - "The Wall Street Journal" " Brilliant . . . wonderful. P.D. James does it again." - "USA Today" " Her stories are so engrossing that it is difficult to read slowly enough to pay attention to the remarkable writing. But in Devices and Desires, she is so at the top of her form that to rush though would itself be a crime." - "The Kansas City Star" " Undiluted pleasure." - "Newsday" " Vintage P.D. James. . . . Devotees of Britain' s Queen of Crime will be enthralled . . . showcasing lyrical prose abounding with vivid imagery, suberbly delineated characters, and a labyrinthine puzzle. . . . It' s impossible to resist this haunting, dark tale." - "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" " We' re glued to P.D. James' s beautifully spun whodunit. . . . The master' s shivering touch is intact." - "Glamour" " A cleverly crafted book that readers may very well stay up all night to finish. . . . She exposes themurderously repressed rage beneath the clam surface of typical middle-class Britishers." - "Boston Herald" " The greatest living mystery writer . . . weaves a dazzling array of psychological profiles into a gently ironic examination of human life and the ' relative value' we ascribe to it." - "People" " James at her best . . . a superb tale of murder." - "Booklist" " Devices and Desires may be her best yet. . . . The plot is superb, with the larger moral issues of a nearby nuclear power station and the thickly interwoven lives of characters lending measured gravity to the sensational murder story. And the prose style is a dream." - "The Seattle Times" " Un-put-downable. . . . P.D. James is never content with just a formulaic detective story. She takes the whodunit to deeper levels." - "New Woman" " James is one of Britain' s best writers in the genre. . . . Devices and Desires brings the classic whodunit as far as it can go." - "The Detroit News" " The best book she' s written. It has literary merit that detective works seldom attempt . . . everything fits beautifully." - "The Sacramento Bee" " No other mystery writer- and few writers period- offers such a rich bounty. . . . Devices and Desires is superb. It is what good writing- and reading- is all about. James has used all her powers to produce her best work yet. Her fans- old and new- will be overjoyed." - "Fort Worth Star-Telegram" " James once again gives us a convincing portrait of contemporarysociety, while at the same time she scrupulously observes- and smartly updates and complicates- all the mystery genre conventions." - "San Diego Magazine" " Demonstrates just how well James commands the English language. . . . The complex plot unfolds into the usual Jamesian tangle of human relationships and subplots. The story takes shape as James unwraps each nuance of personality, each intricate piece of the puzzle." - "Library Journal" "From the Trade Paperback edition." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Stunning paperback repackages celebrating the world's pre-eminent crime writer and over forty years of detective fiction. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Read 12 Feb 2006
By A Customer
I REALLY enjoyed this book! Although I am fairly new to P.D James, "Devices and Desires" is my favourite one so far (I have also read "Original Sin", "Shroud for a Nightingale" and "Murder Room") The author's descriptions of the Norfolk landscape are so atmospheric and they set the tone for this dark novel. I thought the first murder was written in brilliant, chilling detail, in fact the description of the "Whistler" was scary, frankly!
I liked the way the novel progressed at an organic rate and it flowed well. I also liked James' exploration of nuclear power and the effect of Larksoken as an accepted part of the landscape, albeit grudgingly by some.
It was also refreshing to have Dalgliesh isolated from his London home and placed in a much less familiar territory. I was quite pleased there were no references in this book to his love life, as in "Muder Room"- which I felt detracted from the story and was of little interest.
I would highly recommend this book!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Radio Drama Captures Spirit of Novel 24 July 2001
By A Customer
Format:Misc. Supplies
When I had first read Devices and Desires I'll admit that I was slightly dissapointed with the ending. And yet even after two or three days I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was nothing like a Christie murder mystery and far from anything like Starling's Messiah.
I had so many questions with the book and yet I didn't want to re-read it again. Then I found the BBC recording at this site. I had been a long time fan of the BBC radio dramas and knew that the quality of the production would be worth it.
And since then I have listened to it on numerous occasions. And the radio drama not only captures the essence of the book but also answers all the questions I had before listening to it. And I've come to realize that the story may not have a "Hollywood" ending.. but has an ending that is more real than not.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for the impatient or the restless 13 Aug 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
P.D. James does not write for the impatient or the restless. Her extraordinary knowledge of and advanced use of the English language, are for the reader who enjoys to dwell on intricate and almost philosophical descriptions, not only geographically and materialistically, but of the human mind in all its variety of moods.

