on 15 November 2003
Sally Jupp is unexpectedly attractive--and an unwed mother in an era when such still carries considerable stigma. After a sterling record at a home for "fallen women," she finds work as a maid for the aristocratic but somewhat impoverished Maxie family, and once installed shows another aspect of her personality: a perverse pleasure in creating unpleasantness for virtually every one who crosses her path. The Maxie family is largely impervious to her machinations... but when Sally goes so far as to tantalize a proposal of marriage from the Maxie son, her game of troubling the water turns lethal, and Scotland Yard's Inspector Dalgliesh is on the job.
This 1962 effort was P.D. James' first novel, and at the time it drew enough praise to immediately place among the foremost mystery writers of the day. And indeed there is much to be said for it: the story is well-constructed, the characters well drawn, and the crime is appropriately mysterious; on the whole it is a fast and fun read. But not all P.D. James fans will be impressed. Although there is more than a hint of the distinctive style and convolutions James will bring to her later work, it borrows a great deal in construction from Agatha Christie and not a little from Dorothy Sayers in terms of literary style, and Inspector Dalgliesh is not as well developed here as he will eventually become.
On the whole, I recommend the novel--but I recommend it to established fans of P.D. James, who will be interested to see her working in the "classic English murder mystery" style and enjoy comparing this debut work to the author's later and more impressive work. First timers would do better to select one of the many novels that find James at the peak of her form--with DEATH OF AN EXPERT WITNESS or A TASTE FOR DEATH particularly recommended.
P.D. James's first crime novel, unabridged, with a straight reading by Roy Marsden. It wasn't likely to be a failure was it? And it isn't. If you don't know the story, I won't give any spoilers, because it's excellent. Not the most convoluted of her work (these things are relative -read that as 'quite a complex story in the great scheme of things'), it drips atmosphere with well-judged characters, and is also downright unpleasant in places. Roy Marsden should need little introduction, though today isn't as well known as he perhaps deserves. An actor's actor. He's highly respected, for very good reason. He also has some history with this particular novel, since he was lead in its 1985 TV adaptation. Here, he's on top form. Simple, to the point, beautifully judged and paced. All in all, well worth acquiring.
on 2 January 2015
Synopsis: St Cedd’s Church fete has been held in the grounds of Martingale manor house for generations. In addition to organising the event, Mrs Maxie also has to contend with the news of her son’s sudden engagement to her new parlour maid, Sally Jupp. On the following morning, Sally’s body is discovered and Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh must delve into the complicated passions beneath the calm surface of English village life.
Me: I’ve only read one PD James novel before and that was her ‘sequel’ to Pride & Prejudice titled Death Comes to Pemberley. I didn’t quite like that so was interested in her normal environment. This novel is her first and looking at some other reviews they all seem to say that she improves greatly with later works and that I should have read ones of those first which I found quite interesting. I imagine that could be said for many authors.
For me it was ok. It flowed well and read quite quickly. I kept reading Mrs Riscoes' voice as that of Lady Mary in Downton Abbey but that’s the style the book was written in; of a time when the great families were dying out but still desperately trying to cling onto past glories. The dead girl’s behaviour I found baffling. Despite explanations I never quite understood the game she had been playing with everyone but again some of it may be linked to the time and attitudes during the book was written.
My biggest bugbear was the constant switch of third person narratives. Swapping during each chapter is fine but in this books James often flip flops viewpoints each paragraph. It’s not for me but others may like the style.
I do like the old style detective novels though where a crime is solved by deduction and thinking rather than today’s reliance on technology so this fits quite nicely into that. I think I will do as other reviewers suggest and try one of her later works and see how she evolves.
"A houseful of people all disliking each other is bound to be explosive." Thus speaks the sardonic Felix Hearn on the eve of a fateful house party.
I'm not the best judge of whodunits, as they don't usually grab me much, and I'm rubblsh at guessing the guilty person (when I saw The Mousetrap, I picked by turns every character except the right one!) However, I decided to have a shot at Cover her Face, having greatly enjoyed Children of Men.