"Devices and Desires" is a typical example of Ms James' writing. Slowly and meticulously the reader is drawn into the story. The introduction of the many participants, the questions as to their part in - or rather importance to - the mystery at hand, invites curiosity as well as confusion as loose threads keep popping up and no significant pattern has as yet emerged.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh remains for a long time a bystander on holiday at his late aunt's cottage, while the local police are handling the case of "the Whistler", a mass murderer of young women in the community of Larksoken on the cost of Norfolk.

The first hundred pages of the book comes through as a sort of introduction, painstakingly introducing the surroundings and participants in the drama. However, after the Whistler strikes again and claims his fifth victim, Commander Dalgliesh is eventually drawn into the investigation and the pace of the story is slowly accellerating and the stage finally set.

At this point, the patient reader is most certainly hooked and ready to enjoy yet another murder investigation superbly crafted by a master story teller.

It is a dark story. Images and threads are drawn back to horrendeous events of the past, and as the story unfolds, it appears that the Whistler is not the only murderer at loose.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars P. D. James best book 11 Oct 2011
I agree with the other reviewer, Kim, this definitely is P. D. James' masterpiece.
But I don't understand why there are only 7 reviewers (Diana Gabaldon books have more than 1.000 reviews). It's a very intelligently written crime novel with beautiful scenery made me go to East Anglia on vacation. I also watched the TV movie which is available on DVD.
Unforgettable book and something I can re-read every few years.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly readable book 18 Jun 2004
By M. V. Clarke VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very good book, extremely well-written, as is always the case with PD James. The prose is elegant, flowing and eminently readable. Featuring Adam Dalgliesh, this novel is set in Larksoken in Norfolk, focussing on the lives of a small village community living in the shadow of a nuclear power station. In the wake of a serial killer, a body is found, but it is soon established that another killer is at work, and it's someone in the local community. James explores issues of community life and relationships - in particular the reactions of local people to the power station, and the workers - love, betrayal, and the intricacies of the relationship between two siblings. Along the way we come across a nuclear protest organiser, a down-trodden artist and single parent, struggling with 4 children, and several other minor characters, who all have a significant part to play.
I really enjoyed reading this novel, though only gave it 4 stars as I think that PD James has written better. Well worth reading, though.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm 71% through and still haven't worked out who did it. Very well written and a joy to block out whilst travelling on the tube.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very impressed. The author is a snob and ...
Not very impressed. The author is a snob and an intellectual snob, and well past her prime . However it did take me a while to figure out who dunnit but perhaps because the answer... Read more
Published 3 days ago by psco
1.0 out of 5 stars did not like this book
not my type of novel
Published 8 days ago by AC
5.0 out of 5 stars Revisiting.
Revisiting one of my favourite authors on the kindle. Just as good second time round and having visited Norfolk now, several times, makes the novel much more enjoyable.
Published 13 days ago by Macbeth
2.0 out of 5 stars My first and last PD James?
My first PD James novel and what a disappointment. I'd read that she wrote excellent prose, really? I found the characters were wooden, little more than caricatures almost. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Richard Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable
I liked the suspense and devious way the plot unfolded. I also like the Adam Dalgleish stories by P D James
Published 27 days ago by Jackie
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Just what I ordered
Published 1 month ago by Norfolk shopper
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but Dalgliesh didn't do much
Why do I do this to myself? this is the 5th P D James book I've read in a year, and I'm still unclear my I make myself read them. Read more
Published 2 months ago by J. Bowen
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex and creepy
Dalgliesh is a very well established character and the stories all share a thoughtful and low-drama but atmospheric approach. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jonathan
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great read
P.D.James makes her characters appear real and not stereotyped as some other writers do. I dislike rereading a book but had to for this one as it was our book group choice and as... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mrs PL Gyte
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Very good start and finish but seemed to drift a bit in the middle but it was a very
Published 6 months ago by Mrs L Diggle
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