This is the first in the Adam Dalgleish series, and (published in 1962) uses pre-Profumo morality as the premise for using unmarried mother Sally Jupp as the murderee. As the story progresses, we find just how deep the already not very still waters of Sally's life ran; before her sudden violent end, it becomes evident how she managed to run rings round her employers, the Maxie family of Martingale. The setting, in typical Christie fashion, is a country mansion, inhabited by a family seething with conflicts among themselves and with their friends and servants, conflicts which the murder brings to the surface. However, the story diverges from the usual pattern by telling different episodes from the viewpoint of different characters, the depiction of their thoughts and feelings adding to the number of false trails. Much of the investigation revolves around the puzzle that Sally, though she died of strangulation, was also drugged: why, and was the same person responsible for both acts? Further mystery is added by the fact that this is a "locked-door murder".
I had to check back for the full quotation, as it's a very long time since I read The Duchess of Malfi: "Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle; she died young." This title was a good choice by P D James; more than one of the characters expresses regret at the waste of Sally's early death , though this is eclipsed by their anger at the damage which Sally, in both life and death, brings upon the family.
A good reading by Roy Marsden, who, as the TV face of Dalgleish, is probably as well-qualified as any to be the narrator.
on 5 December 2013
I'm loathed to write a review for a product that I haven't yet finished, but I am slowly but surely working my way through this book (and will update it on completion). In fact that's one of the complaints that I have- the length. Personally I do no understand the appeal of unabridged audiobooks. Either you're unwilling/unable to spend the time to read a book and therefore want something shorter in audio form (not me), or you have previously read and enjoyed the story and wish to listen to it again and again (me). But there is an art to abridging books for audio and when done well, for me at least the result provides the best of both worlds (a favourite story that you can enjoy in one or perhaps two sittings). This audiobook is 6 hours 45 minutes spread across 6 CD's.
I am not familiar with this author's Daldleish works, having only read `Children of Men', which I very much enjoyed. This book is in almost complete contrast, but even though I was expecting that, I hadn't anticipated just how pedestrian it would be. The book is very slow to start and the characters, while distinct, I felt were extremely stereotypical and as if taken straight out of an Agatha Christie mystery (not a comparison I expected to make with P. D. James who from afar I have viewed as another caliber of writer). Indeed large parts of this story feel very lacking in the ingenuity department, so perhaps her style improves, as evidenced by `Children of Men'. Perhaps also this is a novel of its time, as other reviewers have noted, and has much about it that could be unfairly criticized from a modern perspective.
If I were to describe this novel I would say it was a bit of a mix of `An Inspector Calls' and `Body in the Library'. The difference being I felt little or no sympathy for any of the characters and only the Inspector intrigues me. In conclusion, I am finding the story and storytelling diverting, but mediocre, hence my slow pace.
This is the first Adam Dalgliesh novel (read by Roy Marsden himself) and my first taste, also, of Baroness James. The unpleasant, but beautiful new maid, Sally Jupp, is causing quite a stir at the Maxie household (a largely unlikeable upper-class family, undergoing serious financial difficulties). After becoming engaged to the family's son, she promptly turns up dead. It's up to (the then) Detective Chief-Inspector Dalgliesh to solve the case.
It is a little different to what I was expecting (mainly seeing from the TV adaptations, though from what I can gather it is also somewhat different in style to the later novels). To begin with, it felt very similar to an Agatha Christie mystery in setup and tone (the large country house, silver-spoon-fed family, the vicar and the doctor being present at the dinner table and summer fete etc.), but as the darker sides to the characters unravelled it became apparent that it was from a later era (it was first published in 1962).
It took a long time to get going--you don't even meet Dalgliesh until after a detailed, lengthy and elaborate background to event. This will probably either make or break the book for you. It certainly isn't a modern novel and it is more similar to Marlpe etc. than the TV Dalgliesh (I'm sorry, but as it's my first PD James book I don't have any more to go on!); but if you are looking to immerse yourself in an intelligent "classically-styled" summer murder mystery (in a perceptibly more modern tone) then it will probably be just what you were looking for.
I personally found it a bit difficult at first, but once it got past the introduction started to enjoy the mystery. Probably more suited to fans (of either James or Christie) than fans of Dalgliesh or Morse, but well worth a listen if you fancy the sound of it.
P D James's debut novel, first published over fifty years ago, captures a now vanished world of homes for single mothers, a distinguished family that has fallen into hard times, and a culture in which women were expected to leave work when they married. Her style contains many features of Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham, notably insouciant suspects expressing themselves in brittle conversation typical of the inter-war period. But the real quality of her writing lies in her creation of sharply delineated characters, not spared the author's rigorous appraisal - including the murder victim herself, who is certainly no angel - and her description of village scenes. Especially memorable is the church fete on the afternoon of Sally's murder, and held, as tradition dictates, in the ground of the local manor house.
This audiobook, read by one of the television Dalglieshes, occupies six well-filled discs, with the usual two to four minute cues. I suspect it was made in rather long takes, and at times Marsden's voice sounds rather tired. Other reviewers have commented on the fluctuation in volume. Some adjustment to the original (1986) recording to iron out these differences would have improved the overall quality of this reissue. Marsden commands a good range of accents and voices, from the starchy tones of Stephen and Deborah to the retainers at Martingale - not forgetting his depiction of the diffident yet compassionate Adam Dalgliesh.
I've read a bit of P.D. James before (most memorably, The Children of Men), but I'd never tried her signature mystery series before. As such, I seized the opportunity to start with the first one in the series.
It's clearly of its time, and derives a certain atmosphere which is familiar if you're a fan of Poirot or Agatha Christie; the closed environment, ensuring claustrophobia amongst the cast, is a familiar trope. Having said that, it's technically competent, and nicely executed. Lots of red herrings and misleading remarks around the central mystery certainly left me guessing. This is certainly a less, for lack of a better word, gritty, piece of work than the later novels I've read by the same author, but still packs a serious emotional punch, wrapped in a byzantine mystery.
From an audio perspective, Roy Marsden reads very convincingly. Unsurprising, really, as he's also portrayed the protagonist, Dalgliesh, on the television - his familiarity with the material and commitment to the part lead to a very good reading. Technically, the audio is the usual high quality we've come to expect from AudioGo releases - crisp, clear, with no distortion or errors.
Overall, this is a good reading of a solid mystery, which tonally seems more like an updated Agatha Christie than, say Rebus. It doesn't suffer for that, and makes very good, and very compulsive, listening.
on 23 April 2015
Can I remember a time when I didn’t know of the existence of Adam Dalgliesh? No. This, the first in PD James’s series about the thoughtful detective, was published in 1962. So it was an interesting exercise to re-read this novel when I am so familiar with the last books in the series. How to describe the style of PD James’s detective: detection by deduction and perception.
The Maxie family has a new parlourmaid, Sally Jupp, who is found dead in her bed. This is almost a ‘closed room’ mystery in that the murder takes place in a country house with a limited number of suspects. What is unclear is the real story of Sally, her background and how she became an unmarried mother. Is Sally a victim, or is she a manipulative young woman who twists situations and people to her advantage? And who feels most threatened by her? There are plenty of potential culprits and Dalgliesh’s summary at the end – leading up to the naming of the murderer – reminded me of Agatha Christie.
Any Dalgliesh fan will be curious to read about his first appearance. There is almost nothing inside his head here, something the later books do so well, showing us the thoughtful, tortured poet detective. Here, his character is still forming.
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Unusually, I decided to read other reviews in order to see whether my views on this audio book were totally out of sync with the views of others. I certainly do agree that there is a strong resemblance to the novels of Agatha Christie, but that to me is not necessarily a downside.
My initial reaction was a failure to find anything likeable in any of the many characters, plus a feeling that I had come across similar plots in works of detective fiction. I am not going to be completely negative about the book/CD because by the end it did perk up considerably and everything tied together quite neatly. This book is not, in my opinion, her best and not up to the standard of say, 'A Certain Justice'.
I suspect that this negative review might in part be due to the fact that I did not find Roy Marsden's narration particularly helpful to my following of the plot. This might have been due to the technical quality, or due to the fact that I listened to the reading in the car. What I found was that often his ending of sentences dropped so that I could not hear the words, which was annoying.